Thailand: Act to protect exploited migrant workers!

Migrant workers who escaped the Thammakaset poultry farm in Lopburi, Thailand, described horrendous working conditions. The 14 workers allege forced overtime (up to 20 hours a day), unlawful salary deductions, confiscation of their identity documents and restricted freedom of movement. They reported their conditions to the Thai Department of Labour Protection and Welfare, which awarded them compensation they are still waiting on a year and a half later, and to the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand.

Now, their testimony to the Human Rights Commission is being used against them in criminal defamation charges brought by their abusive employer!

The Thai government must act urgently to ensure the charges against these workers are dropped, they are paid the compensation to which they are entitled, and that workers can never again be brought to court for reporting abusive and illegal working conditions. Please send a message to the Thai government today!

To: Members of the Thai Government

I write to add my voice to the growing international outrage at the trial of 14 migrant workers from the Thammakaset poultry farm, who will be tried for criminal defamation on Wednesday, February 7, 2017. The only “crime” these workers committed was reporting illegal and abusive conditions to official Thai Government bodies. Such uncovering and reporting of human rights abuses should be applauded rather than criminalized. 

This case is a glaring example of the myriad ways in which Thailand is failing to meet its obligations to respect and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms:

  • The criminal defamation case has been condemned by multiple international organizations and United Nations bodies, including the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, for violating freedom of expression and undermining confidence in Thailand’s judicial system;
  • The charges are based on a report issued August 2017 by the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand that found -- despite evidence the workers were denied access to identification documents and made to work up to 20-hours a day -- that the workers were not victims of forced labor. The Lawyers Council of Thailand is currently assessing the adequacy of the investigation NHRCT undertook to come to that conclusion;
  • The workers made a complaint to the NHRCT in September 2016 alleging that police officers in Lopburi investigating the case acted improperly or unlawfully in threatening them, taking them to the police station to sign documents in Thai and confiscating their mobile phones. The NHRCT has not responded to the complaint at all;
  • Owners of Thammakaset Farm were able to bring criminal charges of theft against two of the migrant workers, and one staff member of a civil society organization, for “stealing” time cards that the workers provided to the Thai Department of Labour Protection and Welfare (DPLW) as evidence of excessive overtime, despite a finding by the Lopburi Public Prosecutors Office that the charges were without merit; and
  • A year and a half after the Lopburi DPLW issued a 1.7 million baht compensation order (about $53,900), and two appeals that subsequently upheld the order, workers have received no compensation from the employer that illegally exploited them.

The Thai Government must act urgently to: 1) protect these workers from any further prosecutorial attack by the owners of Thammakaset Farm; 2) ensure that the workers receive the compensation to which they are entitled, and that employers who engage in illegal behavior are held accountable; and 3) adjust Thai laws to ensure the rights of migrant workers who report abuses are protected, including the immediate abolishment of criminal defamation laws.

CC: Office of the Prime Minister of Thailand, Prayut Chan-o-cha 
National Human Rights Commission 
Ministry of Justice
Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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