On March 1, the chairman and five other leaders and members of the workers’ union at The Hotel @ Tharabar Gate in Myanmar’s Bagan Archaeological Zone were sentenced to imprisonment for a period of one month. The six union members were convicted of protesting police intervention in the union’s solidarity camp on December 12, when the camps were brutally destroyed by the police.
According to announcements made by the authorities, trade union activities have now been criminalized in the entire country. “The fact that the convicted trade unionists were arrested immediately following the verdict suggests that the local authorities are attempting to criminalize the exercise of rights which your government is obligated to respect,” read a petition, filed by the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations.
The union members said that they have been facing management aggression ever since the union was registered in 2015. Several attempts were made to dismiss the union’s chairman, which were defeated by the resistance shown by union members. However, fearing more scrutiny from owners, unions from other hotels in the tourist region came together and collaborated to form the area-wide independent union, named Hotel Chitthu Township Level Labor Organization Bagan-Nyaung Oo (HLOB), electing Nay Myo Win as its chairman.
In August 2018, the hotel management again removed the union chairman and 11 other workers, including two members of the union executive and seven active union members. In response, the workers launched a massive protest campaign in October. In the following weeks, the union members and their families supported and continuously maintained a solidarity camp on public space. The Myanmar government, headed by Aung San Suu Kyi, reacted violently and dispersed these camps by beating the protesters and arresting the union members.