Reject Burma's sham elections

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Reject Burma's sham elections

Sally Hunt, UCU General Secretary and the TUC General Council's international spokesperson, called on the international community to reject the sham elections just held in Burma, at a rally in Trafalgar square on Saturday, 6 November 2010.

Burma rally, 6 November 2010


I'm here today on behalf of the TUC, and that means I am here today on behalf of over 6.5 million trade union members across Britain.

We're honoured to join with everyone here today - with the Burmese community - to express our solidarity with the Burmese people in their struggle for democracy, dignity and freedom from fear.

From classrooms to factories, and from hospitals to kitchens, workers across Britain are outraged that this oppressive military regime is still in power, and we join with everyone here today and across the globe to condemn the sham elections taking place tomorrow.

These elections have been rigged in every way possible.

Firstly, people have been prevented from running. Genuine opposition candidates have only been able to register for about a third of seats. In most seats, people get to either vote for the party of old military thugs or the party of new military thugs.

Secondly, where independent voices have been able to register, they've been prevented from campaigning.

Thirdly, if they can campaign, potential supporters are harassed. Last week, I heard about a local bicycle taxi driver who was detained and questioned for hours by police simply for accepting a leaflet from an opposition candidate.

Finally, no matter who wins, the military still gets to control the government under a flawed constitution.

So people can't register, they can't campaign, they can't vote freely, and under the constitution they just can't win.

That's why civil society across the globe - including the global trade union movement - is rejecting the whole process.

And we need to send a loud and clear message to the international community: don't endorse this farce, and don't let the Generals off the hook.

To do so will only give them the green light to step up their brutal war against their own people: a war of torture, forced displacement, sexual violence, and extra-judicial killings. And a war against workers: from forced and child labour, the banning of trade unions, endemic poverty and the jailing of labour rights campaigners.

Now is the time to turn up the pressure on the Generals, not turn it off.

Now is the time for the UK and the EU to cut off the financial lifelines to the Generals, by putting in place much tougher financial sanctions.

Now is the time for governments to finally put in place a global arms embargo and launch a UN commission of inquiry into crimes against humanity in Burma.

Finally, if our Burmese sisters and brothers can't speak through the ballot box, then it's even more critical that they can speak through their trade unions, and through their community organisations.

That's why the TUC, along with the international trade union movement, is supporting action at the International Labour Organisation next week to press for the removal of the ban on trade unions in Burma.

We're supporting Burmese trade unions that courageously operate in secret to support workers across the country, many of who end up behind bars for their efforts.

They - along with Aung San Suu Kyi and all of Burma's 2,200 political prisoners - must be free.

I look forward to the day when everyone in a democratic and inclusive Burma can live in freedom and dignity. That's what we hope for, and what we will work towards.

Thank you.

Sally Hunt

(Photos courtesy of Burma Campaign UK)

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