THAILAND: Abuse of workers’ rights at two factories on Thai-Burma border


Urgent Appeal Case: UA-148-2003
ISSUES: Migrant workers,

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information from our partner, Yaung Chi Oo Workers Association and Map Foundation, regarding the denial of labour rights and inhumane working conditions for Burmese migrant workers at two separate factories in Mae Sot, Thailand.  At the Kong Lian Thai Knitting Co. Ltd. (1000 workers) and the Por Thai Sun (2) Co. Ltd. (65 workers), employees have been forced to work enormous hours, have had their salaries reduced to well below the minimum wage, have been denied access to labour protection representation, have in some circumstances been dismissed from work without due reasons or notice, and have been forced to leave their accommodation.  

Such treatment is in gross violation of Thailand’s labour laws and is yet another example of the denial of rights to Burmese migrant workers in this region, who are routinely underpaid, exploited and abused, without any consequences to the employers. Your urgent action is required to pressure local authorities to correct this matter immediately.

Urgent Appeals Desk
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)


The situation at Kong Lian Thai Knitting Co. Ltd.

Approximately 1,000 Burmese workers (Male: 300; Female: 700) at the Kong Lian Thai factory have been denied their basic rights and been exploited by their employer, a Thai-Chinese owned company.  They have been forced to work for a period of 48 hours for the paltry salary of 115 Thai baht (less than US$3), which is well below the minimum wage.  The workers have also been forced to work enormous hours, and must pay the amount of 300 baht per month for their work permits.

When the workers approached the line leader to complain about their working hours and pitiful pay, the leader took their complaint to the manager.  The manager, however, repudiated their demands for salary increases and contacted the police when the workers refused to return to work.  Soon after, the police arrived at the factory and asked workers many questions.  From that day since, workers have been denied the rice allowance they had previously been provided.

Following the dispute, the manager stated that workers would receive a salary increase.  The workers, however, feared that the owner would pay them this increase, but then dismiss them soon after.  The workers therefore sought legal protection by way of asking labour protection officers to intervene on their behalf.  When they approached the local labour and welfare office, a female employee there advised them to return to work and to accept the salary they had been offered, since the office could not seek compensation on their behalf.  

Today, the workers have yet to return to work, though they insist they would if their legal rights could be ensured.  The workers are asking that the employer improves the working and living conditions of their employment, in accordance with Thai law.  

The situation at Por Thai Sun (2) Co. Ltd 

On 15 October 2004, 65 Burmese workers from the Por Thai Sun (2) factory approached the Labour Protection Office in Mae Sot with a list of complaints directed towards their employer. The complaints included: being paid 50-80 baht a day (USD1.20-USD2, compared to the minimum wage, as protected by labour laws, of USD3.00); being offered an even lower salary on 3 October 2004; being dismissed from work without due reason or notice on 10 October 2004; and, being forced to leave their work-place and accommodation on 15 October 2004.

The manager of the Por Thai Sun (2) factory, who happened to be at the Labour Protection Office when the workers arrived, offered to reinstate the workers.  However he suggested no system to ensure better pay, conditions and work security to his employees.  As a result, the workers refused to return to work.

Since factory workers in Mae Sot have no options but to live within their factory’s compound, the temporary ID card that allows them to live in Thailand becomes invalid when the worker does not work.  Officially allowed to stay in Thailand independent of their employers, employers in Mae Sot are reluctant to break the chains that bind the workers to them.  Being dismissed from their work thus renders migrant workers homeless.  This group of workers has therefore had to seek shelter in a local temple.

On 18 October 2004, the workers returned to the Labour Protection Office hoping to get either a suitable agreement with the employer and return to work, or to start a legal process and be freed to find work and accommodation elsewhere.  The manager of the factory offered the workers 2,000 baht each, the equivalent of half a month’s wages, irrespective of how long the workers had been employed.  In reality, some workers had worked at the factory for two months, while some had been there for two years.

The Labour Protection Officer, without an interpreter, tried to persuade the workers to accept this amount.  Realising that negotiations were far from unbiased, the workers requested to start a legal process and were duly handed the Labour Complaints forms to complete.  The forms however, are in Thai language only, and therefore remain incomplete, as many migrant workers are unable to read and write in Thai.  

Thai Labour Laws

According to Thai law, registered workers must receive the same protection as Thai workers. The minimum wage in Tak province is 133 baht per day (US $ 3), with 25 baht per hour for overtime work. However, the workers from the Kong Lian Thai factory and the Por Thai Sun (2) factory have been paid significantly less than this.   Hourly rates have varied between 50 to 80 baht, and even this has been threatened to be reduced under new plans at Kong Lian Thai.  Additionally, in the case of the Kong Lian Thai factory, workers have had to pay a monthly permit fee of 300 baht, which is difficult when their wages are so low.

Burmese migrant workers are routinely underpaid and abused in this region without any consequences for the employers. For example, in June 2003, 420 Burmese migrant workers from King Body Concept Co. Factory were fired and deported to Burma after demanding their legal rights. The immigration office immediately sent them back to Burma without any investigation of the dispute between the factory owner and the workers, which is a violation Thai law.  (See further: UA-23-2003) A further example occurred in September 2003, when 75 Burmese workers were forced to work under inhumane conditions, including shifts of 41 hours without being provided a break.  When the workers complained of such conditions, many of them were fired. (See further: UA-53-2003)


Please send a letter to the Minister for Labour requesting him to take steps to remedy this matter.   Please also send copies of that letter to those persons listed below.

1. Mrs. Uraiwan Tientong
Minister of Labor
Office of Ministry of Labor
Mitramaitree Road
Bangkok 10400
Tel: +66 2 245 4310-4
Fax: +66 2 643 4457 or 232 1433 (for Vice Minister) or 232 1009 (for Secretary) 

Copies to:

1. Mr.Pornchai Yooprayong and Mr.Suwat Sungtee 
Deputy Director General 
Department of Labour Protection and Welfare 
Ministry of Labour 
Khweng Din Daeng 
Bangkok 10400
Fax: +66 2 245 3192 

2. Mr. Pongthep Thepkanjana
Minister of Justice
Office of the Ministry of Justice
Ministry of Justice Building
22nd Floor 
Chaeng Wattana Road
Pak Kred, Nonthaburi 11120
Tel: +66 2 502 8223
Fax: +66 2 502 8224

3. Professor Saneh Chamarik
The National Human Rights Commission of Thailand
422 Phya Thai Road
Pathurn Wan District
Bangkok 10300
Fax: +66 2 219 2940

4. Mr. Dej-Udom Krairit
The Law Society of Thailand
7/89 Mansion 10, Rajdamnoenklang Avenue 
Bovonnivet Sub-District, Phranakorn District 
Bangkok 10200 
Tel: +66 2 629 1430 (12 Lines) 
Fax: +66 2 282 9907-8

5. Ms. Christine Evans-Klock
ILO Regional Office for East Asia (SRO-Bangkok) 
United Nations Building, 10th Floor 
Rajdamnern Nok Avenue, P.O. Box 2-349 
Bangkok 10200
Tel: + 66 2 288 2219 / 288 2220 
Fax: +66 2 288 3058 

6. Mr. Abdul Sattar
UN Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery 
Palais Wilson, Rue des Paquis 52 
Fax: +41 22 917 9006

To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER


Dear Mrs. Uraiwan,

Re: Abuse of workers’ rights by the Kong Lian Thai Knitting Co. Ltd. and the Por Thai Sun (2) Co. Ltd. in Mae Sot

I am deeply concerned by reports that Burmese legal workers, employed by Kong Lian Thai Knitting Co. Ltd. and the Por Thai Sun (2) Co. Ltd. in Mae Sot, are being denied their basic rights and are being exploited by being forced to work under inhumane conditions. Workers at both factories are being forced to work enormous hours on wages well below the minimum legal rate. More seriously, the workers have not had their complaints taken seriously by local Protection Officers, with both groups being advised to return to work, without safeguards in place to ensure their rights are met.  

They are also being denied the equal rights of Thai workers afforded to them through Thai labour laws.  Additionally, they are being denied the right to freedom of association, as stipulated by the International Labour Organisation, and therefore they are unable to access labour unions, which might provide them with the representation that they need and deserve.

I trust that you will to take action against the owners of the Kong Lian Thai Knitting Co. Ltd. and the Por Thai Sun (2) Co. Ltd. Factories, who have violated Thai law and abused the rights of migrant workers. 

I urge the Thai government to provide equal treatment to all migrant workers, and to respect their rights and dignity according to current Thai law and international labour law.  In particular, the Ministry of Labour should create a special committee for the protection of migrant workers and establish an office in Mae Sot to achieve this. I further urge the Thai government to ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, which entered into force on July 1, 2003, and to also create a policy to protect migrant workers in full compliance with the Convention.  Finally, I ask that the Thai government ratify all ILO Conventions, and provide all of its workers the rights that both its own laws and international law must oblige them.  I trust that the ILO will take an interest in this matter, and ensure that migrant workers in Thailand have their rights met.

Yours faithfully,


Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID : UA-148-2003
Countries : Thailand,
Issues : Migrant workers,