Six Labor Strike Leaders Jailed for Breaking Myanmar's COVID-19 Rules

By Zaw Zaw Htwe 5 May 2020

Yangon – Six labor rights activists, including two union leaders from a factory in Yangon’s Dagon Seikkan Township, were jailed for three months on Monday for leading strikes which violated COVID-19 orders.

Since May, 2, more than 100 workers from the Blue Diamond bags factory have blocked the entrance to demand full wages during April, although operations stopped from April 19 to 30 due to government orders.

The strike was led by members of the unregistered All Burma Federation of Trade Unions (ABFTU).

Ma Thet Htar Swe of the ABFTU told The Irrawaddy that the authorities on Monday broke up the strike and arrested two leaders and four ABFTU members without holding any talks.

That evening factory union leaders Ma Zar Zar Htun and Ma Lay Lay Mar and ABFTU members Ko Kyaw Myo, Ko Myo Gyi, Ko Min Min Naing and Ko Thet Oo Maung were sentenced to three months in prison by the Dagon Seikkan Township Court under the Prevention and Control of Communicable Diseases Law, according to ABFTU.

On April 16 the government banned gatherings of five or more people under coronavirus preventative measures with the threat of up to six months in prison and fines.

Dagon Seikkan Township administrator U Zaw Naing Oo confirmed the prosecutions to The Irrawaddy.

Before the Thingyan holidays, Blue Diamond workers held strikes demanding their employer close the factory for a month with full pay to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“There will be strikes for labor rights in the future. Our demands for rights cannot be halted by prosecutions,” said labor activists Ma Thet Htar Swe.

She said five other workers’ leaders from the Rainwear House and Brightberg factories in Dagon Seikkan also were arrested last night over strikes held before Thingyan.

State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi told representatives of employers and labor unions via a video conference on April 22 that the government would take action against anyone violating COVID-19 restrictions.

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