Burmese activists are building a dynamic movement in their struggle for justice. Facing danger, deportation and arrest, they work together to document human rights abuses like forced labour and destruction of communities inside Burma. They also work to empower and support refugees and migrant workers in Thailand. A strategic focus that links a wide range of organizations with a common vision is fundamental to move the cause forward.
CUPE Local 2440 activist Marian White and CUPE international officer Rhonda Spence met this week with women, youth, human rights and environmental activists in Burma, with a shared vision and determination to build a democratic, just and peaceful country.
The Burmese Women’s Union is a multi- ethnic organization with a powerful leader in General Secretary Tin Tin Nyo and they are dedicated to involving women in political activity. They are unwavering in their work to ensure that women gain skills and power to take on an equal role in politics.
Youth organizers in Burma also face challenges, but their enthusiasm and commitment is extraordinary. Limited access to education and meaningful employment has meant that they must be very creative and resourceful to build their movement and to learn new skills.
Burmese youth organizers are anxious to network with youth organizations internationally and are particularly interested in connecting with young CUPE members.
The environmental organization Shwe Gas Movement has done significant research and lobbying around a pipeline project that will run through Burma to China. The project will displace thousands of people, and impact the environment with no benefit to local communities. Concerns of further human rights abuses, including the use of forced labour have also been raised.
The level of exploitation and the cruelty of the Burmese military against their citizens is hard to imagine. CUPE representatives were especially moved by their meeting with former political prisoners who advocate for and support more than 2,000 prisoners and their families. These former prisoners work to provide both families and prisoners with basic necessities and medicine. Prisons are often in remote areas and it can take days of travel for family members. Without support from organizations, such as the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners Burma, survival would be bleak.
Through CUPE’s Global Justice Fund, union members are supporting the vital work of Burmese activists and we plan to continue to build our partnership, increase our advocacy work and promote awareness among CUPE members and the Canadian public.