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Date updated : 04-Mar-2019

Status: active

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Myanmar hotel workers imprisoned for defending their union and their rights

On March 1, the chairman and 5 other leaders and members of the union of workers at the Hotel Tharabar Gate in Myanamar's Bagan Archeological Zone were convicted of attempting to hold a peaceful protest march after police brutally destroyed the union's solidarity camp last December. The 6 trade unionists were each sentenced to one month's imprisonment and arrested immediately after the verdict was pronounced, an unmistakable announcement by the authorities that trade union activity in Myanmar is now criminalized.

Union members at the Hotel Tharabar Gate have faced management aggression since they first registered their union in 2015. An initial attempt to dismiss union chairman Ko Nay Myo Win was defeated through collective action. Unions at other hotels in the famous tourist destination banded together to form the area-wide union HLOB, electing Nay Myo Win as chairman. In August last year, management again terminated the union chairman, along with 11 other workers, including two members of the union executive and 7 active union members. HLOB responded with a vigorous protest campaign; beginning in October, union members and their families and supporters continuously maintained a solidarity camp on public space.

Police dispatched by the local authorities brutally destroyed the camp and then forcibly dispersed an attempted protest march to the regional government office, arresting union members and supporters. Now workers are being sent to prison for defending their rights.

USE THE FORM BELOW to send a message to the government of Myanmar, demanding the 6 trade unionists be immediately and unconditionally released. Freedom of association is a right, not a crime!

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To Lt. Gen. Kyaw Swe Minister of Home Affairs
CC Ministry of Labor, Immigration and Population
Ministry of Hotels and Tourism

Dear Minister

I write to condemn the unjust conviction and sentencing of 6 leaders and members of the trade union HLOB to one month's imprisonment each by the Nyaung OO Township Court on March 1.

The trade unionists were arrested for their participation in an attempt to hold a peaceful protest march to the government office on December 12, 2018 after police destroyed their solidarity camp maintained on public space the previous day. The union members and their supporters were acting to defend the fundamental right to freedom of association following the unfair dismissal of union leaders and members by management of the Hotel Tharabar Gate in August last year.

The rights to assemble and to protest peacefully are integral to the right to freedom of association. Rather than sentencing to prison workers who attempt to exercise their rights, the government of Myanmar should be acting to help resolve the dispute arising from the Hotel Tharabar Gate's anti-union practices.

The fact that the convicted trade unionists were arrested immediately following the verdict suggests that the local authorities are attempting to criminalize the exercise of rights which your government is obligated to respect.

I call on your government to act to ensure that the 6 convicted trade unionists are immediately and unconditionally released, and that your government take action to ensure that the rights of all trade union members in the Bagan area and throughout the country are fully respected.

Yours sincerely

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