Legal battle over Thai poultry migrant abuse begins

By Oscar Rousseau

- Last updated on GMT

The Myanmar workers allege to have suffered serious abuse at Thammakaset 2
The Myanmar workers allege to have suffered serious abuse at Thammakaset 2

Related tags Thailand Poultry farming Myanmar Poultry

A lawsuit hearing over the alleged forced labour of 14 Myanmar chicken factory workers has started in Thailand’s Saraburi province.

The claimants, 14 migrant workers from Myanmar, formerly Burma, are seeking THB44 million ($1.25m) in damages from Thai chicken farm Thammakaset 2​ for labour law violations and compensation for alleged abuse.

The hearing commenced on 31 October. However, both parties failed to reach an agreement over compensation and the case has now been pushed back to 28 November, according to the Myanmar Times​. The Migrant Worker Rights Network (MWRN), an NGO assisting the Myanmar workers, could not be reached to independently verify this.

Litigation in the trail comes after the 14 migrant workers received THB1.7m ($48,567) in compensation from Thammakaset 2, after the farm was ordered to pay this amount by the Lopburi Department of Labour Protection and Welfare. However, the workers claimed this amount fell short of the compensation required for up to five years’ alleged abuse at work, according to a statement from MWRN.

Abuse akin to modern-day slavery

The 14 Myanmar migrant workers have alleged shocking abuse​, including working up to 20 hours a day and sleeping on floors next to chickens. Claims also included restrictions on movement, passport confiscation, unlawful dedications in salaries and threats of further pay cuts. Workers also claimed they could only leave the farm once a week for two hours, but never without company supervision.

On 2 September 2016, Betagro – a poultry exporter whom Thammakaset 2 previously supplied with live chickens – transferred THB50,000 ($1,428) in humanitarian support to MWRN, which helped house the 14 workers.

Two of the 14 have separately been accused of multiple counts of theft from an employer, following a police complaint lodged by Thammakaset 2, MWRN has claimed. If found guilty, the two workers could face a maximum jail sentence of seven years’ imprisonment. A verdict on prosecution is yet to be made.

Supply chain damage

Alleged mistreatment of migrant workers and workplace conditions amounting to modern-day slavery​ have attracted global media coverage and prompted Thailand’s poultry sector to take action. The Thai Broiler Processing Exporters Association​, in conjunction with Thailand’s government, has launched a good labour practices initiative to improve conditions in the sector and ensure abuses such as modern-day slavery and child labour do not occur.

MWRN claimed the case was now “drawing attention from senior government officials​” as well as international business, investors and the United Nations.

Jakub Sobik an activist at Anti-Slavery International, earlier told this site companies importing Thai chicken “risk polluting their supply chains​” for not taking a harder stance on possible labour malpractice.

Betagro could not be reached to comment on the lawsuit.

The trial continues.

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