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6 Sep 2023

Han Thit, Myanmar Npw

Myanmar: Imprisoned garment workers & labour rights advocates released on condition of pledging not to participate in 'unlawful associations'

"Imprisoned labour organisers released after signing junta pledge", 6 September 2023

A group of workers and their supporters, who were arrested after demanding higher wages in the garment industry earlier this year, were freed this week after pledging not to participate in unlawful associations.

The 12 workers’ rights advocates included employees of the Hosheng Myanmar Garment Factory, employees of the Sun Apparel Myanmar factory, activists affiliated with the Action Labor Rights organisation, and the owner of a tea shop where they regularly met.

On June 14, several of the activists went to the general administration office in Shwepyithar Township, Yangon, to register a complaint about the dismissal of seven Hosheng Myanmar employees who had asked for a raise.

Junta authorities arrested the labor activists and their associates over the next several days, holding two at the Shwepyithar police station and transferring the remaining ten to Insein Prison.

Authorities initially brought charges against the detainees under Section 505a of the Myanmar Penal Code on incitement, under Section 17(1) of the Unlawful Associations Act, and under Section 40 of Registration of Associations Act.

However, the junta released the detainees on Monday after giving them a document to sign, according to Thurein Aung, a spokesperson for Action Labor Rights.

“According to the letter, if they engage in unlawful associations, they are subject to having their penalties doubled,” he said, referring to the document signed by the detainees.

“They had to sign it with their fingerprints,” he added.

Shortly after the labour activists’ arrest in June, a regime-controlled newspaper reporting the incident accused Thurein Aung and another associate of the Action Labor Rights organisation, Thuza, of incitement. Both have had to take precautions to avoid arrest in the intervening months.

It is uncertain whether the garment factory workers will return to their jobs at Hosheng Myanmar and Sun Apparel following their release.

“A complaint has been filed with the labour office regarding their dismissals and the case has been accepted. But investigations on the case haven’t started. I don’t know whether the factories will rehire them,” Thurein Aung said.

“We have appealed to Zara about re-employing them,” Thurein Aung said...

Part of the following timelines

Myanmar: Garment workers at Sun Apparel report pregnancy discrimination, 'illegal layoffs' & wage cuts; incl. co response

Myanmar: Eight union leaders & labour rights activists at Inditex supplier face trial on incitement charges