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The leaders of a workers’ protest in Rangoon’s Sanchaung township last week have been charged by the police for demonstrating without an official permit.
The police charged seven workers at Tawwin Family Co., Ltd’s Finished Products and Furniture Factory in Myaungdagar Industrial Zone in Rangoon who led the rally on 8 October in front of the company’s office demanding better working conditions.
“They have been charged by the police under article 18 and summoned to [Sanchaung] police station for questioning,” said Kyaw Minn, a member of the labour rights group Action Labour Rights.
According to article 18 of the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law, demonstrators must file for permission five days in advance of the event and applications can be rejected at the authorities’ discretion.
The workers in the protest last week demanded nine conditions from their employers including better pay and an end to discrimination in the workplace. The protest ended after the company agreed to meet the workers’ demands.
“The workers were neither marching in the streets nor chanting slogans – they were simply travelling to the company’s [offices] for negotiations with their employer which actually went well,” said Kyaw Minn. “But now they are being pressed with charges under the law – it’s like a trap.”
Earlier this week, activists who joined the widespread protests calling for sufficient electricity supplies in Mandalay in May were hit with similar charges. The move comes after authorities in Rangoon charged two protestors for demonstrating without permission during the International Day of Peace rally in September. Another 11 protestors who demonstrators at the same rally may be hit with similar charges soon.
While activists are being charged under existing laws, observers have pointed out that demonstrators who back the ruling party’s policies have been allowed to rally without permits and have not been charged.