General strike shuts down Myanmar

published 22 February 2021 updated 16 December 2021

Update 9 March 2021 | As the military junta has escalated its use of undue force against peaceful protesters, Myanmar workers won’t let fear and violence silence them. They are determined to continue the peaceful civil disobedience movement against the illegal military junta. In a joint statement, Myanmar labour organisations have called on all workers to join an extended nationwide work-stoppage to shut down the country’s economy. The strike is meant to last until democracy is fully restored.

At least 60 protesters have been killed since the military seized power. Among them were teachers, including secondary school teacher Daw Tin Nwe Yi. The United Nations have reported that hundreds of protesters were wounded and over 1700 have been arbitrarily arrested and detained. EI has called for the immediate release of the teachers of the Myanmar Teachers' Federation who are amongst the detainees.

In a video message released today, EI General Secretary David Edwards reaffirmed EI’s full support to the civil disobedience movement and to all striking workers in Myanmar. He called on the solidarity of all EI affiliates with the Myanmar Teachers’ Federation and the people of Myanmar. “We will show our brothers and sisters that they are not alone, that in the middle of a global pandemic we have not forgotten who we are and the values we hold dear: democracy, human rights, freedom and solidarity“, he stated.

Trade union organisations called for a general strike on Monday, 22 February 2021 against the seizure of power by the military. They called for the respect of the results of the November 2020 elections and the release of all detained political leaders and activists. An estimated 12 million people participated in the strike, which affected all sectors of the economy. Mass demonstrations took place in major cities. This is the latest and largest popular reaction to the 1 February coup d’état.

The Council of Global Unions issued a video supporting the General Strike. This is part of continuing support by EI and other Global Unions for the struggle for democracy by workers and their trade unions and civil society in Myanmar since the coup, including civil disobedience, strikes, and protests.

Education International's General Secretary David Edwards, reacting to the General Strike, saluted the courageous resistance of workers and their trade unions and other citizens, saying, “the people of Myanmar have spoken. There has rarely been such a clear and visible division between the rulers and the ruled. EI and other Global Unions stand with the people of Myanmar. We call on governments to heed their call and mobilise to dislodge the illegitimate cabal that has taken power, restore Parliament, and continue on the path to democracy”.

EI called on the United Nations and governments to act in support of democracy in Myanmar. EI also participated in the 11 February international protest action organised by the Council of Global Unions. On the 10th of February, EI issued an urgent action appeal - see the protest letter template- to member organisations urging them to participate in international solidarity and to contact their national governments in opposition to the coup and in support of the protesters and those detained in Myanmar, including Australian academic Sean Turnell.”

You can take action:

Democracy in #Myanmar must stand! ✊????Raise your voice in support of teachers, students & workers defending democracy. Join us & the global union movement in a worldwide solidarity action today at 14.30 CET. #Workers4Myanmar #SolidarityMatters Here's how you can help (thread) ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/o9PUjwcgIi

— eduint (@eduint)

February 11, 2021

Several governments as well as international bodies have already reacted. Many are reviewing relations with Myanmar and, in particular, sanctions against military leaders and their enterprises.

Also on the day of the General Strike, the 22nd, the Council of the European Union, representing all 27 EU member countries, approved conclusions on Myanmar/Burma. They call for: “de-escalation of the current crisis through an immediate end to the state of emergency, the restoration of the legitimate civilian government and the opening of the newly elected parliament. The results of the democratic elections held on 8 November 2020 have to be respected. The military must renounce its action.”

The conclusions indicate a readiness to “adopt restrictive measures targeting those directly responsible”. It also indicates that all “other tools at the disposal of the European Union and its Member States will be kept under review.”

On the 4th of February, the UN Security Council called for the “immediate release of all those detained” and stressed “the need to uphold democratic institutions and processes, refrain from violence, and fully respect human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law.”

A more elaborate position was taken by the UN Council on Human Rights on 12 February. It also called for the release of all prisoners, the lifting of the state of emergency and “the restauration of the democratically elected Government, but added other demands for action.” Crucial, ongoing work is being done by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. Given the serious degradation of the human rights situation in the country, the Council called for “increased assistance, resources and expertise to enable him to discharge his mandate fully.“