Military Council Increases Daily Wage by 1,000 Kyats Amidst Economic Instability

Myanmar Spring Chronicle – October 07 

Published by MoeMaKa, October 08, 2023

Military Council Increases Daily Wage by 1,000 Kyats Amidst Economic Instability

Approximately two months following the events of August, the Myanmar kyat experienced severe fluctuations, with abrupt rises and falls. Against this backdrop of economic instability, the military council announced an increase of 1,000 kyats per day for daily wage laborers. The existing daily wage for 8 hours of work is set at 4,800 kyats, representing the lowest rate established in the last five years.

The decision to raise wages by 1,000 kyats per day appears to be in response to the military council’s announcement of an additional allowance of 30,000 kyats per month for its employees. However, rather than adjusting wages to offset the impact of inflation, the Ministry of Labor of the Military Council has opted for a proportional increase.

Historically, the minimum wage was typically determined through negotiations involving labor organizations, factory business associations, and ministry officials. However, following the coup, many labor rights organizations were declared illegal, and labor union leaders were detained on political charges, effectively stifling their ability to operate openly. In the context of determining the minimum basic wage, the absence of organizations advocating for workers’ rights has led to the Ministry of Labor’s unilateral decision.

This situation has placed wage labor entrepreneurs, particularly within the garment industry, in a challenging position. Payments for these workers, often received in foreign currency from abroad, must now be adjusted according to fluctuating exchange rates with the Myanmar Kyat. This matter has left the workers, who were once vocal about their rights, silenced since the coup, as their concerns were viewed solely through a political lens and perceived as a source of instability, leading to their suppression.

In recent months, headlines have highlighted skyrocketing prices for rice, oil, transportation, and pharmaceuticals. Among those bearing the brunt of inflation and insufficient wage increases are workers in the lowest-paid daily wage industries and factories.

Concurrently, the International Labor Organization (ILO) under the United Nations has issued a report highlighting forced coercion, limitations on workers’ freedom of association, and legal restrictions in Myanmar. The ILO has appealed to the military council government to address these violations. The Military Council is expected to resolve these issues within the next three months; failure to do so would result in the matter being transferred to the International Criminal Court (ICJ, International Criminal Court). The military council would then be compelled to appear before the ICJ.

Shifting focus to another matter, news emerged that the military council staff and seven individuals believed to be members of Pyu Saw Htee were killed, with their hands tied, and their bodies buried in a pit. This atrocity took place in Khin-U Township near Pyin Daung Village, just seven miles from Khin-U Township. A video of the killings, showing the victims with bound hands, indicated that the Yaung Ni People’s Defense Forces were responsible for the act, according to a report by BBC Myanmar.

Pyin Daung Village is recognized as a stronghold of Pyu Saw Htee, a group supporting the military council. The individuals who left the village for another destination were arrested and subsequently killed by the Yaung Ni PDF group as an act of revenge for perceived debts.

The Yaung Ni Guerrilla PDF group operates under the Ministry of Defense of the National Unity Government and is composed of villagers from Kan Thit in Khin-U Township, as reported by BBC news. Significantly, the group carried out this act of revenge without prior notification to the Ministry of Defense command within the National Unity Government.

While the identity of the seven victims remains unclear, the fact that civil servants were among them is known based on the video footage. While the numbers may not compare to the brutal killings, hostage takings, and accidental deaths involving military council troops, the act of killing and burying seven individuals, including civil servants, is a reprehensible event. In terms of international military regulations and laws, this incident raises concerns about compliance, or rather the lack thereof, as well as its implications for human rights.

It is worth noting that KNU, an ethnic armed organization, took disciplinary action against the most responsible individual in a case involving the killing of around 25 road workers in Myawaddy District, a KNU-controlled area in 2021. Despite being tipped off about the suspect’s affiliation with an armed group, KNU believed that the suspect should be subjected to lawful interrogation. This approach underscores the significance of adhering to the law, even in cases where the suspects are associated with armed organizations.

Across central, northern, and western regions of Myanmar, which are not ethnically demarcated areas, various PDF organizations have been intermittently apprehending and killing individuals based on suspicion. In some instances, women, the elderly, and minors have been affected, leading to coverage in the media.

As with the crimes and war atrocities committed by the military council’s forces, incidents perpetrated by armed groups, fueled by weaponry and power, are events that cannot be erased and may eventually face accountability.