Migrant workers from Myanmar sue Betagro for labour abuse

Migrant workers from Myanmar have filed a lawsuit against Betagro, a major food conglomerate, accusing the company of serious violations of labour rights.

Last Friday, 2 September 2016, 14 migrant workers from Myanmar employed in one of Betagro’s subsidiary chicken farms in Lopburi Province filed a lawsuit against the company to the 1st Region Labour Court in Saraburi Province, the BBC Thai reported.

The workers demanded 46 million baht of compensation from the company, alleging that they have suffered from serious labour abuse at the chicken farm for the last five years.

They said that they were forced to work for 20 hours a day, only permitted to leave the farm for two hours a week under the watch of the farm staff, and paid only 230 baht. This amount was 70 baht short from what their employers had promised.

They workers added that their passports were also confiscated by the employers.

Recently, the Department of Labour Protection and Welfare in Lopburi Province ordered the farm employers to pay 1.7 million baht for the workers. However, the migrant workers demanded more compensation, reasoning that they had been abused for over five years.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), on 31 August, concluded that migrant workers suffered violations of labour rights as alleged. However, the NHRC said that the confiscation of the worker passports is not considered unlawful detention or a violation of labour rights because Thailand still does not have conclusive laws on migrant labour treatment.

The commission added that the workers should be given the rights to enjoy weekend holidays although the employers argued workers were granted 30-45 days of break after each lot of chickens was sold.

In response to the lawsuit, Betagro Company issued a statement that they will take the case as a lesson on improving labour conditions in its subsidiary farms.

Betagro is one of the largest chicken exporters and food processing companies in Thailand along with CP, GFPT, Cargill and BRF. Currently, Thailand is the fourth largest exporter of chicken meat in the world.   

According to a research done by Finnwatch and Swedwatch in 2015, labour conditions in Thailand’s chicken are still poor.