Teachers' union condemns military coup

The Myanmar Teachers' Federation (MTF), along with others, is committing civil disobedience to protest the military coup on Monday February 1st. The MTF and other unions issued statements condemning the coup and demanding the release of arrested political leaders.

President Dr. MTF's Sai Khaing Myo Tun issued a statement condemning the "trampling of democracy" and the unconstitutional arrest of President Win Myint, State Councilor Aung San Suu Kyi and other leaders. The MTF called for the release of all detainees and called on the military to recognize and implement the results of the November 2020 elections.

An agreement reached ahead of the 2015 elections in Myanmar guaranteed the military 25 percent of the seats in parliament. In addition, a military-led party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), was formed to fill the remaining seats. They were defeated by Aung Syu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party in the 2015 elections and gained a parliamentary majority.

The NLD won a landslide victory in the November 2020 elections. The seat of the newly elected parliament on February 1 was prevented by the coup. The military claimed that the elections were widespread and set up a military government to rule for a year. The election result was confirmed by an independent electoral commission. The election was also seen as free and fair by international election observers.

Even after the move towards democracy, the military, known as the Tatmadaw, remained powerful. Its officers, retired officers, and cronies control much of the economy. The details of much of their activities are hidden.

Education International Secretary General David Edwards stated:

“We support the Myanmar Teachers' Federation and their efforts with other unions and allies to respect the election results and the Constitution. We stand with the courageous leaders of the MTF in their fight for freedom and democracy. We call on the United Nations and national governments to intervene with General Min Aung Hlaing, who has seized power, to free those arrested, to accept the results of the parliamentary elections and to continue the democratization process in Myanmar. The people of Myanmar should never be forced to return to the isolation, fear and desperation of military rule. "

The international trade union movement has been involved in the fight for human rights and democracy in Myanmar for decades. The International Trade Union Confederation (ICFTU), one of the predecessor organizations of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), documented and exposed widespread forced labor in Burma, leading the ILO to issue a 1998 report. On the basis of this report, the ILO opened an office in the country to eliminate forced labor. The Burma campaign of the Global Unions, organized by the ICFTU and the Global Union Federation (GUF), led to massive disinvestments by multinational companies in the country. National unions and confederations mobilized solidarity support and urged their governments to act.

Burma gained independence in 1948. From the beginning, the country was plagued by ethnic violence under both democratic and military rule. However, one of the worst periods of oppression has been the Rohingya people since 2016. This military campaign has been described as ethnic cleansing, but the affected population is also a religious (Muslim) minority. Attacks forced a million Rohingya to flee, most of them to neighboring Bangladesh. The United Nations found evidence of extrajudicial killings, executions, rape, arson of villages, businesses and schools, and child murder.

In November 2019, the Gambia filed a genocide against Myanmar with the International Court of Justice (IFJ), based on massive military mobilization against the Rohingya. Nobel Prize winner Aung Syu Kyi appeared before the IFJ defending the military action.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described the coup as a "heavy blow to democratic reforms" and the UN Security Council is considering action. Many governments and the European Union have urged that the military takeover be reversed and democracy restored. Some governments are considering sanctions against Myanmar. The ITUC and the Global Union Federation have called for strong government by governments, as have many national trade union organizations.

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