Updated: Inhumane policy

15 07 2021

Accounts of the inhumane treatment of workers locked into work camps and guarded by soldiers are growing. There are hundreds of camps and thousands of workers.

Some of the camps have received little food, health care or much else. Indeed, it is as if the regime has created hundreds of concentration camps. The camps have been sealed since 27 June for at least 30 days.

As usual, the assurances given when sealing the camps have been ditched. In some cases, volunteers are providing food for the hungry workers, many of whom are migrant workers.

Migrants exploited

Clipped from Thailand Construction News

The idea of sealing in workers was to protect the rest of the community from the virus. Of course, this is a nonsense as the virus has spread far and wide. The idea of locking healthy people in with those infected beggars belief.

Thai Enquirer reports that the regime has decided “to stop Covid testing and providing healthcare for migrant workers who have been confined to camps…”. This is the height of stupidity and is barbarous.

The report states that the “Ministry of Labour, which gave the order to halt the testing and offering healthcare assistance” claims that it is “unable to conduct Covid-19 tests in sealed up construction worker camps because the Bangkok Governor’s office will not give it the necessary permission.”

The governor should be immediately sacked for jhis inhumane policy. But, then, he’s a junta man.

Sunai Phasuk, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch stated: “The ministry’s decision is discriminatory and blatantly shows disregard of Thailand’s obligations to uphold labor standards and human rights during the pandemic…”.

Appropriately, he added:

It will also become a ticking time bomb that threatens the already strained public health structure with many undetected and untreated new cases. The Prime Minster needs to immediately quash this senseless policy….

Labor Minister Suchart Chomklin has said “the government will now send more food and water to 520 camps in Bangkok and 797 camps in five surrounding provinces between July 12 and 27.” Thai Enquirer observes: “He did not explain why the government did not send enough food and water…”. Suchart reckoned “that companies should help their workers and that they cannot wait on support from the government.”

That seems a broader message: no person can depend on this government for any semblance of humanity, human rights, or ingenuity. Reasonable policy is off the agenda. The regime is now, as it has been since 2014, a disaster for Thailand. It is now a threat to public health as well.

Update: Minister Suchart has made his position more grotesque. He is reported to have “defended the ministry’s decision to shift from conducting a blanket Covid-19 test on migrant workers at construction worker camps to randomly testing them, as the problem of hospital bed shortages continues.” In other words, the Ministry has decided to find fewer cases among migrants because the government cannot or will not treat them. They have to wait for promised “field hospitals.”





When the military is on top XVI

8 03 2018

A reader reminded us that we should have posted a recent story at Khaosod. It was a remarkable story about a link between a foreign investor and the military.

General Motors Thailand is a major firm involved in the Eastern Seaboard in vehicle manufacturing. That location and the auto industry are central for the military dictatorship’s Thailand 4.0.

So is it a GM HR glitch that its employees “who lost their job in a pay dispute” will now be rehired, but “have to sign new contracts on a military base”? Or is it GM stupidity?

While not discounting glitches and stupidity, we think this is it just another example of the longstanding cooperation of the military with employers to repress unions and workers.

According to the report, GM company spokeswoman Pucharapan Holim said the base was being used “for convenience,” claiming that the GM premises could not handle 60 people. Based on this nonsensical and misleading statement, we may assume that GM is making use of military domination to assist its management.





Updated: Organized labor is always suspect

13 01 2016

Despite the fact that some elements of the now very small labor movement in Thailand has tended to be quite supportive of the two most recent military coups and anti-democrat protests, the military dictatorship still doesn’t trust organized  labor.

Most support for the rightists and militarists has come from state enterprise unions, which have been led around by the nose under the influence of Somsak Kosaisuk, a leader of the People’s Alliance for Democracy back when Thaksin Shinawatra was under attack.

Of course, the military goons have long tried to control and weaken organized labor and have often been in the pay of employers keen to repress any organization among workers.

Last week, as reported at Prachatai, leaders of the Thai Labour Solidarity Committee (TLSC) complained that military and police officers have intimidated  them. This comes “several days after the committee investigated the detention of labour union leaders of an electrical appliance company.”

Wilaiwan Sae-tia, president of the TLSC, said she was being followed by “4-5 military officers both in uniform and plainclothes” at her workplace and her home.

Yongyut Mentapao, TLSC’s vice president, also says he “had been followed by military and police officers from unidentified units…. He filed a complaint at a police station about the intimidation…”.

This followed “the detention of Chalee Loysoong, [another] TLSC Vice President, and Amorndech Srimuang, leader of the labour union of Sanko Gosei Technology Ltd., an electrical appliance manufacturer in the eastern province of Rayong, on Tuesday, 6 January 2016.”

These two were detained at the Ministry of Labor because “they led about 500 Sanko Gosei workers to the Ministry to ask Gen Sirichai Distakul, the Labour Minister, for assistance in negotiating with Sanko Gosei.” That company had closed and had protesting workers thrown out.

In detaining the union leaders, the police threatened them with charges for unlawful assembly.

As usual, the regime’s thugs work for employers and against any effort by people to organize or mobilize. Untamed union leaders are thus a threat.

Update: Demonstrating their thuggishness and incapacity for much other than repression, the dolts in the military decied to “visit” – i.e., threaten – Wilaiwan “at the office of the Om Noi/Om Yai Labour Union in Samut Sakhon Province.” About five men in uniform were responding to the statement by TLSC “condemning the authorities for using the Public Assembly Act and detaining labour union members” protesting the event outlined above.

The politically daft thugs “cited their authority under Section 44 of the Interim Charter, which gives officers absolute power to maintain security, and informed the TLSC leader that from now on she must inform the military first before making any political moves.”





The measure of the regime

7 06 2015

One of the hallmarks of the “Thaksin revolution” was the way Thaksin Shinawatra and, later, Yingluck did politics was to emphasize not just policies that impacted particular constituencies, but to promote policies that were essentially universal. The 30 baht health care program was iconic.

Under Yingluck, the most significant of these policies was to essentially raise the minimum wage nationwide to 300 baht a day. This was a politically popular innovation, and one that recognized that real wages in Thailand had been stagnant for years, despite productivity increases.

In this context, a report at Khaosod English on the minimum wage is potentially defining of the military dictatorship.

Ministy of Labour permanent secretary Nakhon Silpa-archa told a seminar that his ministry is “proposing a plan to abandon the country’s daily minimum wage in 2016.” He reckons the “wage is not in line with current labour market situation or inflation rate…”. Of course, this proposed change is in the context of the very rich are getting a lot richer.

The wage increase granted by Yingluck was not welcomed by business because it was seen as upsetting the balance in favor of its class.

The military dictatorship, like its predecessors, will be defined by its subordination to the interests of the rich and powerful. At a minimum, PPT would expect that the regime will attempt to have lower wages in provincial areas, meaning yet another return to the past.

Politically, the most powerful elements of organized labor have sided with the anti-democrats and the military dictatorship and have long been unrepresentative of the broader labor movement.





Abhisit’s regime attacks the right to assembly and association

3 04 2011

Prachatai has a short but important story on the trial of three unionists, including Jitra Kotchadej.

The case, which has some international attention, sees further challenges to the right to peaceful assembly and association by the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime.

The trial will take place from 15 November 2011.

On 28 March Jitra, an advisor to the Triumph Labour Union,  Boonrod Saiwong, Former Executive Secretary of the Triumph Labour Union and Sunthorn Boonyod, staff member of the Labour Union Center had their first hearing.

Prachatai reports:

The defendants are accused of violating Section 215 and 216 of the Penal Code which stipulates against the “gathering of ten people upwards to do or threaten to do an act of violence, or do anything to cause a breach to the peace…and being the manager or the person having the duty to give orders for the commission of the offence…and when the official orders the persons assembled together to disperse, the persons refuse to do so”. The Black Case no. Or 620/2554 was filed by the public prosecutor of the Division of Special Prosecution 10, Office of the Attorney General.

The unionists demonstrated at Government House with 1000 others on 27 August 2009.

It is said that the “arrest warrants issued later have drawn outcries from rights activists and the National Human Rights Commission has been asked to come out to defend the right to peaceful assembly and association and to inquire over the violation of civil rights by the police.”

PPT doubts the NHRC has the necessary independence to deal with this.





Released Somyos, interviewed

15 06 2010

The Bangkok Post has an interview with released labor activist and red-shirt supporter Somyos Prueksakasemsuk. He had been held for 3 weeks at the Adisorn cavalry barracks in Saraburi province.

Some parts of the interview worth noting include the comment that he may still be charged for “violation of the emergency decree by political assembly of more than five people.” Interestingly,  he says there were “only three of us from the 24th of June Democracy Group held a press conference in front of the House No 111 Foundation…”. He also says he will sue “Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban for defamation and for harming and threatening the rights of a citizen.”

Somyos was “warned by the police investigators during my detention in Adisorn camp that I should stop producing controversial material. I told them that it’s my occupation. Will they give money to pay for a living? Of course, I still have to do it, but I will be more careful and the content will be toned down.”

He claims that the police seemed to believe that Thaksin Shinawatra was behind his publications. Somyos says: “I told them that Voice of the Taksin and Red News are purely self-sustained businesses. The market is the Thaksin fans. Red News has more than 30,000 sales while Voice of Thaksin has 20,000 copies, both bi-weekly. I don’t have to receive money from Thaksin. I  was also against him when he was the prime minister, check my background.”

On Abhisit’s “reconciliation” he says: “The government’s reconciliation effort is like a mouthwash — it’s a bit refreshin[g], but cannot remove the stink of blood from the present leadership.”

He also makes a worthwhile point on “arson and looting”: “Do you think there was none (arson and looting) in the aftermath of Oct 14, 1973 and May 17-19, 1992? The Public Relations Building was burnt down in 1973. In May 1992, traffic poles were demolished and Nang Lerng police station was burned. Riots followed all these incidents and  those involved in the political rallies that turned violent were amnestied…. Don’t forget that buildings were burnt after the core leaders surrendered. After all, the military should be more professional and better-prepared for the post-crackdown sequence of  events. They should install their men in key surrounding buildings to prevent any undesirable repercussions from the riots. Here, the military were just standing there, watching the flames engulf the premises. No plan for control or prevention.”

And about “terrorists”: “Check the backgrounds and contextual events for the deaths of 90 people. They are labourers, hawkers, taxi drivers, engineers, nurses and medical workers, as well as rural folks. The men in black? Who are they? Can the government arrest a single one of these black-hooded people?”





Thailand on human trafficking watch list

15 06 2010

Some days ago PPT posted on Senator Jim Webb’s public plea to Secretary of State Hilary Clinton to keep Thailand off the human trafficking watch list, linking this to issues related to recent political events.

AFP reports that the plea was not fulfilled, and Thailand was placed on a human trafficking watch list, accused o”f failing to prevent women from being forced into prostitution.” The State Department “said that Thailand was a source, destination and transit point for trafficking, with ethnic minorities and citizens of neighboring countries at particular risk of sexual abuse or forced labor.”

According to AFP, the “move opens the way for the United States to cut off some civilian assistance, although it usually functions as a symbolic means to pressure countries to take action.”





Campaign in support of activist Somyos Prueksakasemsuk

4 06 2010

The Clean Clothes Campaign is supporting the detained Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, editor of Red News and a labor activist. The CCC says: “The Clean Clothes Campaign is shocked and angered by the the arrest of Somyot Pruksakasemsuk. Somyot is founder of the Center for Labour and International Solidarity Thailand … and worked with the CCC on numerous campaigns and Urgent Appeals…”. Their action page is here.

Read more here.





Labor rights, union busting and lese majeste

28 07 2009

As regular PPT readers will know, we concentrate on lese majeste, royalty in Thailand and related political events. At the same time, we have also commented on broader rights issues.

Events in Thailand and the Philippine, where an international brand seems to be closing factories to break unions, suggest that fundamental rights are being infringed.

We have received the following from readers. As background, we remind readers of an important link to lese majeste cases in Thailand.

On 29 July 2008, the president of Triumph International Labour Union Thailand, Ms. Jitra Kotchadej was fired by Body Fashion factory or Triumph International Limited Thailand.

The excuse for this dismissal was that Jitra wore a campaign T-shirt supporting Chotisak Onsoong who refused to stand up during the royal anthem in a cinema. The campaign T-shirt read: “Not standing is not a crime. To think differently doesn’t make one a criminal.” Royalists complained when Jitra wore the T-shirt during a television programme where she was interviewed on unwanted pregnancy among Thai workers and rights to abortion.

The management of Body Fashion  seized on this as an opportunity to use the lese majeste law to dismiss Jitra. The incident followed successful union action for a wage increase and enhanced benefits for the women workers in the factory.

Now, the German/Swiss lingerie multinational Triumph is going further in closing factories in order to crush unions. Here’s the report:

Lingerie producer blames global recession for factory closures

The  the German/Swiss lingerie multinational Triumph seems to use the pretext of the global economic recession to close down factories in the Philippines and Thailand. A number of these closures are irregular.

On June 29, Triumph’s producer in Thailand, Body Fashion Thailand, announced that around half of its 4200 workers would be out of their jobs by the end of August. Earlier this year, another Thai Triumph producer, Worldwell Garment Company, was closed down on Labour Day (May 1), and the entire work force sent home without their last salaries or the legally-required severance compensations.

In the Philippines, 1660 garment workers will loose their jobs by the end of August when Triumph International (Philippines) Ltd. and Star Performance Inc. will close down. Neither in Thailand nor in the Philippines did the Triumph management conduct timely and transparent negotiations with the factory workers’ unions as required by international labour standards.

Support these Thai and Filipino workers in their struggle. Send letters to Triumph’s headquarters in Switzerland today and send the links to your friends. Your actions will make a difference!

Read more:

Clean Clothes Campaign

Take action now!