After rare labour win, Thai workers see oppression in COVID case | Business and Economy

Phnom Penh, Cambodia – When the Thai authorities in Might ordered a Hong Kong clothes firm to pay unpaid wages to 1,250 laid-off Thai manufacturing facility employees, union chief Sia Jampathong knew the uncommon win wouldn’t be the tip of the battle.

Jampathong, the president of the Textile, Garment and Leather-based Employees’ Federation of Thailand, quickly had his fears confirmed.

On July 7, Jampathong, the manufacturing facility union chairwoman, and 4 pupil labour activists had been indicted for violating pandemic restrictions on massive gatherings throughout a protest exterior Authorities Home in Bangkok final 12 months.

Jampathong doesn’t deny breaching the emergency decree on massive gatherings. However he believes authorities are selectively implementing the principles to maintain the labour motion in line after scoring a uncommon victory within the Southeast Asian nation, the place employees have minimal protections towards exploitation and abuse.

Thailand, which has been ruled by former military officer Prayuth Chan-ocha since a 2014 army coup, retains a decent rein on dissent, with authorities in recent times cracking down on labour activists and pro-democracy protesters.

“It feels prefer it was discrimination from the federal government, it was extra like an excuse they tried to make use of on us,” Jampathong informed Al Jazeera, including that the contributors within the protests had taken precautions comparable to sporting masks.

“I feel we stored affected person for a very long time. There have been many months that we didn’t come out. It’s proof that the federal government failed to resolve the issue. We had no different choices, so we needed to deliver employees to satisfy the federal government.”

Efforts by Al Jazeera to contact the Ministry of Justice for remark had been unsuccessful.

labour activists in Thailand
Labour activists declare they’re being selectively focused by authorities for holding protests in the course of the pandemic [Courtesy of The Textile Garment And Leather Workers Federation of Thailand]

The case towards Jampathong and his fellow activists comes after Hong Kong-headquartered Clover Group Worldwide was ordered to pay 281 million baht ($8.3 million) in again wages and severance to employees laid off from Sensible Alliance Thai International, which shut with a day’s discover following chapter in March 2021.

Victoria’s Secret, which outsourced manufacturing of its lingerie to the manufacturing facility, agreed to fund the settlement by means of a mortgage to the Hong Kong-based firm. Clover Group Worldwide initially requested that the funds be remodeled a 10-year interval, a method rejected by the employees.

In Thai labour disputes, employees typically by no means see their unpaid wages or severance pay, even when courts rule of their favour. A research final 12 months by the Employee Rights Consortium discovered that, in 31 related circumstances in 9 nations, greater than 37,000 employees had been collectively owed $39.8m.

Sensible Alliance’s principally feminine workforce, a few of whom had labored on the manufacturing facility for many years, got simply at some point’s discover.

“Once we noticed that it occurred, lots of people had been crying. We had been all shocked and shocked,” Teuanjai Waengkham, a 25-year employee who serves as common secretary of Triumph Worldwide Labour Union, informed Al Jazeera.

Waengkham stated many employees needed to take out loans to outlive in the course of the 15 months they waited to be paid.

“Sensible Alliance promised me this may be long-term, I’d have a job for a very long time,” she stated.

Prasit Prasopsuk, president of the Confederation of Industrial Labour of Thailand, stated the closure caught employees by full shock.

“The shutdown occurred all of the sudden,” Prasopsuk informed Al Jazeera. “Most, if not all, employees didn’t put together for this. They’d plenty of burdens, that they had plenty of tasks. A number of them nonetheless had children at school.”

Template for future activism

Brandix, a Sri Lanka-based attire firm that shaped a partnership with Clover Group Worldwide two months after the closure to rescue its operations, stated in a press release to Al Jazeera that the corporate had confronted “extreme monetary misery”.

Brandix added that the newly-formed Clover International is “fully completely different” from Clover Group Worldwide.

The Lau household, stakeholders in each firms, couldn’t be reached for remark relating to the corporate’s chapter or the abruptness of the closure.

For labour advocates, the Sensible Alliance employees’ profitable marketing campaign affords a template for different circumstances each in Thailand and abroad.

Following the manufacturing facility’s closure, lots of of civil society organisations grew to become concerned in a world marketing campaign that known as on customers to carry the manufacturers accountable.

Sarah Newell, a consultant of the Pay Your Employees marketing campaign, believes shopper stress motivated Victoria’s Secret to finance the employees’ settlement.

“It’s simpler than ever to get customers and other people in America and Europe to know precisely what’s occurring and to really feel like they’ve a stake in the issue, that the manufacturers they buy from ought to take motion on an issue,” Newell informed Al Jazeera.

“If a model calls themself a pacesetter for girls, it’s going to trigger folks to look extra carefully on the issues they do to ladies.”

Dave Welsh, Thailand nation director of the Solidarity Heart, stated the Sensible Alliance employees’ marketing campaign was a “mannequin” within the world garment trade, involving authorities, worldwide media, authorized technique and direct contact with manufacturers.

“It was the most important settlement ever within the historical past of the worldwide garment trade for a person manufacturing facility — by far the most important,” Welsh informed Al Jazeera.

thai labour activists
Sia Jampathong [second from right] and 5 different labour activists withstand two years in jail for violating pandemic restrictions [Courtesy of The Textile Garment And Leather Workers Federation of Thailand]

But challenges stay.

Whereas Jampathong and his colleagues had been launched on bail final week, they withstand two years in jail and a tremendous of 40,000 baht ($1,102).

“I’m making an attempt to remain optimistic, I don’t suppose this can be a felony case,” stated Jampathong, who has confronted costs for talking out in public earlier than.

“After [the indictment], we now have to battle, and we are going to battle in accordance with info.”

Supporting him are quite a few different labour activists, together with his colleagues on the Textile, Garment and Leather-based Employees’ Federation of Thailand. In a current Fb submit, the union expressed hope that Jampathong’s case would strike a blow towards the oppression and exploitation of employees.

Whereas he awaits his subsequent court docket date on September 19, Jampathong stays happy with the labour motion’s marketing campaign for the Sensible Alliance employees.

“I feel that is the primary time I’ve seen the employer paid the total quantity of the compensation as ordered by the labour inspector.”

Taliban supreme leader makes rare appearance to mark Eid al-Fitr | Taliban News

Haibatullah Akhunzada appeared for under the second time since taking management of the Taliban in 2016 and hailed the ‘safety’ state of affairs in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan’s supreme chief Haibatullah Akhunzada appeared for under the second time since taking control of the Taliban in 2016 to inform worshippers celebrating Eid al-Fitr that the Taliban had achieved freedom and safety since seizing energy final 12 months.

Flanked by safety, Akhunzada spoke days after a strong explosion ripped by a mosque in Kabul, killing greater than 50 worshippers after Friday prayers – the newest of a sequence of assaults on civilian targets in Afghanistan throughout Ramadan.

“Congratulations on victory, freedom and success,” Akhunzada informed hundreds of worshippers on Saturday on the Eidgah mosque within the southern metropolis of Kandahar, the group’s de facto energy centre. “Congratulations on this safety and for the Islamic system.”

Whereas the variety of bombings throughout the nation has dropped since Kabul fell to the Taliban final August, assaults soared over the ultimate two weeks of Ramadan, which ended on Saturday for Afghans.

Dozens of civilians have been killed within the primarily sectarian assaults – some claimed by the ISIL (ISIS) armed group – focusing on members of the Shia and Sufi Muslim communities.

Taliban chief Mullah Haibatullah Akhunzada is seen in an undated {photograph} [File: Reuters]

Akhunzada delivered his transient handle from one of many entrance rows of worshippers in Kandahar with out turning to face the group, in line with social media posts. Taliban officers didn’t permit journalists to strategy him. Two helicopters hovered over the mosque for the two-hour occasion.

In October, he had visited the Darul Uloom Hakimiah mosque in Kandahar, in line with an audio recording circulated by Taliban social media accounts.

On Sunday, many Afghans stayed indoors after the latest lethal assaults.

“The state of affairs of our folks could be very unhappy, particularly after what occurred within the mosques,” Kabul resident Ahmad Shah Hashemi stated. “Many younger and outdated folks have been martyred. The folks of Afghanistan don’t have anything however sorrow.”

Reclusive determine

Akhunzada’s low profile has fed hypothesis about his function within the new Taliban authorities – shaped after the armed group took management of Kabul on August 15 – and even rumours of his demise.

Akhunzada, believed to be in his 70s, has been the non secular chief of the Taliban since 2016. He succeeded Mullah Akhtar Mansoor who was killed in a US drone strike inside Pakistan.

His public profile has largely been restricted to the discharge of messages throughout Islamic holidays, and Akhunzada is believed to spend most of his time in Kandahar.

On Friday, in a message launched before Eid al-Fitr, he made no point out of the bloodshed that has rocked Afghanistan over Ramadan, as an alternative praising the Taliban’s constructing of “a powerful Islamic and nationwide military” and “robust intelligence organisation”.

He additionally referred to as on the worldwide group to recognise the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. The Taliban-led authorities is but to be recognised by any nation because it returned to energy final August, 20 years after it was toppled in a US-led invasion.

ExxonMobil issued rare penalty in ongoing Indonesian rights case | Corruption News

Medan, Indonesia – Even by the requirements of a justice system recognized for drama, a US courtroom’s newest ruling in a case pitting Indonesian villagers towards one of many world’s strongest oil corporations was uncommon sufficient to boost eyebrows.

John Doe versus ExxonMobil, which has dragged by means of the courts within the District of Columbia for twenty years, took a dramatic flip after a choose dominated final week that the oil big pay $288,900.78 in authorized charges and bills to the plaintiff’s counsel following a disastrous deposition two years in the past.

“Sanctions are a really large deal,” Michel Paradis, a human rights lawyer and lecturer at Columbia Regulation College in New York, informed Al Jazeera. “They’re uncommon and infrequently mirror a choose’s real frustration with how an lawyer or a celebration has acted.”

In 2020, Mark Snell, ExxonMobil’s Asia Pacific regional common counsel, “severely, repeatedly, and perversely obstructed his personal deposition” and refused to reply questions, wasted time and offered inaccurate and evasive solutions about whether or not he was studying from his notes and who ready them, in accordance with courtroom paperwork.

The case was filed within the District Courtroom for the District of Columbia in 2001 after allegations Indonesian villagers were subject to human rights abuses, including sexual assault, torture, rape and wrongful death in and across the ExxonMobil Oil and Gasoline Plant in Lhoksukon, Aceh Province in the course of the late Nineteen Nineties and early 2000s.

Born of a 1999 merger between Mobil Oil Indonesia and Exxon, the corporate was producing greater than $1bn in annual income on the finish of the Nineteen Nineties when it contracted members of the Indonesian military to protect its facility in Aceh at a price of $500,000 monthly. On the time, Aceh was embroiled in a protracted civil conflict between the federal government and the Free Aceh Motion (GAM), a separatist group demanding autonomy from the remainder of the nation.

The 11 plaintiffs within the case, a few of whom are represented by their households, allege that troopers contracted by ExxonMobil carried out sweeping raids geared toward rooting out suspected separatists, torturing and murdering harmless members of the native populace within the course of.

ExxonMobil has strenuously denied understanding about any abuses by contractors beneath its supervision.

‘Beating in regards to the bush’

Andreas Harsono, a researcher at Human Rights Watch Indonesia, stated the courtroom’s newest ruling ought to immediate ExxonMobil to cease “beating in regards to the bush” and interact with the substance of the case.

“The Indonesian safety forces used Exxon firm funds for navy operations designed to crush dissent in Aceh and to extend capability to have interaction in repressive ways towards Acehnese militants,” Harsono informed Al Jazeera.

A spokesperson for ExxonMobil declined to touch upon the most recent improvement.

Terry Collingsworth, who filed the case and is representing the plaintiffs, informed Al Jazeera he couldn’t remark “aside from to verify that this was an award to plaintiffs’ counsel for time and bills in forcing Exxon to adjust to discovery obligations”.

A number of of the plaintiffs, who’re listed within the courtroom paperwork as John and Jane Does in an effort to shield their identities, stated they welcomed the sanction and that it uncovered a double normal across the depositions.

“I used to be open with my proof and I informed Exxon’s attorneys every little thing,” one plaintiff informed Al Jazeera. “We’ve at all times answered all their questions. We’re simply easy individuals, however I’ve grow to be braver through the years and I’m not afraid to face up for my rights.”

One other plaintiff, who alleges that troopers beneath contract to ExxonMobil attacked him with a bayonet leaving him scarred for all times, stated the alleged victims within the case had persistently behaved higher than the defendants.

“I replied to all their questions in full on the deposition,” he informed Al Jazeera.

“We had been the victims and we now have cooperated all through the method. Exxon doesn’t wish to take duty for what they did. We spoke to Exxon’s attorneys at our deposition and informed them every little thing about what occurred to us. How can they are saying now that they don’t bear in mind something?”

“For 20 years we now have been saying the identical factor, We had been crushed and carved up and we now have proof,” he added.

Free Aceh Movement
Aceh noticed clashes between authorities and separatist forces from the Nineteen Eighties to the early 2000s [File: Tarmizy Harva/Reuters]

Choose Royce Lamberth slapped ExxonMobil with the $288,999 penalty after final 12 months admonishing ExxonMonil’s counsel, Alex Oh, for describing her opposing counsel as “unhinged” and “agitated and combative” on account of Snell’s botched deposition.

Oh resigned from a brand new position as the top of the US Securities and Change Fee’s enforcement division in April final 12 months after lower than per week within the job following the choose’s rebuke, saying in her resignation letter that she couldn’t, “deal with this improvement with out it changing into an unwelcome distraction to the vital work of the division”.

“The newest sanction gained’t instantly have an effect on the end result of the case,” stated Paradis, the Columbia Regulation College lecturer.

“Good federal judges – and I might positively embrace Royce Lamberth amongst these – have seen loads and may compartmentalise. So that you gained’t see him ruling towards Exxon out of spite,” Paradis stated, noting nevertheless that ExxonMobil is likely to be much less prone to get the advantage of the doubt within the case going ahead.

“It’s inconceivable to understand how that may play out,” he stated. “However the very last thing you ever need as a litigator is to get to the purpose the place a courtroom can not depend on what you say.”