On the second anniversary of the military coup in Myanmar, Education International (EI) joined the Global Day of Action called by the Confederation of Trade Unions, Myanmar (CTUM) to demand for the formal diplomatic recognition of the National Unity Government (NUG) as the legitimate representatives of the people of Myanmar, and the release of all political prisoners.
The Council of Global Unions (CGU) released a statement calling for renewed global solidarity and efforts to restore democracy in the country. All CGU affiliated unions were asked to call on that their national governments to recognize the NUG, and to put pressure on multinational companies to cut all ties that benefit the junta directly or indirectly.
On 1 February 2021, the Myanmar military overthrew the country’s democratically elected parliament, installing an illegitimate government. The coup was widely resisted by the people of Myanmar, who had massively voted for democracy in the 2020 election. They formed the peaceful Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) to oppose the new military dictatorship. Democratically elected politicians established a government called the NUG.
The response from the junta was brutal. In the last two years, the regime has held onto power by force, fear, intimidation, and terror. They have attacked demonstrators, killing hundreds and injuring thousands. They detained legitimate elected leaders and thousands of protestors, many of whom were tortured. Most unions were banned, making the exercise of freedom of association impossible.
Violations of education workers’ rights
In a new report released in January 2023, the Dutch organisation FNV Mondiaal documented workers’ rights violations in Myanmar under the new military regime. According to the report, at least 24 teachers were killed by the military in the last two years; around 234 teachers have been arrested; at least 20.000 university lecturers and school teachers were fired; and more than 120.000 teachers were blacklisted and targeted for arrest for joining the CDM. According to Amnesty International, 7.8 million children are currently out of school in the country.
FNV Mondiaal also reported the case of U Kaung Kyaw, a teacher from My Aung Township (Hintada, Ayerawaddy Division) who was charged under Counter Terrorism Act and sentenced to death on 30 December 2022. The Myanmar Federation of Teachers and other education unions in the country issued a statement to condemn the death sentence and the escalation of violence against education workers.
Dr U Arkhar Moe, President of the University Teacher Association and Professor at the Yangon University was released from prison on 4 January 2023. He had been arrested on 3 March 2021 and sentenced to three-year prison by a military tribunal on 20 January 2022.
Renewed solidarity with Myanmar workers
Education International has been working closely with the Myanmar Federation of Teachers and the NUG Education Ministry to support democratic values and practices through education.
On this second anniversary of the military coup, the global labour movement remains resolute in its solidarity with the people and workers of Myanmar. Education International joins the Global Unions and calls on its affiliates to demand that their national governments recognize the NUG, and to put pressure on multinational companies they work with to cut all ties that benefit the junta directly or indirectly.
A major demand of the Myanmar unions is for formal diplomatic recognition of the NUG. The junta is seeking to normalize its control by seeking diplomatic recognition as the de facto government of Myanmar. Despite being the legitimate, democratically elected representative of the people of Myanmar, formal diplomatic recognition of the NUG is not universal.
In 2021, the Global Unions demanded that multinationals observe enhanced due diligence and cut direct and associated business ties with the Myanmar military. Although some companies have stopped doing business in Myanmar, the military has been able to access a global supply chain from companies in the USA, Europe and Asia to manufacture weapons.