Income from garment exports provides the Myanmar military regime with vital foreign exchange. The EU-funded MADE in Myanmar programme helps maintain this industry and provides diplomatic cover for the regime by presenting an illusory semblance
of social dialogue. EU brands operating in Myanmar provide revenue for the regime. The EBA trade agreement provides the regime with preferential access to the EU market.
IndustriALL Global UnionThe situation in Myanmar today
Since the military coup in February 2021, 3,604 people have been killed, more than 22,900 have been arrested and more than 2,5 million people have been internally displaced1. The military junta is increasing bombings and attacks on civilians. The country has descended into civil war, with the military regime conducting more than 600 airstrikes and 1,132 artillery attacks against civilian targets, including an attack on Pa Zi Gyi village2 on 11 April 2023 that killed 168 people.
The military dictatorship has ended freedom of association. Shortly after the coup, the military declared 16 labour organizations illegal and issued arrest warrants against legitimate trade union leaders, representing almost the entire Myanmar labour movement. Union leaders and members have been killed, arrested, driven into hiding and exile, had their passports cancelled, and have been fired and blacklisted from employment. The regime has also banned 40 political parties ahead of scheduled illegal elections, which are planned to give the regime legitimacy.
Factory owners work with the military to suppress worker activism, giving names, addresses and photos of trade union members to the security forces. Workers pass through military checkpoints, where their phones are checked for pro-union or anti-regime messages. Employers have called the military to break up protests and strikes by workers.
After the coup, employers cancelled collective agreements and fired workers, rehiring them as day labourers for the minimum wage of US$1.68 per day – very far from a living wage. To earn even this amount, workers endure unpaid, compulsory overtime, rising production targets, and fines for missing work.