Myanmar workers beat libel charges

Myanmar workers beat libel charges

Petition against firm 'made in good faith'

The Criminal Court Thursday acquitted 14 Myanmar workers of a defamation charge filed by their previous employer, which claimed they had made false complaints about poor treatment by the company.

The court ruled that the workers -- who had earlier worked for Thai-owned poultry firm Thammakaset Farm Co at a poultry farm in Lop Buri province -- did not lodge a false complaint with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

On 7 July 2016, the workers complained to the NHRC, asking for an investigation into poor treatment.

The NHRC three days later concluded the firm had done nothing wrong. In October the same year, the company filed defamation lawsuits against the workers.

The court said Thursday that workers did not aim to harm the company and their complaint was made in good faith to protect their rights.

The court said individuals have the right to seek justice by petitioning the NHRC, a state agency, which is responsible for monitoring human rights violations.

The firm accused the labourers of fabricating stories that they were forced to work excessively long hours, received less than the daily minimum wage of 300 baht, were denied weekly and traditional breaks and had their identity documents seized.

The judges, however, said they believed the labourers did indeed work excessively long hours.

The labourers said they had to toil from 7am to noon, 1am to 5pm and 7pm to 5am at the farm.

According to the court, the employer stated there was no night shift for the workers.

The court found that three days before chickens were due to be sold, the lights were ordered to be turned on about 23 hours a day, during which the workers were believed to be present.

Regarding the complaint the workers received less than 300 baht a day, the employer claimed their wages had 1,600 baht deducted for accommodation expenses, 400 baht for electricity, 200 baht for water and 80 baht for drinking water and the workers were aware of this.

The workers said they were unaware of the expenses, which would have to be deducted from their wages, the court said.

The court also found the labourers' identification papers might have been seized by the company because workers needed to be accompanied by the company's staff when they were taken to a market once week.

After the ruling, the workers expressed happiness. They said they had been unable to sleep well for several nights before the ruling.

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