BANGKOK (15 Sept 2017) – The UN Human Rights Office for South-East Asia on Friday welcomed a court’s decision to award 1.7 million Thai baht to 14 Myanmar migrant workers subjected to rights abuses, and called on Thailand authorities to immediately drop criminal charges filed against them.
The migrants alleged that they had to work up to 20 hours a day, deductions were unlawfully taken from their salaries, their identity documents confiscated and movements restricted. The Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by their employer, Thammakaset poultry farm in Lopburi Province, and ruled the workers should be paid their due wages.
The 14 workers, who took their case to the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRCT) for investigation, still face criminal defamation charges brought against them by their employer. Two of the workers have also been charged with stealing their work time cards.
“Our Office welcomes the compensation ruling, and we would now expect that the criminal defamation charges be dropped in this case,” said Cynthia Veliko, the South-East Asia Regional Representative for the UN Human Rights Office. “It’s very concerning that the criminal charges were levelled after the workers had taken their case to the NHRCT, the very body meant to assist with such cases,” she said, urging the Commission to investigate this case in an impartial manner.
“Migrant workers continue to be exploited in Thailand, particularly in the food processing industry, and we reiterate that all companies must abide by the international standards and obligations which Thailand has agreed to.”
The UN Human Rights Office also called on the Government to drop the criminal defamation charges brought against British activist Andy Hall by the Thammakaset poultry farm. Mr. Hall was sentenced to three years jail in 2016 on defamation charges in a separate case related to migrant workers from Myanmar. Mr. Hall left Thailand last November, stating he did not feel safe to stay in the country.
Ms. Veliko acknowledged and supports Thailand’s commitment to ensure businesses uphold human rights standards within the framework of UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
The UN Human rights Office urges Thailand ratify the International Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers.