Country Study: Thailand

Overview

The Thailand Country Study outputs are produced by the member-based organization HomeNet Thailand.

HomeNet Thailand identified homeworkers, domestic workers, and farmers in contract farming systems as the occupational groups for the country study. In 2015 a study on street vendors and the law was completed.

Home-Based Workers

After the International Labour Organization (ILO) adopted Convention No 177 and Recommendation 184 in 1996, Homenet Thailand began campaigning for the Thai Government to ratify the Convention. Although the Thai Government has not yet ratified the Convention, it has adopted new legislation to protect homeworkers (sub-contracted workers). This legislation, the Home Workers Protection Act B.E. 2553 (2010), improves on the Ministerial Regulation on Protection of Homeworkers B.E.2547 (2004) under the Labor Protection Act B.E. 2541 (1998). 

HomeNet Thailand, with the support of partners, carried out continuous campaigns for the Ministry to enact the Home Workers Protection Act.  Eventually, on 29 September 2010, the Thai Parliament passed the Act, which came into effect in May 2011.The challenge now is to ensure effective enforcement, which requires regular follow up, support, and close work with the Ministry of Labour. Progress is being made. In August 2014, the Homeworkers Committee was set up – a very important committee charged with ensuring enforcement of the Act and setting various conditions. Three representatives from HomeNet Thailand were elected to this committee.

HomeNet Thailand organized several capacity building workshops to ensure homeworkers understood and could use the Act. It also prepared an overview of the Act, education materials for homeworkers, and 10 case studies on individual women engaged in homework to use in their advocacy and negotiations for implementation and enforcement of the Act. The case studies describe women working in (1) shoemaking; (2) sugar-palm fruit shelling; (3) hijab embroidery; (4) anchovy cleaning; (5) sewing; (6) shoemaking; (7) organza embroidery; (8) sewing; (9) gem cutting; and (10) dressmaking.

Domestic Workers

Domestic work is one of the occupations that is partly covered by the Labor Protection Act B.E. 2541 (A.D. 1998). However, a Ministerial Regulation enacted in the same year limited the application of the Act to domestic workers. This meant that only a few working conditions were protected. For example, domestic workers must receive payment in kind in Thai Baht, and they are allowed to have 6 days-off each year. But other significant working conditions that were not enforced under this Ministerial Regulation were minimum wages, weekly days off, working time, minimum age of employment, and access to social security systems.

In 2009, as a part of a campaign to establish ILO standards for the protection of domestic workers, Homenet Thailand coordinated with the Foundation for Child Development, the Foundation for Women, the Workers’ Union, and the ILO Sub-regional Office for East Asia in Thailand in order to organize domestic workers in Thailand and establish the “Thai Domestic Workers Network”. The Network advocated and lobbied for a new Ministerial Regulation on Domestic Workers Protection. In 2011, the ILO adopted ILO Convention No. 189 and Recommendation No. 201. Following this, the Thai Government adopted the new Ministerial Regulation on Protection of Domestic Workers on 30 October 2012; this came into force on 9 November 2012. This has considerably improved the situation of domestic workers (in law) as they are now entitled to a weekly day off, leave, sick pay, equal treatment for men and women, protection against discrimination and sexual harassment, among others. However, they are still not covered by the minimum wage, and maximum hours of work are not stipulated. As with the Home Work Protection Act, the challenge is to implement the provisions of the Ministerial Regulation, including for migrant workers.

Contract Farmers

Thailand is a large agricultural product exporting country. In order to maintain export market share, the agricultural industry developed a production standard system in which the quantity and quality of the products can be controlled, thus minimizing the production cost and risk as well. Based on this idea, the large companies evolved a production system called “Contract Farming”. In this system, the companies pass business and investment risks onto the farmers, avoid responsibility under the labour law, and create complex production and marketing systems binding the farmers into exploitative employment arrangements.

Under the contract farming system, a farmer has to buy all production inputs and technology from the company, and can only sell back products to the company under specific conditions. The contract farmers are not registered and they are the caretakers and workers on their own land. The farmers have no legal protection, even though they shoulder the risk of production and occupational health and safety issues. Several contract farmers are overwhelmed by debt and have had to sell their own land. Likewise a large number of farmers face health problems, some even resulting in death.

Over the years, the efforts of academics and non-government organizations to help contract farmers gain protection through policies and laws has yielded little. The response from the Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Agriculture, and agricultural industrial companies is far from satisfactory. Based on the advocacy experiences of the Home Worker Protection Act, HomeNet Thailand plans to develop a policy framework and measures to provide social and legal protection to contract farmers, and a process which will emphasize farmer participation and enable the legal empowerment of contract farmer organizations.

Street Vendors

 

 

In Thailand street vending is illegal unless permission is granted by authorized local officers. However, that  permission is not easily obtained as there are detailed regulations and restrictions. Also, permission can be revoked easily by the officers. This is because the laws and regulations give immense authority to local officers to grant and repeal permission for street vending.

In Bangkok, the Bangkok Municipal Authority (BMA) is authorized to issue city laws and regulations that are consistent with the intention of the national Acts, namely The Public Cleanliness and Orderliness Act B.E. 2535 (1992), The Land Traffic Act B.E. 2522 (1979), and The Public Health Act B.E. 2535 (1992). In other words, BMA’s vending regulations should seek to ensure public cleanliness and orderliness, public health, and traffic fluidity, rather than protecting the right to vending in public space.  There have been many changes of policy and approach with different administrations. In 2014, after the coup, there was a major crackdown on street vending in Bangkok and vendors were evicted and relocated – far away from their normal vending spots. In some cases the vendors were given only 15 days to move out.