Thailand’s Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday in favor of 14 migrant workers from Myanmar who filed a complaint over labor violations at the hands of Thai chicken farm Thammakaset.
The workers went to the National Human Rights Commission, alleging that they had been subjected to forced overtime, were paid less than the minimum wage, had their passports confiscated, and had limited freedom of movement.
Related Campaign: Fight Slavery in the Thai Chicken Industry.
After a grueling three-year legal battle, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling from 2016 that backed the migrant workers and ordered that they receive 1.7 million baht ($53,000) in compensation.
“There is no significant legal argument from the company’s side,” wrote the court, dismissing the appeal.
Thomson Reuters Foundation reports:
A lawyer for the workers said they welcomed the verdict in a country that has been at the centre of a slew of slavery and human trafficking cases, including in its seafood sector.
“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 in the criminal defamation case which accused them of damaging the reputation of Thammakaset farm.
Labour rights activist Sutharee Wannasiri said Tuesday’s verdict 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,” she said.
“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.”
Thammakaset farm, which had supplied chicken to Thai food conglomerate Betagro, maintained throughout the case that the migrant workers voluntarily chose to work nights and to sleep next to the chicken warehouse, ultimately launching a defamation case against them.
Betagro, which exports food products to companies around the world, said it has cut ties with Thammakaset.
Despite Thailand’s strengthened legislation on human trafficking, campaigners say that activists and workers still face the very real threat of civil and criminal lawsuits for exposing abuses.
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