General strike shuts down Myanmar


Trade union organisations called for a general strike on Monday, 22 February 2021 against the seizure of power by the military. They called for the respect of the results of the October 2020 elections and the release of all detained political leaders and activists. An estimated 12 million people participated in the strike, which affected all sectors of the economy. Mass demonstrations took place in major cities. This is the latest and largest popular reaction to the 1 February coup d’état.

The Council of Global Unions issued a video supporting the General Strike. This is part of continuing support by EI and other Global Unions for the struggle for democracy by workers and their trade unions and civil society in Myanmar since the coup, including civil disobedience, strikes, and protests. 


Education International’s General Secretary David Edwards, reacting to the General Strike, saluted the courageous resistance of workers and their trade unions and other citizens, saying, “the people of Myanmar have spoken. There has rarely been such a clear and visible division between the rulers and the ruled. EI and other Global Unions stand with the people of Myanmar. We call on governments to heed their call and mobilise to dislodge the illegitimate cabal that has taken power, restore Parliament, and continue on the path to democracy”.


Several governments as well as international bodies have already reacted. Many are reviewing relations with Myanmar and, in particular, sanctions against military leaders and their enterprises. 


Also on the day of the General Strike, the 22nd, the Council of the European Union, representing all 27 EU member countries, approved conclusions on Myanmar/Burma. They call for: “de-escalation of the current crisis through an immediate end to the state of emergency, the restoration of the legitimate civilian government and the opening of the newly elected parliament. The results of the democratic elections held on 8 November 2020 have to be respected. The military must renounce its action.” 


The conclusions indicate a readiness to “adopt restrictive measures targeting those directly responsible”. It also indicates that all “other tools at the disposal of the European Union and its Member States will be kept under review.”


On the 4th of February, the UN Security Council called for the “immediate release of all those detained” and stressed “the need to uphold democratic institutions and processes, refrain from violence, and fully respect human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law.” 


A more elaborate position was taken by the UN Council on Human Rights on 12 February. It also called for the release of all prisoners, the lifting of the state of emergency and “the restauration of the democratically elected Government, but added other demands for action.” Crucial, ongoing work is being done by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. Given the serious degradation of the human rights situation in the country, the Council called for “increased assistance, resources and expertise to enable him to discharge his mandate fully.“  



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