ITUC OnLine – September 21, 2007

Brussels, 21 September 2007 (ITUC OnLine):  The United Nations needs to take urgent and concrete steps over Burma, in light of the growing tensions and instability there, according to the ITUC.  Dozens of people are being held in detention by the military junta, with Buddhist monks now openly defying the authorities in several locations around the country, supported by thousands of people who have joined protests and demonstrations.  Reports indicate that one monk has been killed by Burmese security forces reacting to a September 5 demonstration, and the ITUC understands that workers undertaking protest and stop-work actions in factories including in pharmaceuticals and textiles have been confronted by the army as the ruling generals tighten their grip.

The ITUC has welcomed the statement by UN Special Envoy to Burma Ibrahim Gambari that the international community needs to find an “urgent solution” to the situation, in a briefing to the Security Council yesterday.  “We hope that Mr. Gambari will travel to Burma as soon as possible, and that governments and in particular the European Union and ASEAN take strong positions to press for an end to the military oppression and a return to democracy”, said ITUC General Secretary Guy Ryder.

The current protests began after the authorities imposed a massive increase in the price of fuel without giving notice or justification, making life even harder for the people of Burma on top of years of repression and persecution by the junta.  Previous manifestations of discontent have been met with force by the military, and the ITUC hopes that this time they will refrain from violence as tensions mount.  The Buddhist monks have declared a “boycott” of the military, refusing to accept donations from military officers and thus sending an extremely strong signal to the authorities.

“We call upon the Burmese rulers to release all those detained for political reasons, including the 6 labour rights advocates recently sentenced to up to 28 years for their involvement in Labour Day activities on May 1.  The military must understand the tremendous damage their actions are causing throughout the country.  They should step aside now and allow a return to democracy and respect for human rights,” said Ryder.