Leading members of the University Lecturers’ Union in Mandalay have been transferred to several institutions across Burma in what they claim is a deliberate move by education officials who dislike unions.
Among those being transferred are professors from Mandalay University, University of Distance Education and Foreign Languages University in Mandalay who are members of the University Lecturers Union that was officially registered and recognised by the Labour Department in June.
The union’s joint secretary Dr Thet Naing Oo said the transfers were a deliberate move made by authorities.
“U Thuta never applied for a transfer and he’s yet to finish his time here,” said the union’s Chairman Thet Naing Oo in reference to the group’s secretary.
“[Authorities] probably did this with the assumption that sending the leaders of the union away would slow down its momentum.”
He said the union was formed not to defy the authorities within the Education Department but rather the group aimed to engage in capacity building exercises with students who are interested in participating in politics.
The Union’s Chairman Dr Thet Lwin and Secretary Thuta were transferred to Sittwe University in Arakan state and Kengtung University in Shan state respectively, while other lecturers where relocated to institutions in Kachin state and Magwe division.
The enactment of the Labour Organisation Bill earlier this year brought an end to the draconian 1962 Trade Unions Act that effectively banned all trade unions in the country. Burmese workers can now legally go on strike, with the proviso that if they work in the private sector they give three days notice, and if in a public utility, 14 days.
The bill allows for the formation of unions with a minimum size of 30 people, which members can join or leave of their own desire. Workers can legally go on strike and protest for workers’ rights as long as it does not block transport or security infrastructure.