Landmark ruling compensates Myanmar workers

Landmark ruling compensates Myanmar workers

Supporters and some of the workers who alleged they were abused by the Thammakaset chicken farm and processing plant held an anti-slavery rally on Silom Road in 2016. (Photo by Apichart Jinakul)
Supporters and some of the workers who alleged they were abused by the Thammakaset chicken farm and processing plant held an anti-slavery rally on Silom Road in 2016. (Photo by Apichart Jinakul)

The Supreme Court ordered Tuesday that compensation be paid to 14 migrant workers from Myanmar whose accusations of abuses against a chicken farm sparked a landmark legal case for migrant labourers.

The workers in 2016 officially complained to the National Human Rights Commission about forced overtime, being paid less than the minimum wage, confiscation of passports, and limited freedom of movement.

Employer Thammakaset Farm, which had supplied meat to food conglomerate Betagro, denied the charges and launched a defamation lawsuit, saying the workers voluntarily worked nights and chose to sleep next to the chicken warehouse.

Betagro, which sells to companies around the globe, later said it had cut ties with the farm.

After a three-year legal battle, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court verdict from 2016 which found in favour of the workers and ruled they must be paid 1.7 million baht in compensation.

"There is no significant legal argument from the company's side," the court said in its order, dismissing the appeal.

A lawyer for the workers said they welcomed the verdict as the country has been at the centre of a slew of slavery and human trafficking cases.

"Hopefully, they will receive the compensation quickly and put this behind them," said Koreeyor Manuchae at NSP Legal Office.

Last July, a Bangkok court dismissed charges against the workers for criminal defamation against Thammakaset Farm.

Labour rights activist Sutharee Wannasiri said Tuesday's decision vindicated the workers.

"It's a very rare victory for labour rights and migrant workers in Thailand, and it will help bolster the rights of migrant workers in the country.

"The compensation is not a large amount, but it is symbolic, and shows there is a mechanism for securing remedies and accountability when businesses have violated rights.


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