Activists Get Two Years for Role in Shwepyithar Industrial Strikes

By May Sitt Paing 18 December 2015

RANGOON — A pair of activists were sentenced to two years in prison with hard labor on Thursday in connection with labor strikes at Rangoon’s Shwepyithar Industrial Zone earlier this year.

The two brothers, Thu Zaw Kyi Win and Naing Zaw Kyi Win, were arrested on charges of instigating the strikes for more pay in the Shwepyithar Industrial Zone in March, after the Rangoon Division government’s attempt to negotiate with the picketing laborers ended in clashes between police, vigilantes and the workers that resulted in some injuries.

The two were charged under Article 505(b) of the Burmese Penal Code, covering behavior with “intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public or to any section of the public whereby any person may be induced to commit an offense against the state or against public tranquility.” The article carries with it a maximum sentence of two years’ imprisonment.

The judge in Yankin Township ruled Thursday that the two men’s period of detention while awaiting the verdict, more than nine months, be deducted from their term of imprisonment.

At least 10 labor rights activists and workers who participated in the strikes are facing trial under a variety of charges.

At its height in February, thousands of workers in the industrial zone had staged strikes against their foreign-owned employers, demanding higher wages.

The violent confrontation that led to the breakup of one such strike on March 4 was notable for the way in which police were aided by vigilantes wearing red armbands marked with the word “duty,” a scene that would repeat itself a day later in Rangoon to quell a protest against Burma’s controversial National Education Law.