Thai court approves Ks71 million for 14 Myanmar migrant workers

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The Supreme Court of Thailand yesterday approved compensation of Ks70,948,067.49 (US$52,000) in a landmark test case for 14 Myanmar migrant workers who endured forced labour and other rights violations at the Thammakaset Chicken Farm in central Thailand.
The Supreme Court, upholding a previous decision of a labour court to award the compensation, rejected Thammakaset’s appeal against the compensation order for the final time. The 14 worker’s own litigation, claiming US$1.25m in damages and compensation for abuses suffered and filed against Betagro, a major Thai food exporter, Thammakaset and Lopburi Department of Labour Protection and Welfare (DLPW) officials remains pending a final ruling of the Supreme Court expected later this year. The workers say the DLPW order doesn’t award them adequate compensation for up to 5 years of abusive work conditions.
The workers alleged grueling working days stretching up to 20 hours and forced overtime including sleeping in chicken rearing areas overnight. Further, the workers alleged unlawful deduction of salaries, threats of further deductions, confiscation of personal identity documents and limited freedom of movement.
The test case has attracted considerable international attention, including online campaigns that have garnered more than 70,000 signatures.
The Thammakset case comes at a time when Thailand’s migrant worker management and protection policies as well as human trafficking record are under increased global scrutiny.
Thailand’s poultry export industry has already come under serious scrutiny for its poor labour conditions in reports published by corporate social responsibility watchdog groups Finnwatch and Swedwatch.
Thailand is the world’s 4th largest poultry exporter, often for use in processed or ready-made meals, and mostly to European Union and Japanese markets.
A human rights activist who endured similar litigation and was forced to leave Thailand said yesterday’s ruling was significant, but stressed the fight was not over.
“This is a very important ruling by the Supreme Court to award much deserved compensation to the 14 migrant workers,” said Andy Hall, a prominent British rights activist in both Thailand and Myanmar.
“Of much concern, however, is the ongoing judicial harassment of the workers, who are now facing criminal defamation and theft charges, as well as the aditional criminal charges against me.”

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