Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Solidarity with Burmese Trade Unions

Earlier this year, Mick Bowman of the UNISON, Northumberland County Branch visited South East Asia with other Trade Unionists.

Our branch UNISON Northumberland County Branch have a long established link with the Burmese Trade Unions.

The Burmese Unions are one of the main bodies who have been fighting for democracy and justice for decades. We have supported their struggles over the last 10 years.

For years, trade unions have been affected by the events in Burma and they were labelled terrorist organisations.

Those who engaged in trade union activity were liable to torture or execution. Mick said "being in that country was an amazing and fantastic experience. When we were there we met with the trade union group, the federation of Union Kawthalei which is for Karen people.

The people in the group were at great risk of personal sacrifice for giving their lives to the trade union struggle. Some had been subjected to terrible atrocities. Among them Paw Gay, a woman from the Karen state who was forcibly removed from her family.

For 20 years, she lived among 400,000 displaced Burmese people in the eastern regions and saw members of her family slaughtered during fierce battles. Eventually she fled to Thailand where she lived in a refugee camp before devoting her life being a paramedic with Medical Backpackers.

The organisation "smuggles" medical supplies across the border to help those exiled from their homes." Speaking about Aung San Suu Kyi Mick said "She's an inspirational woman and a powerful character, but her story is not a typical in that there are others who have been subjected to violence and forced to relocate.

It's important that people involve themselves in Burma at this time when it's in a period of change. For that process to continue it's vital that the trade unions play an important role because they have got links with the workers.

They were at the forefront of the human rights movement and providing welfare services.

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