When a small group of employees gathered outside the Xing Jia shoe factory on Monday 15 March, it had been shut for a week and they’d been told it would stay that way for three months. In the chaos of civil unrest following the military coup six weeks earlier, supply chains had been disrupted. Strikes had closed banks and ports.
By the end of the day, according to media reports that followed shortly after, several people were dead – shot by soldiers. But the US company that sells cowboy boots made in the factory denied these accounts, preferring the word of a newspaper aligned with the Chinese Communist Party.
Now labour rights campaigners in Myanmar have produced a report examining the events of that day. As with almost every workers’ rights organisation in Myanmar, the group behind the report, Action Labor Rights (ALR), has been declared illegal by the military and its staff are currently in hiding. Due to the ongoing turmoil in Myanmar, openDemocracy has not been able to independently verify all the details of the report.
Some facts have more support, however. It is well known that in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, the impoverished Hlaing Tharyar industrial zone – where Xing Jia is located – had become a site of angry resistance. Military violence there was extreme and factories were being set alight amid martial law.
This article was funded by the National Geographic Society.