UPDATE - 23 April 2021 | In a resolution adopted at its 57th meeting, held virtually, the Education International Executive Board condemned the coup d’état in Myanmar, the refusal to accept the results of the election, the violence against protesters and strikers and the arrest of elected leaders, trade unionists and others opposing the regime. It called for full respect for human and trade union rights and a return to the path of democracy. It urged the international community and national governments to respond urgently with strong measures to stop the violence and repression.
The resolution notes that at least a hundred educators have been detained. Door-to-door searches have forced many teachers and civil servants to live in hiding. Many members and leaders of the Myanmar Teachers' Federation and of other basic education and higher education unions have been arrested on false charges. It also condemns the continued detention of Dr. Sean Turnell, economic advisor to Aung San Suu Kyi, and a member of the National Tertiary Education Union of Australia.
The resolution calls on the UN Security Council to take stronger action including targeting military leaders and asks national governments to use all means available to sanction the military, including through economic pressure. It urges Education International’s member organisations to intervene with their governments as well as to contribute to Education International’s Myanmar Solidarity Fund.
A National Unity Government (NUG) was established in Myanmar on 16 April. It is composed largely of elected members of Parliament who have a popular mandate from the November parliamentary elections but were prevented from taking office by the coup and state of emergency. General Secretary David Edwards reported on a discussion with the NUG Minister of Education (and Health), Dr. Zaw Wai Soe. They discussed the vital role of education in building and sustaining democracy after this dark period has passed. In this context, the Minister cited the book published by Education International in 2019, "On Education and Democracy: 25 Lessons from the Teaching Profession".
Edwards thanked organisations that had already contributed to the Myanmar Solidarity Fund to support the brave teachers of Myanmar in these desperate times. He stressed the vital importance of this support and appealed for others to contribute.
The Resolution condemning military coup in Myanmar and demanding respect of democratic elections and human rights can be found here.
Protesting educators constantly harassed and threatened with arrest by army forces
According to the Burmese education unions, many teachers remain committed to marching in favour of democracy but have to find innovative ways to protest while facing increased violence. Teachers in Myanmar usually march with their school sarong and are easy targets for army snipers and platoons looking to arrest them. Teachers suspected of supporting the CDM are suspended from their teaching positions and expelled from the public housing provided to their families. “Our main aim is to remain alive and to continue to protest alongside our students.”
“The teacher movement is not weakening in its opposition to the junta. We make sure we connect with groups of teachers, also those who have returned to their hometowns and have connectivity challenges. Our main aim is to remain alive and to continue to protest alongside our students. Some teachers have also started to organise to provide alternative schooling, independently from the army-imposed education. International solidarity is vital to give visibility to the horrendous violence targeting ordinary citizens. We also need solidarity support to continue the struggle for democracy and free education,” says Tun, a local education union leader, who managed to speak to the EI regional office.
Education International’s Myanmar Education Workers Solidarity Fund
As part of a Global Unions’ effort to collect financial support for the brave workers of Myanmar, Education International is now collecting solidarity donations to help teachers and education workers in their daily struggles. Local education unions are developing a detailed plan outlining how international financial solidarity will be used and can be channeled to the beneficiaries.
It is calling on its member organisations and concerned citizens around the world to contribute to the Education International’s Myanmar Education Workers Solidarity Fund by sending your donations to:
24, Avenue Marnix
IBAN : BE05 3101 0061 7075
Swift : BBRUBEBB
with ‘UAA Myanmar Solidarity Fund’ in your bank transfer communication.
Education International is also activating intergovernmental procedures to expose the human and trade union rights violations affecting educators and students.
General strike shuts down Myanmar
As the military junta has escalated its use of undue force against peaceful protesters, Myanmar workers won’t let fear and violence silence them. They are determined to continue the peaceful civil disobedience movement against the illegal military junta. In a joint statement, Myanmar labour organisations have called on all workers to join an extended nationwide work-stoppage starting on 22 February to shut down the country’s economy. The strike is meant to last until democracy is fully restored.
At least 60 protesters have been killed since the military seized power. Among them were teachers, including secondary school teacher Daw Tin Nwe Yi. The United Nations have reported that hundreds of protesters were wounded and over 1700 have been arbitrarily arrested and detained. EI has called for the immediate release of the teachers of the Myanmar Teachers' Federation who are amongst the detainees.
In a video message, EI General Secretary David Edwards reaffirmed EI’s full support to the civil disobedience movement and to all striking workers in Myanmar. He called on the solidarity of all EI affiliates with the Myanmar Teachers’ Federation and the people of Myanmar. “We will show our brothers and sisters that they are not alone, that in the middle of a global pandemic we have not forgotten who we are and the values we hold dear: democracy, human rights, freedom and solidarity“, he stated.
Trade union organisations called for a general strike on Monday, 22 February 2021 against the seizure of power by the military. They called for the respect of the results of the November 2020 elections and the release of all detained political leaders and activists. An estimated 12 million people participated in the strike, which affected all sectors of the economy. Mass demonstrations took place in major cities. This is the latest and largest popular reaction to the 1 February coup d’état.
The Council of Global Unions issued a video supporting the General Strike. This is part of continuing support by EI and other Global Unions for the struggle for democracy by workers and their trade unions and civil society in Myanmar since the coup, including civil disobedience, strikes, and protests.
Education International's General Secretary David Edwards, reacting to the General Strike, saluted the courageous resistance of workers and their trade unions and other citizens, saying, “the people of Myanmar have spoken. There has rarely been such a clear and visible division between the rulers and the ruled. EI and other Global Unions stand with the people of Myanmar. We call on governments to heed their call and mobilise to dislodge the illegitimate cabal that has taken power, restore Parliament, and continue on the path to democracy”.
“EI called on the United Nations and governments to act in support of democracy in Myanmar. EI also participated in the 11 February international protest action organised by the Council of Global Unions. On the 10th of February, EI issued an urgent action appeal - see the protest letter template - to member organisations urging them to participate in international solidarity and to contact their national governments in opposition to the coup and in support of the protesters and those detained in Myanmar, including Australian academic Sean Turnell.”
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Several governments as well as international bodies have already reacted. Many are reviewing relations with Myanmar and, in particular, sanctions against military leaders and their enterprises.
Also on the day of the General Strike, the 22nd, the Council of the European Union, representing all 27 EU member countries, approved conclusions on Myanmar/Burma. They call for: “de-escalation of the current crisis through an immediate end to the state of emergency, the restoration of the legitimate civilian government and the opening of the newly elected parliament. The results of the democratic elections held on 8 November 2020 have to be respected. The military must renounce its action.”
The conclusions indicate a readiness to “adopt restrictive measures targeting those directly responsible”. It also indicates that all “other tools at the disposal of the European Union and its Member States will be kept under review.”
On the 4th of February, the UN Security Council called for the “immediate release of all those detained” and stressed “the need to uphold democratic institutions and processes, refrain from violence, and fully respect human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law.”
A more elaborate position was taken by the UN Council on Human Rights on 12 February. It also called for the release of all prisoners, the lifting of the state of emergency and “the restauration of the democratically elected Government, but added other demands for action.” Crucial, ongoing work is being done by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. Given the serious degradation of the human rights situation in the country, the Council called for “increased assistance, resources and expertise to enable him to discharge his mandate fully.“