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2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Thailand

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 6 June 2012
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Thailand, 6 June 2012, available at: [accessed 15 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 69,100,000
Capital: Bangkok

ILO Core Conventions Ratified:

29 (Forced Labour (1930))
100 (Equal Remuneration for Work of Equal Value (1951))
105 (Abolition of Forced Labour (1957))
138 (Minimum Age for Employment (1973))
182 (Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (1999))

Reported Violations – 2012

Imprisonments: 69
Dismissals: 51

Documented violations – actual number of cases may be higher


Union leaders were dismissed from KFC. A labour activist was arrested for violating Thailand's lèse majesté laws. The extortion of migrant workers including trafficking and bonded labour continued. The legal framework is not conducive to trade union activities.


Yingluck Shinawatra became Thailand's first woman Prime Minister in July. Yingluck is the sister of former Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra who was ousted in a military coup in 2006. Historic floods affected some 28,000 businesses and factories in 31 provinces affecting nearly ten million workers. Thailand's central bank put the damage to industry at more than 100 billion baht (USD3.3 billion).

Effective 1 April 2012, the minimum wage in Bangkok and six other provinces will be raised to THB300 baht/day (US$9.70), an increase of about 40%. The remaining 70 provinces will see the minimum daily wage raised by 40% as well. Puea Thai also implemented a minimum wage of THB15,000 (USD485.00) per month for all government workers who have a bachelor's degree effective on 1 January 2012.

With respect to the political violence of 2010, Puea Thai MP Sunai Julponsathorn said he will petition the International Criminal Court (ICC) to take up crimes against humanity for the 91 people who were killed during the military crackdown on red shirts in April and May, 2010. In addition, Thai Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung said that Thai investigators have clear evidence that the military was responsible for the death of Reuters cameraman Hiro Muramoto during the political upheaval. Human rights issues, especially those involving migrant workers and trafficking, remained serious problems.

Trade union rights in law

Despite initial guarantees, trade union rights are coupled with numerous excessive restrictions. The 2007 Constitution guarantees freedom of association and specifically mentions unions as one of the organisations that can be formed. Several categories of workers enjoy only limited or no freedom of association, however, including civil servants, teachers, and government officials. A law drafted in 2010 would allow civil servants to organise.

Non-nationals may not form a union and may not be elected to union leadership posts. Loss of employment also means loss of union membership. A union's right to have advisors is limited, and these must be approved by the Ministry of Labour. Furthermore, a union can be dissolved if its membership dips below 25% of the eligible workforce. Only one union can be formed at each enterprise, and state enterprise unions may not affiliate with private sector labour congresses or federations.

While the right to collective bargaining is secured, only unions that represent at least 20% of the workforce may present bargaining demands, which must be voted on at the union's annual meeting or the union loses its right to engage in bargaining. Strikes are prohibited in state enterprises, and civil servants do not have the right to strike. The 2010 civil servants draft law would not alter this situation. The government can also restrict any strike that would "affect national security or cause severe negative repercussions for the population at large". Finally, the list of "essential services" significantly exceeds the ILO definition.

Link to additional detailed information regarding the legislation on the ITUC website here

In practice

No entry for this country for this year


Migrant labour still at peril in Thailand:

There are more than 2 million migrants, mainly from Burma, working in Thailand. On 19 August, UN special rapporteur on human trafficking Joy Ezeilo said that corruption and poor law enforcement had undermined Thailand's efforts to crack down on human trafficking, which remains rampant. Migrant labourers were trafficked and placed in bonded labour in Thailand's fishing industry.

Thai immigration officials and Burmese brokers were reported to have extorted Burmese migrant workers as they fled the epic flooding. Workers without documentation were especially at risk of exploitation. First, brokers charged workers exorbitant fees (3,000-4,000 baht) to get to Mae Sot, a major border crossing between Thailand and Burma. Many thousand Burmese workers were reportedly held at an immigration detention centre there. Police and immigration officials detained them and shook them down for cash before deporting them into Burma in the middle of the night where combat between the government and ethnic armies is on-going. Burmese officials also sought to collect from workers returning to Burma.

Strikes, picketing and protests ruled illegal:

On 27 January, Ms. Jitra Kotchadej, former advisor to the Triumph International (Thailand) Labour Union (TITLU), Ms. Boonrod Saiwong, former TITLU Executive Secretary and Mr. Sunthorn Boonyod, staff member of the Labour Union Center, were formally charged with violating Section 215 and 216 of the Penal Code for gathering in a group of ten people or more, inciting people to cause unrest, and ignoring police orders. The charges stem from an August 2009 protest of about 400 TITLU members to petition former Thai PM Abhisit Vejjajiva to help in their labour dispute with Body Fashion.

On 28 July, Thailand's Central Labour Court upheld the State Railways of Thailand's (SRT's) dismissal of seven State Railway Union of Thailand (SRUT) leaders and also ordered the seven to pay the authority THB15 million baht (USD500,000) in compensation for damages resulting from a 2009 strike. The court found the defendants guilty of inciting workers to go on strike, disrupting train services and causing SRT serious financial damage. The seven union SRUT leaders are President Mr. Sawit Kaewwan, Vice-presidents Mr. Phinyo Rueanphet, Mr. Banchong Bunnet, Mr. Thara Sawaengtham, and Mr. Liam Mokngam, Secretary Mr. Suphichet Suwanchatree, and Director of Education Mr. Arun Deerakchat.

In December, a Chonburi Provincial Court fined 17 leaders of the Michelin Thailand Workers Union THB1,500 (USD50) in connection with the union's picketing of the plant in 2009. The court had originally imposed a one and a half year jail sentence and a THB3,000 (USD100) fine but suspended the jail time and reduced the fine because the accused plead guilty and had no previous criminal convictions.

Thailand's lèse majesté laws used to harass labour activist: On 30 April, the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) arrested former International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM) Projects Coordinator and labour rights activist Mr. Somyot Prueksakasemsuk on charges of violating Thailand's lèse majesté law. Somyot is also a leader of the 24 June for Democracy Group, and the managing director of 'Voice of Thaksin'. According to a complaint filed with the DSI by the Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES), Somyot violated Section 112 of the Criminal Code by publishing statements in his magazine that could be deemed an insult to the monarchy and a threat to national security.

Unions not on the menu at KFC: In May, Yum Restaurants International (Thailand) Co (YRI), the operator of the KFC fast food chain dismissed Ms. Apantree Charoensak, Mr. Krit Suangaranan and Ms. Siwaporn Somjit who were instrumental in the formation of a union at YRI. Shortly after the Thai Ministry of Labour approved the registration of the Cuisine and Services Thailand Workers Union at YRI, the company dismissed the three union leaders. After the dismissal of the three leaders, YRI intimidated and harassed the remaining YRI workers to get them to withdraw their support for the union. On 6 July, Apantree, Krit and Siwaporn filed a complaint with the Labour Relations Commission alleging that YRI illegally dismissed them because of their union activity. On 8 December, YRI reinstated the three labour leaders in compliance with a court order. YRI is appealing the reinstatement order.

Migrant worker protests against labour rights violations:

On 3 January, more than 300 Burmese migrant workers protested against labour rights violations of the SYK Autopart Import-Export Co. Ltd in Bangkok's Bangkhunthian District. The workers were successful in pressing their demands for the company to pay for national holidays, sick leave, the right to obtain temporary passports and work permits, and the implementation of procedures to accurately record hours worked.

On 27 April, about 1,000 Burmese migrant workers at Saha Farm, a chicken processing factory in Phetchabun Province, protested against physical abuse by Thai security guards. The protesters briefly held two Thais hostage, before setting them both free. Thai police detained and questioned 30 protest leaders.

On 7 July, more than 400 Burmese migrant workers at the PTK shoe factory in Chedi Sam Ong in Kanchanaburi Province went on strike for higher wages. There are five PTK shoe factories with more than 2,000 Burmese workers in Chedi Sam Ong who were working a 10 hour day and earning THB7 per hour or THB70(USD2.25) for the employee's ten hour shift. The workers agreed to return to work on 9 July after PTK officials agreed to pay the workers an extra THB15(USD0.50) per day. At the time of the strike, the statutory minimum daily wage for Kanchanaburi Province was THB181(USD5.85). On 12 July, about 300 Burmese migrant workers at the Watana Footwear Company, Ltd (WFC) in Chedi Sam Ong went on strike and demanded the same wage rate increase granted by PTK to its workers. At the time of the strike, workers at the factory earned between THB65 and THB80 for a nine-hour workday, depending on their experience. On 19 July, the workers agreed to return to work after WFC officials agreed to increase wages by THB15 per day. On 27 July, it was reported that the Burmese migrant workers who led the strikes at the shoe factories in Chedi Sam Ong had been dismissed and blacklisted. A Burmese migrant worker for Watana Footwear Company said that his Thai bosses distributed a list of around 40 names to factories in the area to warn them against employing the men.

Ricoh dismissed 41 workers to stop union registration: In December, Japan-based Ricoh International dismissed 41 workers and union activists at its plant in Rayong industrial zone in Rayong Province the day before workers were to register their union with the Thai Ministry of Labour. Ricoh manufactures printers and photocopiers and employs 724 workers at its factory in Rayong. The workers decided to form a union following three strikes over a three-year-period over labour rights, unsafe working conditions, low wages and forced overtime.

Migrant labour subject to trafficking and forced labour:

Thai authorities are still on the hunt for a fugitive police officer implicated in a trafficking case involving Cambodian men who were forced to work aboard Thai fishing boats. The officer's victims included seven men rescued in Malaysia earlier in the year after escaping from slave labour on Thai fishing boats. Two Cambodian men who were told by a labour broker that they would be gardeners in Thailand were instead forced to work on Thai fishing boats.

On 7 December, Thai police and human rights activists rescued four women Burmese migrant workers from forced labour at a shrimp factory in southern Thailand. The four women were part of a group of 39 Burmese migrant workers who had been trafficked by Thai authorities after being in jail for 32 days for entering Thailand illegally in October. After being rescued, they were deported back to Burma.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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