Skip to main content

Sentencing of Thai railway workers is brazen attack on union work and freedom of association: ITF/ITUC

news 21 Oct 2020

Today’s guilty verdict handed down to 13 leaders of the State Railway Workers’ Union of Thailand (SRUT) is a gross miscarriage of justice and a brazen attack on workers’ rights. These leaders have been charged and handed three-year sentences for nothing more than rightly exposing unsafe working conditions on the Thai railway system. Efforts to make railways safer for both workers and passengers should be applauded, not prosecuted.

These SRUT workers have been ruthlessly pursued by the State Railway of Thailand  (SRT) through the legal system for carrying out a national rail safety campaign following a fatal train derailment in October 2009 at Khao Tao Station. This has also been shadowed by a general vindictiveness on part of the authorities including the Office of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC).

The SRUT leaders have been scapegoated for an accident that both The National Human Rights Commission of Thailand and an internal fact-finding investigation concluded was primarily caused by the poor maintenance and condition of the locomotive. The Thai authorities have used trumped up charges to deflect attention from their own lack of competency in ensuring safe railways.

Over 100 workers, activists and trade union leaders came to deliver flowers and stand in solidarity at the Bangkok Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct.

It is regrettable that the mandate of the NACC has been used to undermine legitimate trade union activities and the principles of freedom of association. Instead of needlessly ruining the lives of SRUT workers and their families, the State Railway of Thailand and the NACC should be supporting their efforts to improve rail safety.

Since November 2018, the monthly salaries of seven SRUT leaders have been deducted to pay fines of Baht 24 million (US$726,116) to SRT for the 2009 initiative they took based on the decision of the Supreme Labour Court in 2017. This is tantamount to collective punishment of the workers and their families. The SRT must now withdraw the fines and reimburse the seven SRUT leaders. They must also ensure that the SRUT leaders receive full compensation for lost wages and benefits which they have not received since their reinstatement. The ITF and ITUC will continue support the SRUT 13 and their families, as they post bail appeal this ruling.

Media Contact: Dalila Mahdawi | +44 7702 259612 |  

Note to editors:

About the ITF: The International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) is a democratic global union federation of nearly 700 transport workers trade unions representing around 20 million workers in 150 countries. The ITF works to improve the lives of transport workers globally, encouraging and organising international solidarity among its network of affiliates. The ITF represents the interests of transport workers' unions in bodies that take decisions affecting jobs, employment conditions and safety in the transport industry.

About the ITUC: The International Trade Union Confederation is the world's largest trade union federation. The ITUC represents 207 million workers in 163 countries and territories and has 331 national affiliates.