Myanmar police charged 51 protesting workers from a wood-processing factory on Thursday with four offenses after a clash with police who had blocked them from marching to the administrative capital Naypyidaw to ask government leaders to intervene in a labor dispute.
About 100 workers from the Myanmar Veneer and Plywood Private Ltd. factory in northwestern Myanmar’s Sagaing region had sought government mediation in a labor dispute with the company, which they say wrongfully fired them for demanding overtime pay and improvements in working conditions.
Police arrested the protesters on Wednesday and took them to neaby Takton township for processing.
“They are being charged under Articles 143 and 145, 147 and 505( ... for joining in or continuing an unlawful assembly and rioting,” said Colonel Ko Ko Aung of the Naypyidaw police told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
The first three articles pertain to participating in an unlawful assembly, refusing to obey police and causing disorder, while Article 505( of the penal code pertains to disturbing public order. Authorities in Myanmar routinely use these broad articles to quell dissent and charge peaceful protestors, with prison sentences for those who violate them, rights activists say.
After police took them to a police station in nearby Tatkon township, labor officials filed charges only against the leaders of the protest, as instructed by Naypyidaw authoritie
“The workers have been demanding that [the factory] rehire the ones who were fired,” said Min Thway, secretary of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU).