Myanmar Factories Ignoring COVID-19 Rules Face Prosecution: Suu Kyi

By Zaw Zaw Htwe 22 April 2020

Yangon – Myanmar’s State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi says factories will face legal action if they defy COVID-19 instructions.

“The government’s instructions are not issued for pleasure. We do not want factories to close. It creates a burden for the government and the workforce. We have only ordered factory closures when necessary,” said the State Counselor.

On Sunday, the Ministry of Labor ordered all factories to close until April 30 and only reopen when COVID-19 preventive measures had been inspected.

However, many factories are still operating, according to workers and labor rights organizations.

On Wednesday, U Maung Maung, chairman of the Confederation of Trade Unions in Myanmar (CTUM), told the State Counselor via a video link that factories were ignoring the government’s order despite being told to report to the labor department.

“We want the labor department to take immediate action,” said U Maung Maung.

Ma Yu Yu Khaing, chairwoman of Tai Yi factory workers’ union, told The Irrawaddy that more than 20 factories in Yangon are defying COVID-19 orders.

Daw Khine Khine Nwe, joint secretary-general of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI), told the State Counselor that employers had not been given enough time to prepare between the closure order on Sunday night and when factories were due to reopen on Monday after the Thingyan holiday.

“It is important to follow the instructions and we need time to prepare properly,” said Daw Khine Khine Nwe.

The Ministry of Health and Sports instructed employers to ensure workers can wash their hands and observe social distancing.

Factories need temperature checks and to send home any worker with a fever.

Pamphlets or intercoms were needed to communicate with staff and large gatherings or meetings were prohibited.

Staff were told to report to the nearest health care center with any COVID-19 symptoms, including coughing, difficulty breathing, fever and exhaustion.

The health and labor ministries are currently inspecting factories’ preventative measures.

U Nyunt Win, director general of Labor Ministry’s inspection department, told The Irrawaddy that the authorities had not decided what laws to use against factories for defying coronavirus orders.

Yangon has around 680,000 workers at 6,632 factories, according to the regional government.

As of Tuesday, Myanmar had reported 121 COVID-19 cases, including five deaths and nine recoveries.

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