Are striking railway workers also traitors?

28 10 2009

PPT has been watching the stories on the strike at the State Railways of Thailand (Bangkok Post, 27 October 2008: “Cabinet approves hiring of new rail staff”). The Abhisit Vejjajiva’s coalition government has now decided to act as strike breaker. There is no surprise there. The Democrat Party has never been particularly supportive of labor or labor rights, reflecting their links to the business and royalist elements of the elite.

The only observation we’d make is to point out that it was state enterprise workers who began the rallies against Thaksin Shinawatra and who were serious opponents for a series of previous governments.

There is also talk amongst Democrat Party ministers and in its cheer leading press calling for the privatization of the SRT. Again, proposals for the privatization of state enterprises were amongst those that set the state enterprise unions against Thaksin and into the PAD fold.

While PPT can well imagine that PAD and unionists might join the NGOs that remain signed up to the anti-Thaksin fight and so ignore direct challenges to their core interests, the Democrat Party is playing a risky game here. Sure, the middle class public in Bangkok will cheer the government, but they have always cheered anti-union actions. The state enterprise unions are, however, serious political actors.

Update: The Bangkok Post (28 October 2009: “Rail staff accused of train sabotage”) suggests that the royalist government is considers itself to be facing “traitors” in many areas. In this increasingly bitter strike, the management of the SRT has accused workers of attempting to block a train being driven by a strike-breaking employee.

It is not surprise that the 10 workers targeted are all union members and leaders: “SRT governor Yutthana Thapcharoen said railway management had decided the staff allegedly responsible would have to be fired for severe misconduct.” This is standard tactics by employers in Thailand’s private sector but may be more difficult against state enterprise workers.

The report states that an SRT source “said about 10 key union members were singled out for dismissal. They were accused of persuading railway workers in the South and the Central Plains to strike.” Traitorous acts in Abhisit Vejjajiva’s Thailand?

The strike-breaking driver “said the SRT management ordered him to file a complaint with police against local union members.”

Meanwhile, “railway union members yesterday filed a complaint with the senate committee on human rights, liberty and consumer protection.” It will be interesting to see how this committee responds for it is dominated by PAD supporters and PAD received strong state enterprise union support. At the same time, these mainly appointed senators are also self-appointed protectors of middle-class interests, so they are almost naturally opposed to unions and union action.

The panel will discuss the complaint tomorrow.

Ji Ungpakorn on PAD and unions

16 08 2009

Following up on emails he sent to friends and supporters a couple of weeks ago, Ji Ungpakorn now has an article in Australia’s Green Left Weekly (15 August 2009: “Unions should not support Thai fascists”)attacking the People’s Alliance for Democracy and the international unions supporting it.

Ji points out that a little while ago the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) general secretary David Cockroft issued a letter addressed to the Thai government in support of three trade unionists who were said to be facing possible charges for PAD’s siege of the international airport and the domestic airport at Don Muang last year.

Ji describes PAD as a coalition of interests that included “NGO, trade union and social movement leaders” but that “moved sharply to the right, becoming fanatical royalists…”. He adds that some “PAD members have fascist tendencies. Last year, PAD members wrecked Government House and blocked the international airports. Behind them were the army and the palace.” He says that PAD leaders “aim … to reduce the voting power of the electorate in order to protect the conservative elites running Thailand.”

While the ITF apparently quickly removed their statement in support of PAD following negative reactions from readers and members (see here and here), the source of their support for PAD relates to the fact that one of PAD’s leaders, Somsak Kosaisook, remains an adviser to the State Railways Union of Thailand (SRUT), having been its president, and represents the SRUT at the ITF Asia/Pacific Railway Workers’ Section (see the document here).

On union matters, some time ago PPT reported that the struggle against Triumph and its union-busting activities in the region. Readers may find the update at Prachatai of some use, as the workers continue to struggle against the company.

Update: Letters from various unions supporting PAD can be found here.

Unions should not support Thai fascists

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