Riot police deployed to Rangoon protest

Feb 10, 2010 (DVB), Hundreds of armed police in Burma were yesterday told to monitor closely a protest by some 2000 female Rangoon factory workers demanding a pay rise and better workplace conditions.

One eye witness said that "there are about 40 riot police trucks, six lockup trucks and four fire engines at the scene" before the strike finished at 4pm yesterday in the Hlaing Tharyar industrial zone on the outskirts of Rangoon, Burma's former capital.

"They don't need to show this much strength. It is just some workers calling for their rights," the eye witness added.

"They were going on strike for a pay raise. The factory is paying 10,000 kyat [$US10] extra for supervisors and advisors, but [basic level] workers were not included," he said.

"Also the workers are upset that they have to work from 11am until midnight and the factory cuts 5000 kyat [$US5] from their pay for one day's absence from work."

A seven-point demand made by the workers, from the Korean-owned Opal-2 garment factory, includes a pledge from factory owners that staff will not have to work beyond 9pm, as well as easing restrictions on going to bathroom. They have also requested not to work on weekends or national holidays.

The factory’s proposal to pay an extra 10,000 kyat for just this month was yesterday turned down by the workers.

Yesterday's strike has however spread to two factories nearby, although demands made by workers there are not known.

The government's Labour Administration Department was unavailable for comment.

Any public display of protest in Burma is closely monitored by the ruling regime, while the issue of trade union organization in the country is murky.

Unions are legally allowed, although a clause in the 2008 constitution states that their formation is conditioned on not being "contrary to the laws enacted for Union security, prevalence of law and order, community peace and tranquility, or public order and morality." The subsequent definitions for these criteria are vague.

Reporting by Aye Nai

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