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Asia: Striking miners in Myanmar affect military revenues

Since the military coup in February, 4,800 miners have been on strike in Monywa township. The solid five-month strike has undermined the revenue of the military regime. The miners’ strike has taken a toll on Myanmar’s copper exports. In February, copper exports to China fell 55 percent on a year-on-year basis. While the copper exports to China increased to 37.6 percent in March, markets believe that the Chinese-owned multinational mining company Wanbao Mining Copper was selling its inventory.

The striking miners are affiliated to IndustriALL Global Union through the Mining Workers’ Federation of Myanmar (MWFM). They work at Wanbao Mining Copper, Myanmar Yang Tse Copper, Sinohydro Power China and Pay Pauk Aukshin. Both Wanbao Mining Copper and Myanmar Yang Tse have a revenue-sharing agreement with the military-owned Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (MEHL). The US state department has recently included the two companies in its sanctions list. The two companies are part of the huge conglomerate network of China’s North Industries Group Corporation (NORINCO), a state-owned manufacturer of military equipment for the People’s Liberation Army. Maung Maung, the president of the Confederation of Trade Unions in Myanmar (CTUM) says: “The miners’ strike has effectively cut off part of the military regime’s revenue. I urge the international community to support the struggle of the 4,800 brave miners. Their resistance is very much dependent on undivided international solidarity.” Valter Sanches, the general secretary of IndustriALL, says : “This long-lasting strike is a clear demonstration that the mineworkers represented by MWFM won’t allow the illegitimate military government to use the revenues from exports of minerals to crack down on the Burmese people carrying out the civil disobedience movement. We commend the bravery of the sisters and brothers from MWFM and will continue to mobilize international solidarity until the Burmese people restore democracy in the country.” Myanmar military general Min Aung Hlaing staged a coup on 1 February, which sparked a strong wave of civil disobedience in the South East Asian country. The military ruthlessly repressed the movement, killing 931 people, including MWFM member Chan Myae Kyaw. IndustriALL has called on multinational companies and brands to ensure respect for human and labour rights in their supply chains in Myanmar, mobilizing IndustriALL members to contribute to a global strike fund and working with other global unions to challenge the legitimacy of the military regime at the International Labour Organization. The labour movement of Myanmar is calling for comprehensive economic sanctions and a boycott of the country to starve the regime of resources.