International campaign calls for fashion brands to pull out of Myanmar
A global campaign named “Myanmar Military: Never in Fashion” is calling international fashion brands to cease all production and pull out of Myanmar as the country today marks one year since the military seized power in a coup.
Over 160 trade unions and civil society organisations from around the world have signed the joint statement initiated by UK-based grassroots movements No Sweat and Global Women’s Strike in support of trade unions in Myanmar.
“90% of garment workers in Myanmar are women, the primary carers of children and others. Alongside all other sectors they are confronting the sexism, racism, rape, exploitation, torture and murder by this brutal dictatorship,” said Laura Watson from Global Women’s Strike.
Thousands of people – including women trade union leaders and workers from the garment industry – have been arrested and hundreds killed since protests against the military junta began last February. According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), 1,503 people have been killed by the military, and 8,835 individuals are detained or have been sentenced.
Women garment workers have been on strike for months to demand an end to dictatorship and in support of democracy for Myanmar. They were on the frontlines of the protests when the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) arose last year in opposition to the coup: 3,000 women workers travelled by bus from their factories in the industrial zones to join the protests in the city of Yangon.
According to “Myanmar Military: Never in Fashion,” military personnel have been deployed at factory gates to repress the workers’ opposition, and martial law has been imposed in the industrial zones so that protesters are judged by a military tribunal under military law, risking years in prison. Factory owners and employers are taking advantage of the coup to undermine worker’s rights, with permanent workers sacked and replaced with temporary workers on a daily wage.
Myanmar’s textile and garment sector has been a pillar of the country’s economy since the US and EU lifted sanctions in 2011, after the liberalisation of the country. Garment exports have grown more than five times, the UN’s International Labour Organisation (ILO) reports, and reached $6 billion in 2019 – more than 30% of total exports. Among garment export destination countries, the European Union was the largest.
“Given that over two-thirds of Myanmar’s garment exports are for the UK/EU and US markets, we have an opportunity and an obligation to act in solidarity with the garment workers,” campaigners said in their statement.
Read the full statement here.