EU urged to demand tougher Thai labour safeguards before trade talks


The European Union should ensure that Thailand tightens its labour laws as a condition for resuming trade talks, rights groups and big companies said, accusing the country of doing too little to combat workplace abuses.

Talks on a trade deal were put on hold following Thailand’s 2014 military coup, but the bloc said last year it was ready to take steps to restart the negotiations – prompting renewed scrutiny of the nation’s record on tackling labour exploitation.

“Thailand has a fundamental problem with impunity to abuse rights, ” Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, which was among 45 entities to sign a joint letter submitted to Brussels on Wednesday.

“Not only are the labour laws weak, but they are poorly enforced and organisations that could help workers resist, like labour unions, are actively destroyed through a nexus of employer and government official connivance, ” he said.

Thailand’s Department of Labour Protection and Welfare declined to comment immediately on the letter, but has pledged previously to amend laws that would give workers full rights to organise and bargain collectively for better conditions.

A European Commission spokesperson said vice-president Valdis Dombrovskis has promised to look closely at human and labour rights in the context of trade relations with non-EU countries. — Reuters

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