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Myanmar military arrests 10 workers for garment factory strikes

Myanmar’s junta authorities have arrested 10 workers from Yangon region for incitement to riot, state-controlled newspapers reported Thursday.

Reports said two members of the outlawed Action Labor Rights group were arrested along with workers from two garment factories between June 14 and 17.

The Action Labor Rights members were identified as Thandar Soe Lin and Pyoe Myat Thin.

The workers came  from Shwepyitha township’s Hosheng Myanmar garment factory and Sun Apparel Myanmar in Hlaingtharya township.

The factory workers were fired and arrested for taking the lead in demanding a 17% pay rise to the equivalent of U.S.$2.70 a day.

An Action Labor Rights union official, who wished to remain anonymous for security reasons, told RFA the arrests of workers on political charges when they were only calling for better pay is a violation of labor rights.

“These workers were not doing anything political, and they were demanding their rights because the wages are low,” the official said. 

“Junta arrests of protesters demanding their rights is a violation of the rights of weak grassroots workers, and protects oppressive employers.”

Newspapers reported that two more union members, Thuzar – who goes by one name – and Thurein Aung have gone into hiding and authorities are trying to find and arrest them.

Thuzar is accused of inciting workers to riot and organizing a protest at the two factories on June 12 and 13.

The union official told RFA the two fugitives do not plan to leave Myanmar.

Action Labor Rights is a Yangon-based union that has been calling for protection of the rights of workers who have been suffering from various problems since the Feb. 1, 2021 coup.

Another trade union leader, who also declined to be named, said the junta had already clamped down on other trade unions.

“The workers were charged with Article 505 only. But those who are part of groups declared to be illegal organizations are charged with Article 17 (1),” he said, referring to a law on membership of illegal groups that carries a maximum three year prison sentence.

“Ït becomes alarming to the other [unions]. It hits many birds with one stone.”

On March 1, 2021, a month after the military coup, the junta’s Ministry of Labor, Immigration and Population declared 16 trade unions and organizations active in labor issues to be illegal groups.

Translated by RFA Burmese. Edited by Mike Firn.