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YANGON - Trade unions and workers' rights NGOs are calling on the European Union (EU) to stop funding a new programme designed to boost garment manufacturing in Myanmar because they say it legitimises the country's military rulers.

The Myanmar Labour Alliance umbrella organisation has written to European leaders, including European Council president Charles Michel and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, opposing the 'MADE in Myanmar' (Multi-Stakeholder Alliance for Decent Employment in the Myanmar apparel industry) programme.

Launched in December and due to run until the end of 2026, MADE in Myanmar is supported by a €3 million (US$3.3m) EU grant, plus contributions from brands, and aims to "strengthen and protect responsible business practices in the textile, clothing and footwear sector".

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