Myanmar: Not another year of tyranny

The Building and Woodworkers’ International (BWI) joins the world in marking the heroism, courage and martyrdom of the people of Myanmar as they continue the struggle for democracy, one year after a military coup toppled their democratically-elected government. We reaffirm our steadfast support and solidarity to the Myanmar people, especially to the workers and trade unions, as they fight tyranny and oppression amidst overwhelming odds.


A year has already passed since military despots tried to take away the Myanmar people’s trust and love for democracy, and force, once more their authoritarian rule. Yet, their odious schemes were met with massive resistance. The Myanmar people fought back in various and extraordinary ways that defied bullets, surprised even the military junta, and inspired the world. The trade unions and workers launched successive general strikes that paralysed the country’s economy. The youth and students shut down schools and used the internet as a platform of resistance. And the women, widely hailed as the backbone of Myanmar’s struggle for democracy, were among the first in the frontlines to confront the military regime.

The people of Myanmar also established the National Unity Government (NUG), a broad coalition of the country’s democratic forces comprised of anti-coup leaders, ethnic minorities and democratically-elected parliamentarians ousted by the military junta. It mirrors the Myanmar people’s full rejection of military rule, and revalidates the democratic mandate they bestowed in the 2020 general election. 

Globally, international recognition for the military junta is dismal. The military dictatorship is politically isolated. BWI, together with the international labour movement, was successful in kicking out the military regime from the International Labour Organisation (ILO), and contributed to persuade the credentials committee of the United Nations (UN) to defer a decision on who will represent Myanmar at its General Assembly.  

Economic sanctions against the military regime are also expanding. Last year, the European Union (EU) launched a third round of economic sanctions against Myanmar politicians, personalities and entities linked to the military junta. A total of 43 Burmese personalities and 6 entities are now sanctioned by the EU. This includes an asset freeze and a prohibition from making funds available to the listed individuals and entities. A travel ban was also issued against the involved individuals, preventing them from entering or transiting through any EU territory.

However, Myanmar’s struggle to reclaim its democracy comes with a hefty price. According to rights group the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, more than 11,000 people, including trade unionists, have been arrested since the coup. Around 8,000 remain in detention and about 1,500 people were killed by the military junta. Many more lives are at risk as the military junta tightens its grip in the country. BWI believes that as long as the military junta is in power, despite the international condemnation it received, the wanton abuse of human rights and killings will continue with impunity. 

Together with the international trade union movement, BWI will continue to mobilise and advocate for the recognition of the NUG as the legitimate representative of people of Myanmar, support the broadening of the economic sanctions to deny the military junta source of foreign currencies, and intensify the use the ILO complaint mechanism by filing a case using the Article 33 of the Constitution.  BWI will also work with international organisations to put the military regime in the remit of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and International Court of Justice (ICJ). 

The Myanmar people’s struggle for democracy is at the precipice. They cannot afford to live one more year under the military junta. We must not allow another year of suffering, death and tyranny. As we pay tribute to the Myanmar people’s bravery and sacrifices, let us match their courage and grit by taking to new heights our solidarity and campaign efforts that will help them reclaim their democracy. BWI calls on all workers and trade unions worldwide to ensure that the world is solidly behind Myanmar. It takes solidarity to defeat tyranny, and a world to build a real democracy.