In the week beginning 17 May Momentum Internationalists and others will be organising street stalls and small demonstrations outside premises featuring big brands connected to the regime, including the energy giant Chevron and the high street clothing brands whose products are made in factories in cities like Yangon. Currently, actions are planned in London, Sheffield, Durham and Newcastle.
Trade unionists in Myanmar in organisations like the All-Burma Federation of Trade Unions (ABFTU) have put out a call for supporters worldwide to put pressure on brands which are doing business with the “Tatmadaw” military junta.
This call has been taken up by international networks like the Clean Clothes Campaign, which has specifically placed a focus on Aldi North, Lindex, and Marks and Spencer, noting their silence in the face of the coup. Other brands like H&M, Next, C&A, Primark and Benetton have suspended placing orders in Myanmar, but not made serious steps to document the factories they use and guarantee the livelihoods and safety of their workers.
Motions for branch donations are currently being put to branches of the RMT rail union and local government branches of the Unison union in London. The Congress of the University and College Union (UCU) will shortly debate a motion of solidarity with the Myanmar workers’ movement, after which branches will be asked to make donations to the solidarity fund. UCU activists are pushing the higher education pension scheme USS to divest from companies supporting the Tatmadaw regime.
In Myanmar, the workers’ movement is still battling against the “Tatmadaw” military government, which was installed in a coup in February 2021. Workers’ organisations, in particular transport and factory workers, form the core of a working-class movement of civil disobedience and strikes, which is leading a nationwide pro-democracy coalition. The labour movement is pushing for the restoration of elected government and democratic freedoms, while the military is using British-drafted colonial-era legislation.
Currently, a shadow “National Unity Government”, which was set up by a group of deposed elected lawmakers, is in session somewhere in territory controlled by ethnic minority armed groups, out of reach of the Tatmadaw. But the Myanmar labour movement is the force that can not only beat the junta, but also guarantee true democracy and justice in its wake, rather than a return to “business as usual”, or the status quo from January 2021.