ASEAN trade unionists and parliamentarians: Recognise Myanmar’s NUG

With Myanmar still in the grip of a brutal military junta, the ASEAN +6 Regional Social Dialogue (ARSD) passed on 30 August a resolution calling for the restoration of democracy in the country to advance decent work. 

The resolution was passed in an ARSD special session organised by the ASEAN Service Employees Trade Union Council (ASETUC), the different Global Union Federations in the Asia Pacific region, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC-Asia Pacific), the ASEAN Trade Union Council (ATUC), the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) and the Confederation of Trade Unions, Myanmar (CTUM). 

The event focused on exploring ways to contribute to the Myanmar people’s calls for the international community to recognise the National Unity Government (NUG), which was established on 16 April by the democratically-elected Myanmar legislative body in exile. It includes representatives of the National League of Democracy (NLD), all ethnic minority groups, different political parties, trade unions, youth and women’s organisations. 

NUG Prime Minister Mahn win Khaing Than said that under the NUG, workers will be empowered, by allowing them to freely exercise their rights to form and join unions of their own choosing and effective bargaining based on national labour laws aligned with the ILO core conventions and jurisprudence. Tripartite mechanisms will be encouraged to develop new, sectoral national agreements  and decent work. 

This was seconded by Sandar Phyo, Deputy Member of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Governing Board. She said that the NUG is indispensable for the advancement of decent work in Myanmar. “The NUG is the Burmese people’s supreme expression of their commitment to democracy and rejection of military rule. such policy can only thrive in a democracy. It is necessary to promote decent work, as such policy can only thrive in a democracy. Its recognition by nation-states is crucial to return power to the people and end the military junta’s violent dictatorship,” she said. 

Malaysian lawmaker Charles Santiago, who represented the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR), called on the region’s parliamentarians to work together to defend human rights and democracy in Myanmar. 

“I call on my fellow parliamentarians to add their voices to the growing global calls for nation-states to recognise the NUG and deny the military junta any semblance of legitimacy. I urge my fellow lawmakers to cross party lines and unite in persuading our respective governments to take urgent action. We cannot afford to be neutral on a matter of such importance. This is also the ideal moment to ensure the rights of all in Myanmar, including the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities, who for too long have been subjected to violence and denied of their most basic rights.” Santiago said. 

A federal minister from the Myanmar National Unity of Government , Dr. Lian Hmung Sakhong expressed his thanks to the different global unions, ASEAN lawmakers and other social partners that expressed their support for Myanmar's struggle for democracy. “On behalf of the people of Myanmar , I would like to thank all of you for your support and solidarity. We draw strength and inspiration from all of you. Knowing that you are all on our side, no matter how arduous and perilous our struggle for democracy is, we are confident that we will emerge victorious,” he said. 

The ARSD is a social dialogue that consolidates the responses of different social partners in the region on various issues, and promotes a decent work agenda towards a people-centered ASEAN. It’s special session on Myanmar is part of a broad initiative to drum up support for the recognition of the NUG leading to the 75th United Nations General Assembly, which will start on 14 September. 

On 13 September, a day before the UN General Assembly, the Council of Global Unions (CGU) will launch a Global Day of Action to call on the intergovernmental organization to recognize the NUG.