The Burma government continued its crackdown on political activists with the February arrest of two union leaders who demanded a $1 pay rise for garment workers.
The Burma Campaign UK, on the eve of May Day, called for the “immediate and unconditional release of two union leaders, Naing Htay Lwin and Myo Min Min.” The Rangoon based union leaders were arrested in February 2015 for protesting without the Burmese government’s permission.
The Burma Campaign UK said that factory workers in Rangoon have started to protest over pay and working conditions. The Burma Campaign UK pointed out that, “an average garment worker gets paid only 43 US cents an hour. To make ends meet, they have to do two days overtime, meaning they often work 7 days a week.”
The Burma Campaign UK said that Burmese workers have demanded an “increase of $1 a day so that they can support their families better.”
The Burma Campaign UK said that Naing Htay Lwin and Myo Min Min were leaders “arrested for organising protests calling for a pay rise of $1 a day.”
The Burma Campaign UK said that the union leaders were “arrested for protesting without permission, and they were also falsely accused of advocating violence during protests.”
The Burma Campaign UK said that the unionists were “charged under Article 18 of the Peaceful Procession Law, and under section 505 (b) of Burma’s penal code for ‘committing or inducing others to commit an offence against the State or against the public tranquillity’. They are being held in Insein Prison while their trials continue.”
The Burma Campaign UK said that if Naing Htay Lwin and Myo Min Min “are convicted, they could face up to three years in prison. Garment workers continue their protests calling for a pay rise and the release of their protest leaders, Naing Htay Lwin and Myo Min Min.”
Burma Campaign UK is asking supporters to write to the Chairperson of the Myanmar National Human Rights Council to call for the reform of the Prisoners of Conscience Affairs Committee, and the immediate release of Naing Htay Lwin, Myo Min Min and all remaining political prisoners in Burma.
The campaign officer at Burma Campaign UK, Wai Hnin said in the media statement that “workers have the right to demand fair wages without getting arrested. The reform process in Burma is backsliding, and activists continue to live in fear of arrest, torture and harassment by the military-backed government.”
Wai Hnin said that the “Burmese government should introduce key reforms to the Prisoners of Conscience Affairs Committee to ensure that no political prisoners like Naing Htay Lwin and Myo Min Min are left behind bars.”