Interview: Union for the Dispossessed
Unions: Joel's Law
National Focus: Spring Carnival
Bad Boss: Fina and Fiends
Industrial: The Price of War
Economics: Who's Got What
History: Containing Discontent
Review: An Honourable Wally
Poetry: The Colours of Discontent
Governing the Corporates
Behind the Junta
Burma, a country in Southeast Asia, has been controlled by a military regime since 1962. It's the size of NSW, with a population of 50 million.
Before the dictatorship, Burma was the biggest rice exporting country in the world, and was rich in natural resources including teak, jade, rubies and natural gas.
However, now, Burma is known as one of the 10 poorest countries in the world and is the biggest drug producing country (heroin and amphetamines). Most of those drugs in Australia come from Burma. Now, resources such as the forests and minerals are gone. The country is now most famous for having one of the worst human rights records in the world.
When the National League for Democracy, party of the Nobel peace prize winner Daw Aung San Suu Kyi won the democratic election in 1990 the military regime refused to hand over power. Instead, she has been under house arrest for over 7 years and the military regime have tried unsuccessfully to destroy her spirit with several attempted assaults, most recently on May 30. Some 1500 political prisoners are currently detained. Since May 30, she is back under house arrest. Other NLD leaders are being held in remote prisons.
The military regime banned trade unions, making it illegal to organise workers and fight for basic rights such as wages and OH&S conditions. In a country where forced labour and child labour are common, trade unionists are sentenced to up to 70 years imprisonment for organising workers. There are no mechanisms for resolving industrial disputes.
The Generals are privatising public industries, with ownership going to their own private companies. Not only is this taking away revenue from public services such as health and education but employees are poorly paid (around $12 - 16 a month), if they are paid at all. The army force rural people to work on their plantation farms and on back breaking road building projects without payment.
The International Labor Organisation (ILO) has taken action on Burma for the practice of forced labour. The military junta has been inflicting child labour and forced labour on its own citizens for the benefit of the military owned infrastructure and for military purposes.
Moreover, widespread confiscation of land and crops and summary executions has caused hundreds of thousands of people to become internally displaced persons or flee from the country, to India, Bangladesh and Thailand as refugees or illegal migrant workers.
As a result, over 2 million migrant workers, out of a population of 50 million, have left illegally to find jobs in neighbouring countries. This results in social and health problems to the host countries. Some governments provide health assistance but most of the workers are being exploited by their employers.
The military regime spends around 5 percent of its budget on health and a bit more on education. On the other hand, the military is upgrading such as buying MIG 29 fighter planes.
What you can do:
This is why the health worker training program sponsored by Australian trade unions through Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA is so important to assist rural migrants and refugees to access basic medical care.
Please help the people of Burma to achieve peace, democracy and union rights and pressure the military regime by all means available. Maintain your Union's support of Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA and join the Global Justice Program yourself.
You can stay in touch with developments in Burma by signing up to the APHEDA campaigns network, where you will find information on Australian companies that are still trading in Burma. We need your help to encourage them to stop.
For more information contact:
Marketing & Fundraising Officer
Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA
Email: [email protected]
phone: 02 9264 9343
or toll free 1800 888 674
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