Myanmar military coup leaders target trade unions for destruction
Protesting workers flash the three-fingered salute during a rally in Mandalay, Myanmar, Feb. 22, 2021. The general strike spearheaded by unions that day has led the ruling military junta to launch a hunt for labor leaders. | AP

For weeks, hundreds of thousands of people have been participating in peaceful mass demonstrations across Myanmar in the wake of a coup led by the Army. As the peaceful civil disobedience movement continues to protest against the military takeover, authorities are resorting to violence and cracking down civilians—including trade unions and their leaders.

Police have issued arrest warrants for 20 union leaders, the majority from the Industrial Workers Federation of Myanmar (IWFM), including the union vice president, Soe Lay.

According to reports from the union, plain clothes police are trying to find the union leaders who participated in a nationwide strike last Monday. IWFM president Khang Zar said in a statement:

“IWFM has worked relentlessly to protect the rights and improve the lives of garment workers and their families since we were allowed back into the country after the previous dictatorship, back in 2012.

“Together, Myanmar’s people and the international community can bring back democracy. Through civil disobedience, protest, and strikes, the people of Myanmar are speaking up clearly and loudly. We need the international community to do the same. We need you to stand by our side to make this coup collapse.”

To date, more than 100 elected parliamentarians and chief ministers, including the former government leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, have been arrested by the military.

“Unions play an important role in the fight to return democracy to Myanmar. We give our unequivocal solidarity support to our affiliates in the country and call for a return to the civilian-led government elected by the people,” said Valter Sanches, general secretary of the global union federation IndustriALL. The IWFM is an affiliate of the group.

Labor activists in Myanmar are asking for statements of solidarity and support from unions and workers internationally.



IndustriALL Global Union represents 50 million workers in 140 countries in the mining, energy, and manufacturing sectors and is a new force in global solidarity taking up the fight for better working conditions and trade union rights around the world. IndustriALL Global Union representa a 50 millones de trabajadores en 140 países en los sectores de la minería, la energía y la manufactura y es una nueva fuerza de solidaridad mundial que lucha por mejores condiciones laborales y derechos sindicales en todo el mundo.