… was the name of a – unfortunately successful – campaign with which a few ‘well-meaning’ people in Europe wanted to get the Swiss underwear manufacturer Triumph to shut down their factory in Yangon. She had been threatened with boycotting her products worldwide if she did not close the business. Because that would benefit the military government. Here the hypocrisy of those who claim to promote humanity comes to light with rare clarity. The force that always wants the good and often creates the bad! Triumph’s manufacturing facility was the most modern one in the country. Jobs there were very much sought-after. Free shuttle to work, free medical care, work clothes and good pay. The highlight, however, was the air-conditioned workshop, the only one in the country. When the manager of the company pointed this out at a lunch with a high ranking NLD member, he was rebuffed with the following words: “What makes you think that Burmese workers like to work in air-conditioned workshops?” It goes without saying that everybody prefers to work at 40 degrees centigrade rather than at 25!
Here is the personal report of my friend Axel Maassen, the company’s German managing director: ‘The company was liquidated and I was the responsible managing director in Myanmar. During the liquidation, I was held in the country as a bargaining chip for the company’s outstanding tax payments. When the owners of the company informed me by phone that these claims would not be settled, I saw my life in danger and left the country on a somewhat adventurous route across the green border to Thailand. With the support of the German embassy in Bangkok, I was able to leave the country via Bangkok Airport after paying a fine of 4,000 baht (approx. 100 euros) for illegal entry into Thailand.’
And what did the campaigners do when they finally reached their goal and the factory was closed? Did they keep paying the 1,000 or so workers who were supporting several thousands who depended on them?
About 40,000 dollars a month would have been enough for this – peanuts for a fundraising campaign! No, they did not care about the fate of those who had become unemployed. They probably expected them to take to the streets and make ‘revolution’. But they did something much more obvious. Many of them turned up in Yangon’s nightlife. Where a young woman can make a lot of money for local standards!
The Burmese author Ma Thanegi clearly rejected the boycott policy in her article ‘The Burmese Fairytale’: ‘American college students play at being freedom fighters and politicians stand up and proclaim that they are striking a blow for democracy with sanctions. But it is we Burmese who pay the price for these empty heroics. (https://www.burmalibrary.org/sites/burmalibrary.org/files/obl/docs/TheBurmeseFairy-Tale.htm)
In general, a lot of ‘reinforcements’ for the night clubs comes from the textile factories. Many girls try honest work first and are exploited to the worst. Low wages (sometimes they even don’t get the pittance they’re paid …), unbearable heat – sweatshops in the truest sense of the word! And unpaid overtime without end. And the worst: Quite a few factory owners consider the young workers to be fair game! Thida, an Indian woman, told me that her Korean boss regularly came to the factory with his associates. They went through the factory hall, pointed to the prettiest girls and said: “You, you, you and you. Come! “. Then they took them to the next short-time hotel and the girls had to keep still. If the boss and friends were in a good mood, they even gave them a tip. Then back to the factory. “You know, I said to myself that I should go professional and make more money!” Thida confided to me. The supply of ‘fresh meat’ might have made male visitors happy but whether the girls shared that feeling remains questionable.