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Former workers from a wood-processing factory in Sagaing Division will face a confrontation with police as they approach Burma’s capital Naypyidaw after marching for more than two weeks to protest their unlawful dismissal.
Around 100 former employees of the Myanmar Veneer & Plywood Private Ltd (MVPPL) had set out from Sagaing on 29 April after staging an unsuccessful sit-in protest to demand that the regional government mediate in their dispute.
By Monday night, they had reached milestone 292/6 on the old Rangoon-Mandalay highway, past the town of Yamethin and less than 90 km from Naypyidaw.
Meanwhile, security officials on Monday set up a roadblock at milestone 284/4, near where the Naypyidaw Union Territory capital begins, to prevent the marchers entering the capital.
The workers claim that their employer, an Indian national who owns the factory in Sagaing’s Padamya Industrial Zone, subjected them to 12 hours of work a day without overtime pay.
There were 306 employees at the MVPPL factory, including 32 Indian nationals.
In October of last year, they began a protest demanding labour rights, including overtime pay, annual salary increases, better wages for skilled workers, bonuses, and expenses for their living and transportation.
The march began after a two-month sit-in failed to win support from local labour officials.
“As concerned government officials didn’t manage a single time to resolve our issues, and due to various livelihood struggles and health problems among our women and children [at the sit-in camp], we decided to begin marching to Naypyidaw, where we plan to set up a rally camp in front of the President’s Office,” protest leader Khine Min said at the time.
Shortly after they started their march, the workers were briefly stopped by local police at the entrance of the Sagaing Bridge but were later let through.
On 6 May, officials from the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population met with the marchers but were unable to persuade them to stop their march.