Myanmar teachers strike for six months plus
Seven months on from the military coup that rocked Myanmar, brave teachers are still striking in a desperate effort to return their country to democracy.
Since Myanmar’s military general brutally suppressed street demonstrations, killing more than 1,000 protestors, a nationwide civil disobedience movement (CDM) has emerged as a key tactic in the struggle for democracy. The movement is made up of hundreds of thousands of civil servants across the country taking continuous strike action by refusing to work for the military junta they see is illegitimate. The ongoing strikes of civil servants have crippled the junta’s ability to gain control of the country, severely undermining its claims for international recognition.
Teachers have been at the forefront of the civil disobedience movement with the junta’s own reports stating 121,455 teachers across the country still striking as of July. That is almost one-third of the total workforce. In areas not under full military control teachers have been working to set up alternative schools and education for local children.
Strike action has huge cost
UnionAID, the Aotearoa/NZ union movement’s international development charity, works extensively in Myanmar supporting the CDM through its trade union partners and links with other human rights defenders in the country. Executive Officer Michael Naylor says the strike action comes at a huge cost to the workers.
“Dozens have been arrested and an estimated 23,000 teachers suspended or dismissed. All those striking are facing real hardship having gone months without pay.”
“The people of Myanmar are literally starving themselves in their fight to force out the junta. We get calls to support people facing hardship every week.”
Most recently a group of striking teachers and other civil servants in the township of Kawkareik reached out to UnionAID for support. Many had gone six months without a salary and were relying on food from neighbours or loans from money lenders to support their families.
PPTA donation helps action continue
UnionAID responded, providing $4,000 to support 30 teachers and 13 doctors and nurses so they could afford to continue their strike action for a further month. This was possible thanks to the donations to UnionAID’s Myanmar Democracy Appeal, including a generous $1,000 donation from the PPTA.
U Kyaw (not real name) who helped distribute the funds to the striking teachers said they are grateful for the support from New Zealand. “Although it is only a small amount of financial aid for these CDM participants it will give them strength during this crisis time. The CDM workers are truly our heroes who are determined to fight until they win the Myanmar Spring Revolution.”