Thailand: Imprisonment of Railway Union Leaders a Travesty of Justice

photo: Shoestring at wts wikivoyage

The three-year prison terms imposed yesterday by a Thai court on thirteen leaders of the State Railway Workers’ Union (SRUT) is a travesty of justice.

The SRUT workers have been ruthlessly pursued by the State Railway of Thailand through the legal system for carrying out a national rail safety campaign following a fatal train derailment in October 2009 at Khao Tao Station. The Thai authorities also pursued a vendetta against the workers, including through the Office of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC).

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said “It is an utter disgrace that state authorities are prepared to upturn the rule of law to persecute railway workers who have simply been trying to protect the travelling public and their fellow workers from dangerous incompetence on the part of top management of the railway system. This is a brazen attack on fundamental workers’ rights, a misuse of the courts and dishonest behaviour by the very body which is supposed to root out corruption. We stand with the International Transport Workers’ Federation in demanding the immediate release of the workers, the dropping of all charges against them, and the return of the wages that were fraudulently taken from seven of the workers by the authorities.”

Both the Thai National Human Rights Commission and an internal fact-finding investigation concluded that the derailment was primarily caused by the poor maintenance and condition of the locomotive.

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 ITUC and ITF will continue to support the SRUT 13 and their families, as they post bail to appeal this ruling.