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Fashion Brands Have Failed to Protect Workers in Military-Ruled Myanmar

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“We want the brands to know that workers are pressured by the factory to say good words when they contact the workers. We want the brands to know the reality on the ground.”

A garment worker at Huabo Times factory in Myanmar issued this plea back in March, over a year into the country’s military dictatorship, which began a coup d’etat on February 1, 2021. The worker spoke of desperate times for workers who were enduring verbal harassment and abuse, without even the time to use the toilet because of the impossible targets factories were setting them.

Fast forward a few months and the world has watched in horror as Myanmar’s military executed four pro-democracy activists in the country’s first use of capital punishment in over three decades – marking a deadly escalation in state repression in the 18 months since Myanmar’s military illegally seized power. The killings came after a spate of brutal – and often deadly – attacks on those opposing the military regime.

It is a struggle in which garment workers have played a frontline role. Since the coup began, at least 55 trade union activists have been killed and over 300 union leaders and members of the labor movement have been arrested. Almost all union leaders have been forced into hiding, while those still working in the factories have been effectively silenced due to the very real fear of repercussions. Because of the severe restrictions on civic freedoms and reporting under military rule, it is now almost impossible to get a clear picture of the reality on the ground.

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Since the military takeover, the London-based Business & Human Rights Resource Centre has monitored the significant increase in labor and human rights abuse of garment workers in Myanmar. Along with partners and allies, both inside and outside the country, we have tracked over 100 cases of alleged abuse against at least 60,800 garment workers in just 18 months. There is no question that widespread and systemic labor violations are occurring in fashion supply chains in Myanmar. These allegations have been linked to........

© The Diplomat

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