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Myanmar garment workers on road seeking global brands attention

The ongoing anti-military protest in Myanmar is spiced up by the employees of different categories of professions. Garment workers are not lagging behind the procession. They are playing a vital role against the nondemocratic government by immobilizing the factories and marching as road-hog with strong slogans. They are calling for global fashion brands to stand beside them.

Figure: Demonstrators in Myanmar gathered in their largest numbers so far to protest the military’s seizure of power, even after a UN human rights expert warned that troops being brought to Yangon and elsewhere could signal the prospect of major violence. Courtesy: AP Photo

The garment employees are mostly women and are led by women. These female leaders, emerging from different garment worker unions under the shade of the Federation of Garment Workers aim to collapse the military government by shaking its economic base which depends on the garment export of the country’s total export in 31%.

Since the coup, garment worker unions are prominently participating in demonstrations. Most of them are facing deadly attacks during their strikes. They are threatened by the police and get arrested in some cases. Ma Moe Sandar Myint, the leader of one of Myanmar’s largest garment worker unions, says she spends protesting in daylight and hiding at night, leaving her 3 children and family afar. This fighter is responsible for more than 20 marches.

H&M, Inditex, Primark and Bestseller opened up sourcing from Myanmar in recent years. According to the European Chamber of Commerce in Myanmar, garment product export worth $4.59 billion in 2018. Moe Sander Myint said, “Every Factory is in a different situation now, but all need international brands to step forward and tell factory owners to unequivocally respect workers’ right to assemble and freedom of expression.”

In response, H&M declared recently that it will pull up any further orders from its 45 suppliers in Myanmar. This is the first response from any international brand operating in the country. The country manager of H&M in Myanmar, Serkan Tanka expressed his deep concerns about the country’s running situation and said that the unpredictability and difficulties to function here led them to decide to halt.

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