Under the constitution, the military has control of key ministries and 25 seats in parliament, which it says has allowed it to throw up roadblocks to political change.
“Aung San Suu Kyi and her new government brought high hopes that Burma had finally turned the corner toward becoming a rights-respecting democracy,” said Brad Adams, Human Rights Watch’s Asia director. “But to reach that goal, the government needs to stand up for principles of human rights, and that means holding the military accountable.”
The Human Rights Watch also pointed out that since 2011, the United States has been steadily lifting sanctions against Myanmar, which had been in place since the country’s troubled military reign. The last was lifted in October. The U.S. also recently restored the country’s General System of Preference trade status. Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department downgraded Myanmar in its 2016 Trafficking in Persons report to the lowest tier.
U Aung Myo Hein, the head of the Myanmar Garment Manufacturers’ Association (MGMA), recently told The Myanmar Times the industry welcomes unions as it tries to improve its corporate social responsibility. “Myanmar is at the infant stage,” he said. “We’re moving forward at our own pace, and change takes time.”
The MGMA reports Myanmar’s CMP garment industry employs more than 400,000 people in 389 factories with $2 billion in exports projected for the 2016-17 fiscal year. The biggest apparel trade partners are Japan, South Korea and Germany. Apparel exports to the United States account for 2.4 percent of the overall market.
Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in more than 90 countries. It calls on civil rights groups, the media and the public to help keep emerging authoritarian populists in check.
The Human Rights Watch findings follow last month’s report by the Progressive Voice advocacy group that pointed out labor issues like long work hours, penalties for missing work and harsh conditions in Myanmar.