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David Edwards, General Secretary of Education International.
David Edwards, General Secretary of Education International.

Myanmar: Global unions call on governments to recognise the National Unity Government

published 15 September 2021 updated 16 September 2021

On the International Day of Democracy, Education International joins the Global Union Day of Action organised by the Council of Global Unions (CGU) to stop the military-led junta from gaining recognition at the 76th UN General Assembly (UNGA) and recognise the National Unity Government (NUG) as the legitimate government of Myanmar.

Military holds onto power by force, fear, intimidation, and terror

Unions and activists from around the world, are renewing their call for a return to democracy in Myanmar after a coup d'état in February led by General Min Aung Hlaing overthrew the democratically elected parliament.

Since the coup military and security forces have attacked demonstrators, killing hundreds and injuring thousands. They detained legitimate elected leaders and thousands of protestors, many of whom were tortured. They have held onto power by force, fear, intimidation, and terror.

Education International has been working with the Myanmar Federation of Teachers and the NUG Education Ministry to support democratic values and practices through education.

“When the dictatorship ends, education is part of their strategy to accelerate the transition to democracy and to sustain it,” said David Edwards, General Secretary of Education International. “As difficult as it is, the people of Myanmar will continue to struggle. Their hopes cannot be crushed, and their dreams of better, fairer, and freer lives cannot be extinguished.”

Education International, with the rest of the CGU, urges the UNGA, who are currently meeting in New York, to recognise the National Unity Government.

“The recognition of the NUG by the General Assembly would respect the popular mandate of a free and fair election and represents a statement by the community of nations that legitimacy must come from the people and not from the barrel of a gun.”

David Edwards, General Secretary of Education International

Edwards added that “there are precedents for recognising legitimate governments over tyrants that have unlawfully seized power.”

UNGA must ensure that legitimacy comes from the people and not from the barrel of a gun

By voting for democracy in a landslide election in 2020 and by massively rejecting military dictatorship on the streets, the people of Myanmar have tasted liberty. “The recognition of the NUG by the General Assembly would respect the popular mandate of a free and fair election and represents a statement by the community of nations that legitimacy must come from the people and not from the barrel of a gun,” he stressed.

“As difficult as it is, the people of Myanmar will continue to struggle. For the General Assembly, the choice is clear. Will they join the citizens to help build a future of peace, freedom and prosperity or will they side with the thugs in power who will continue down the road of war, misery, and oppression?” he concluded.

Coordinated actions

The International Day for Democracy on 15 September has been chosen by the global union movement to issue the CGU’s demands and engage in a comprehensive series of coordinated actions.

Trade unionists and activists are called upon to organise:

  • Communication strategies to highlight government and company successful implementation of, or failure to implement the CGU’s three demands, and/or UN General Assembly ‘ Resolution 75/287 on the situation in Myanmar’;
  • Direct actions or protests outside the UN Headquarters during the General Assembly, or outside appropriate buildings in other countries, such as Myanmar’s embassies;
  • Solidarity actions by CGU members’ affiliates around the world; or,
  • CGU events and/or press conferences during the General Assembly to highlight the CGU’s demands and/or its support for UN General Assembly Resolution 75/287.

The CGU are calling for companies and governments with any presence, relationships, or interests in Myanmar:

  1. End any direct or indirect business, commercial, financial ties to the Burmese military and military-owned businesses and support the arms embargo.
  2. Use their influence to: Secure the release of civilians or government officials and trade unionists that have been arbitrarily detained; Recognise the NUG at multilateral and bilateral levels; Restore democratic institutions and respect the rule of law; And guarantee the human and labour rights of all workers and people in Myanmar.
  3. Provide humanitarian aid to civilians and support to workers where operations are curtailed.