Thai chicken farm not 'slave labour', says rights commission

Thai chicken farm not 'slave labour', says rights commission

A chicken farm in Lopburi, central Thailand, did not subject 14 Burmese migrants to forced labour, a Thai National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) probe has concluded.

The investigation indicated the chicken farm, owned by Dhammakaset Co Ltd, which previously supplied poultry to Thai export giant Betagro Group, did not commit acts deemed as human trafficking or slave labour, according to an NHRC report.

However, the probe found the farm did violate the Labour Protection Act as the employer failed to pay overtime for working on public holidays.

The NHRC’s findings matched results from an earlier Labour Ministry and Labour Protection and Welfare Department probe.

The investigations followed a petition lodged by the Migrant Worker Rights Network (MWRN) which received a complaint from the 14 Burmese migrants who worked at the chicken farm. They accused the farm owner of forcing them to work for more than 15 hours a day without any day off and paying them only 230 baht (US$6.60) a day, well below the daily minimum wage of 300 baht.

They also said they did not get paid overtime for working during public holidays.

The workers claimed they were forced to sleep at the farm to keep an eye on the chickens, and had to pay a monthly 1,600 baht accommodation fee to the owner.

According to the MWRN, the migrant workers said they were allowed to leave the farm between 5pm and 7pm to shop at a local market. The farm owner was also accused of confiscating their passports.

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According to INN News, Dhammakaset executives insisted the farm took good care of and provided proper accommodation for its workers.

They also insisted it was impossible to force workers to work more than 15 hours a day because all the lights where the chickens are kept are turned off for at least eight hours every night to allow the birds to rest, in accordance with EU regulations.

Dhammakaset intends to file a counter-suit against the 14 Burmese workers and the MWRN for damaging the firm’s reputation and causing hundreds of millions of baht in lost business, the executives said.

The MWRN and the 14 workers filed a lawsuit with the Region 1 Labour Court in Saraburi on 2 September.

The lawsuit is seeking 46 million baht ($1.3m) in compensation as well as civil damages for alleged abuses suffered by the workers over several years at the poultry farm.

The litigation followed a 1 August compensation order by Lopburi’s Labour Protection and Welfare Office that awarded the workers a total of 1.7 million baht in back wages.

 

This article was originally published by Bangkok Post on 16 September 2016.

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