IN the wake of the military takeover that has sparked widespread demonstrations in Myanmar, the Director-General of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Guy Ryde, has said workers and employers must be able to exercise their right to protest without violence or threats. He expressed grave concern about the situation in Myanmar following the removal of the civilian government by the country’s military.
Recalling that the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, has called on the military leadership to respect the will of the people of Myanmar and to adhere to democratic norms, with any differences to be resolved through peaceful dialogue, Ryder urged military leaders not to interfere with the rights of workers, including civil servants, and employers, to participate in peaceful protests. He called for the restoration of democratic order and civilian rule.
Ryder’s intervention follows reports of intimidation and threats against workers and trade unionists peacefully protesting for the restoration of civilian rule. Civil servants who participate in the protests have also been threatened with dismissal and penalties. He stressed that democracy and freedom of association are intrinsically linked.
“I call on the military to immediately remove orders restricting assemblies of more than five persons, a halt to the repression of dissenting voices and the full respect of workers’ fundamental and human rights and freedoms. I urge military leaders to ensure no workers, including civil servants are detained, intimidated or harassed for participating in peaceful protests,” Ryder said.
Ryder stressed that the right of assembly, freedom of opinion and expression and, in particular, freedom to hold opinions without interference, constitute civil liberties that are essential for the normal exercise of trade union rights.
He also highlighted the obligations flowing from Myanmar’s membership of the ILO and its ratification of the key ILO Convention on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize, 1948 (No. 87) , and underlined the importance of the ILO’s continuing work to eliminate forced labour in the country.
“I urge military leaders to uphold commitments under the Convention to ensure that workers and employers are able to exercise their freedom of association rights in a climate of complete freedom and security, free from violence and threats,” he said.
The ILO said it is monitoring events closely, through its office in Yangon, and is particularly concerned for the security and well-being of its worker and employer constituents, for which it would hold the military authorities accountable.