Myanmar trade unionists at online solidarity meeting

Submitted by AWL on 13 April, 2021 - 4:31 Author: Mohan Sen
Myanmar rail protest

On 10 April Momentum Internationalists and Young Labour Internationalists held a solidarity meeting with speakers from Myanmar’s labour movement, which is continuing to lead protests against the military coup in the face of massive repression.

The same day as the meeting, the Burmese military killed over 80 people in Bago, north of Yangon, the largest massacre in a single area since it killed over 110 in the working-class Yangon suburb of Hlaing Tharyar on 14 March. A young protester in Bago described being locked down by volleys of gunfire for an entire day: “We were surrounded on all sides. We could not even collect the bodies of our fellow protesters who were shot.”

The day before, 9 April, Myanmar’s Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said 680 had been killed by the military — up from 550 at the start of April, and 250 on 23 March, seven weeks into the coup. At least 43 children have been killed, the youngest six years old. (The regime’s “justice” system has also declared the first formal, “legal” death sentences since the coup, 19 of them.)

Health workers have been repeatedly targeted and in some cases killed while tending to wounded protesters and even trying to take away bodies.

Ten years ago, when the military regime began to liberalise, it released the bulk of political prisoners — about 2,000 of them, after many years of dictatorship. In the last two months the junta has imprisoned over 3,000 for political offences.

At the 10 April meeting, Khaing Zar Aung of the Industrial Workers Federation of Myanmar, Kyaw Ni of the All Burma Federation of Trade Unions (with Emma Black as interpreter), and left-wing academic Htuu Lou Rae spoke about how Burmese workers are continuing the fight despite this repression. So did Andrew Tillett-Saks, a US labour movement activist based in Myanmar and working with the unions there.

Momentum Internationalists plans to publish videos from the meeting soon. There was some discussion of the divisions between the more “official” leadership of the opposition, dominated by politicians from the bourgeois and nationalist National League for Democracy, and the grassroots movement, to which organised labour is central.

All the speakers addressed the issue of Myanmar’s national minorities, particularly the brutally oppressed Rohingya. There seems to be an encouraging trend towards support for the minorities among democrats from the majority Bamar ethnicity.

And all the speakers on 10 April stressed how important international solidarity is to the workers in Myanmar, and what a difference it can make. The Burmese comrades are calling for action to target brands whose suppliers operate in Myanmar and companies dealing directly with the military, particular multinational oil companies.

• Solidarity statement supported by John McDonnell MP, TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes, App Couriers and Drivers Union president Yaseen Aslam and others, and a model motion for labour movement organisations here • Fundraiser organised by the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance and supported by Myanmar’s unions here

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