Category Archives: Statement

Call to Samsung: Relaunch the dialogue with SHARPS!

A solidarity statement by the Asian Transnational Corporations Monitoring Network

The Asian Transnational Corporations (ATNC) Monitoring Network, a network composed of labour organisations from 12 Asian countries, is one with SHARPS in demanding Samsung to reinitiate its dialogue with SHARPS.

In October 2015, Samsung unilaterally stopped its negotiations with SHARPS on the issue of compensation to the victims of occupational diseases in Samsung factories. Today, 7th of October 2016, marks the one-year anniversary of the 24/7 sit-in protest of SHARPS at Samsung D’light, the company’s so-called global exhibition space in South Seoul. In the past year, SHARPS has been relentless in its call for the relaunch of the dialogue with Samsung so that it can collectively bargain for its demands. In particular, SHARPS demands that Samsung (1) make a full and sincere apology for the occupational disease cluster that has harmed the workers and (2) transparently and sufficiently compensate former workers who contracted a variety of diseases while working at Samsung’s LCD and chip labs.

Despite the difficulties faced by SHARPS and its supporters during the year-long sit-in protest, they remain unyielding in their struggle in the name of the 223 workers of Samsung Electronics who were afflicted with a variety of occupational diseases, including leukemia, brain tumour, and multiple sclerosis (of whom, 76 have died).

Globally, Samsung has a reputation of being a heartless employer and union buster that has no regard for the rights and welfare of its workers. It is not only the workers of Samsung in South Korea that suffer from occupational diseases or from Samsung’s utter disrespect for labour rights and standards. With its wide-ranging supply chain in the world, especially in Asian countries, more than 1,500,000 workers are seriously affected by Samsung’s anti-labour policies.

Now that Jae-yong Lee, the heir apparent of Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., is about to be part of the company’s board of directors, it is high time for Samsung to again face SHARPS at the bargaining table and start the negotiations anew. We demand Mr. Lee to reinitiate the dialogue with SHARPS and to make a public pledge, accompanied with genuine accountability, to respect workers’ and human rights. For a global corporate giant, these demands should not be difficult to fulfil.

The ATNC Monitoring Network supports SHARPS in its struggle to attain justice for the victims of occupational diseases in Samsung factories. Moreover, we will continue to be vigilant of the abuses of workers in Samsung, not only in South Korea but also in its supply chain across Asia.

7 October 2016
Asian Transnational Corporations Monitoring Network

Endorsed by:
Asia Monitor Resource Centre, Hong Kong
Center for Trade Union and Human Rights, Philippines
Centre for Workers Education, India
Committee for Asian Women, Malaysia
Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research, Philippines
Globalisation Monitor, Hong Kong
Indonesian Federation SERBUK of Karawang, Indonesia
Korean House for International Solidarity, Korea
Labour Action China, Hong Kong
Labour Education Foundation, Pakistan
National Free Trade Union, Sri Lanka
Sedane Labour Resource Centre, Indonesia
Yaung Chi Oo Workers Association, Myanmar
Yokohama Action Research, Japan

Unite and fight against the neoliberal attacks on labour!

 

A solidarity statement by
the Asian Transnational Corporations Monitoring Network

on the International Labour Day Celebrations
May 1, 2016

 

Under the globally pervasive neoliberal economic development regime, the Asian economies have become completely integrated and subsumed into global capitalism. Big Asian and global transnational corporations (TNCs) have built economic power by consolidating their regional and global production networks. On the other hand, developing countries in Asia opened up their economies to become eager hosts of TNC-driven and export-oriented industrial factories and corporate agricultural plantations. The governments of developing Asian states believe that economic growth can spring from foreign direct investment-friendly economic policies, which are often anti-people policies. ‘Let us wait for the growth to trickle down,’ they would say.

Hence, on the grounds of the “economically surging Asia” are the precarious workers who are assiduously toiling, suffering, and are being sacrificed upon the altar of neoliberalism. We observed that most Asian governments have been adopting labour law and economic reforms that not only bolster the neoliberal agenda but also curtail the rights of the workers and restrict the democratic space for workers’ organising and collective bargaining.

Asia’s race-to-the-bottom wages

In order to attract foreign investments, Asian governments are competing against each other in a race to the bottom in terms of labour standards. They implemented policies that directly cut wages, removed regulations on wage settings, and introduced flexible wage schemes. In the Philippines, a two-tiered wage system was advanced by the government in one region – the first tier is the floor wage based on the poverty threshold (USD 1/day) and the second tier is based on productivity. It resulted in reduced wages as the floor wage was 25 percent lower than the minimum wage while the payment of the productivity-based wage is not mandatory.

On the other hand, the Indonesian government issued a new wage regulation in October 2015 that changed the minimum wage-fixing mechanism. In the past, the minimum wage was set through a process of bargaining between the employers’ group and trade union, somehow taking into account the cost of living. In the new wage regulation, the minimum wage will be unilaterally determined by the government based on a formula that considers the inflation and the GDP growth. Worse, the adjustments will be made only every five years.

Legitimising the attacks on the right to organise

Asian governments also use the laws to suppress trade union activities. In Cambodia, for instance, the National Assembly passed the Trade Union Law on 4 April 2016, restricting the workers’ rights to freedom of association, collective bargaining, and strike. Championed by the industrial capitalists, the enactment of the new law is defended by the Ministry of Labour, declaring that it will aid in attracting more investments. In China, the Foreign NGO Activities Law was already submitted to the National People’s Congress for enactment. It limits the activities of foreign NGOs in China, including those that support the building of an independent labour movement at the grassroots level.

It is relevant to note, however, that even before these laws are passed, the space for independent labour movements’ activities have been restricted. We have witnessed the violent crackdowns of strikes in Cambodia in the past years and the arrests of numerous labour activists in China in December of last year, two of whom are still in detention. Needless to say, the recent laws are being pushed to legitimise harassment, violent actions, and criminalisation of labour activists.

Violent crackdowns on the working poor’s protests

Even in countries where the policies are supposed to protect working people’s rights, the reality shows a precarious face. In Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, landless farmers protesting for land rights on 29 March 2016 faced violent repression. Sixty-four protesters were arrested while 14 were injured after being shot by the police. Two days later, on 1 April 2016, hungry farmers in Kidapawan, Philippines suffered the same but more brutal fate. Demanding for rice, the protesting farmers got bullets instead. Three died while 76 were arrested, including elderly and pregnant women. While the marginalised people face injustices and harassment, agricultural TNCs in these two countries are enjoying not only incentives for investments but also protection from the military.

Reversing the gains from past struggles

Moreover, the victories from the struggles of labour and other social movements have been reversed. In South Asia, particularly, labour law reforms are going backwards. In the past year, the reforms that are being proposed in India aim to flexibilise labour arrangements by making hiring and firing easier and by excluding the majority of the workers from the purview of the law. Sri Lanka, which has one of the best severance benefits, is considering reducing the benefits at the request of the employers. Meanwhile, in response to the increasing number of trade unions registered since the Rana Plaza tragedy, the Bangladesh government issued new Labour Rules in September 2015 to regulate union registration more strictly.

We, at the ATNC Monitoring Network, are alarmed at these trends and developments in Asia that are obviously aimed at further reinforcing the neoliberal agenda, eroding the workers’ rights, and dismantling the labour movement. We believe that genuine economic development should prioritise the interest and welfare of the poor and the marginalised and not of the global TNCs and wealthy elites. Thus, we strongly condemn the naked and violent attacks on labour activists and innocent working people who demand for a life of dignity.

Today, on International Labour Day, we register the following calls:

  • Stop the neoliberal attacks on labour!
  • Respect the workers’ rights to organise, bargain collectively, and strike!
  • Eliminate flexible labour arrangements that make workers more vulnerable!
  • Fight for living wage for Asian workers!
  • Justice for victims of harassment, criminalisation, and human rights violations!
  • Uphold the working people’s dignity!

We stand in solidarity with the working people of Asia who persistently fight for their rights and tirelessly build an independent and democratic labour movement in the region.

An Open Letter to the Korean President-Elect Park Geun-hye (re Respect Workers Rights in Korea)

 

22 February 2013
The Honourable Park Geun-hye
President-Elect of the Republic of Korea
Cheong Wa Dae
1 Cheongwadae-ro
Jongno-gu
Seoul 110-820
Republic of Korea

 

Respect Workers Rights in Korea

 

Dear Madam President-Elect:

Asian Transnational Corporation Monitoring Network (ATNC) would like to bring to your attention a number of serious labour issues, which we urge your government to act upon once you assume the office of the presidency on 25 February 2013.

First, a lack of fundamental labour rights in the public sector is leading to serious political and social problems.

The Korean Government Employees Union (KGEU) is still not being recognised as a legal trade union organisation. The government has indeed refused to register the union three times. Since its founding, 137 union members are dismissed for their trade union activity. In January 2013, KGEU president Kim Jung-nam conducted a 16 days’ hunger strike before being hospitalised. The KGEU is now continuing sit-it strike in front of the National Assembly. The KGEU president and secretary-general were recently dismissed on the ground that they are leaders of an illegal organisation. In 2012, the ILO has called on the government to recognise the KGEU and allow it to carry out trade union activity. In its most recent report, the ILO Committee of Experts stated, “the Committee expressed deep regret at the gravity of the allegations involving serious acts of extensive interference in the activities of the KGEU and requested the Government to immediately cease all acts of interference.” The ILO urged the government “to take all possible measures with a view to achieving conciliation between the Government and the KGEU so that the latter may continue to exist and ultimately to register within the framework of the legislation which should be in line with freedom of association principles.”

Further, 165 public enterprise workers who are members of the Korean Federation of Public Sector and Transportation Workers’ Unions (KPTU) have been dismissed from their jobs in retaliation for legitimate union activities. Many of these workers, including 96 members of the KPTU-affiliated Korean Railway Workers’ Union, faced reprisal due to their opposition to public sector privatisation and other actions taken to defend quality public services. Others were fired in an effort to prevent legitimate efforts to improve the poor working conditions faced by irregular public enterprise workers. Dismissed public sector workers, many of whom who have been out of jobs for several years or more, suffer from economic, social and psychological hardship. Their reinstatement is essential to the normalisation of public sector labour relations and the protection of the Korean people’s right to quality public services.

Second, there have been several recent industrial disputes provoked by the growing use of precarious forms of employment despite recent court rulings against the practice, mass layoffs and the promotion of employer dominated unions. Indeed, the situation has become so bad that five union leaders and activists have taken their lives in response to the repression of their trade union activities.

At Hanjin, workers struck to protest precarious employment and the layoff of over 400 workers. At the end of strike, and an 11 month crane sit-in of Kim Jinsook, the company agreed on the reinstatement of dismissed workers and to compensation. Each side agreed to drop lawsuits against each other. However, Hanjin continued to sue the chairperson of the KMWU and the KCTU leaders for damages related to the strike in the amount of US$15.8 million and US$100,000 respectively. Even worse, the company established a management dominated “yellow” union and sought to lure the members of the KMWU. This situation drove Choe Kang-seo, the deputy organising director of KMWU Busan Regional Branch Hanjin Local, to take his life. His coffin is still lying on the cold street and his family members are urgently request for the company to have a talk with the union. However, the company has been rejecting any talk with the family members and the union so far.

At Ssangyong, 3 union leaders are sitting in on top of a high electronic pylon. The company decided in 2009 to file for bankruptcy and proposed a reorganisation plan, which was approved the following month. On April 8, 2009, the company announced its plan to dismiss 2,646 workers. In May, workers went on strike to encourage negotiations over alternative, cost-cutting measures short of mass dismissals. On June 2, the company notified 1,056 workers of their dismissal effective from 8 June. On 26 and 27 June, riot police entered the factory and secured the main building following intense fighting that resulted in several injuries and arrests. On 1 July, water was cut off and on 16 July all food was blocked from entering the plant. From 20 to 27 July, thousands of riot police and hired thugs again attempted to take the factory. This time, the police moved in with water cannons and dropped concentrated tear gas and chemicals onto the strikers from helicopters, which caused in some cases severe chemical burns. Several other workers sustained serious injuries at the hands of the police. In the end, the company brought lawsuits against individuals and union officers for obstruction of business, as well as a multimillion dollar lawsuit against the parent union – the Korean Metal Workers Union (KMWU) and the confederation, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions. It now appears that the dismissals were completely illegal, based on false claims about the company’s economic situation. During the presidential election campaign, you made a commitment to a parliamentary investigation with regard to the Ssangyong case, but there has been no action until now.

At Hyundai Motor, a “dispatched” worker won court decisions in January 2011 and February 2012, holding that he was an “illegally dispatched labour” and not “subcontracted labour”. The courts recognised the worker as a full-time employee directly employed by Hyundai after he worked for more than two consecutive years at the plant. However, management of Hyundai refused to implement the ruling, which it announced on August 2012. Following the company’s denial, the Korean Metal Workers’ Union (KMWU) initiated an industrial action for the regularisation of all subcontracted workers who work for more than two years. The company responded with lawsuits requesting damages of 16.2 billion won for strikes and sit-ins at the Ulsan, Asan, and Jeonju plants. The ILO examined this case and requested that the government develop, in consultation with the social partners, appropriate mechanisms aimed at strengthening the protection of subcontracted/agency workers’ rights, “so as to prevent any abuse of subcontracting as a way to evade in practice the exercise by these workers of their trade union rights”.

At Yooseong Piston Ring (YPR), a major supplier of piston rings for Hyundai Motor as well as to four other major auto assemblers in Korea, had signed an agreement with the Korean Metal Workers’ Union locals at the YPR Asan and Yeong-dong plant to implement a 2 day-shift system with a monthly wage and no night work beginning January 2011. The agreement was meant to respond to sleep disorders and other health issues related to night work. However, in 2011 the 2 day-shift system was not implemented in YPR and the company refused to bargain in good faith to find solutions to implement the 2 day-shift system. On 18 May, the union locals held a 2 hours’ trade union education for the day shift union members. Hours later, the company undertook an illegal lockout. Later on, during a parliamentary audit, it was revealed that this all was intentionally conducted according to the company’s long-term strategy to bust the union. Indeed, YSR had hired the Changjo Consultant, a professional union busting company. The union filed 23 complaints regarding the company’s unfair labour practise to the Ministry of Employment and Labour. The Ministry sent the case to the public prosecutors with the opinion that the CEO of the company should be investigated under detention. However, no action has been taken, leading the union leader to conduct an aerial protest on the guardrail of a bridge.

In many industrial disputes, companies have used a much criticised “obstruction of business” law to seek arrests and devastating fines for engaging in strikes. The ILO has repeatedly criticised the government’s use of this law, urging the government “to consider all possible measures, in consultation with the social partners concerned, so as to revert to a general practice of investigation without detention of workers and of refraining from making arrests, even in the case of an illegal strike, if the latter does not entail any violence.”

ATNC calls upon your government to: 1) recognise the KGEU and to reinstate the 137 KGEU members and 165 KPTU members fired for their union activities; 2) seek the amendment of the “obstruction of business” law so that union leaders or members are no longer subject to arrest or to enormous fines for activity related to industrial disputes; 3) urge Hanjin Heavy Industry to withdraw their lawsuit against the union’s leader and reinstate the dismissed workers; 4) work with Parliament to launch an investigation into the Ssangyong mass layoffs as promised and to ensure the reinstatement of dismissed workers; 5) urge Hyundai, and indeed the manufacturing industry, to respect the Supreme Court’s decision with regard to the use of in-house dispatch work; and 6) take enforcement actions against anti-union retaliation by employers and the establishment of company unions, especially in YPR.

We thank you for your urgent attention to these matters.

Yours sincerely
Asian Transnational Corporation Monitoring Network

Endorsed and co-signed by
Korean House for International Solidarity (KHIS), Republic of Korea
Asia Monitor Resource Centre (AMRC), Hong Kong
Labour Action China (LAC), Hong Kong
Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER), Philippines
Thai Labour Campaign (TLC), Thailand
National Free Trade Union (NFTU), Sri Lanka
Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (CCAWDU), Cambodia
Globalization Monitor (GM), Hong Kong
Centre for Workers Education (CWE), India
Sedane Labor Resource Center (LIPS), Indonesia
Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA), Cambodia
Serve the People Association (SPA), Taiwan
Youth Labor Union 95
Endorsed and co-signed by
Korean House for International Solidarity (KHIS), Republic of Korea
Asia Monitor Resource Centre (AMRC), Hong Kong
Labour Action China (LAC), Hong Kong
Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER), Philippines
Thai Labour Campaign (TLC), Thailand
National Free Trade Union (NFTU), Sri Lanka
Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (CCAWDU), Cambodia
Globalization Monitor (GM), Hong Kong
Centre for Workers Education (CWE), India
Sedane Labor Resource Center (LIPS), Indonesia
Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA), Cambodia
Serve the People Association (SPA), Taiwan
Youth Labor Union 95
Labour Education and Service Network (LESN), Hong Kong
National Garment Workers Federation (NGWF), Bangladesh

cc:
Ministry of Employment and Labour
Ministry of Public Administration and Security
KCTU
KMWU
KGEU
KPTU

Statement to the Fire at the Factory of Tazreen Fashions Killing over Hundreds in Dhaka, Bangladesh

 

 

28 November 2012

For Immediate Release

 

Statement to the Fire at the Factory of Tazreen Fashions Killing over Hundreds in Dhaka, Bangladesh

Besides conveying our deepest condolence and concerns to all victims, Asian Transnational Corporations Monitoring Network (ATNC) is calling for an immediate action from the Bangladeshi government and international clothing brands following the deadly fire at the factory of Tazreen Fashions on late Saturday, 24 November 2012.

At least 112 deaths are confirmed and hundreds of workers injured when they jumped from high windows in order to escape the smoke and flames. These killed and injured workers made clothes for Hong Kong-based Li & Fung on behalf of various international brands, such as C & A, Carrefour, KIK and Walmart.

Li & Fung is one of the largest apparel sourcing companies in the world.  Regrettably, this multinational enterprise has a poor track record of not respecting labour rights for many years.  Despite the company’s vow to comply with their codes of conducts and corporate social responsibility throughout the production and sourcing process, injustices and deadly accidents continue to happen.  Before this deadly factory fire inBangladesh, a Turkish garment factory called Hey Tekstil which produced for Li & Fung was also found of having an outbreak of workers’ protest this year.  Hundreds of workers, who are owed more than 4.7 million euro, protested at Li & Fung office inIstanbulto demand for compensation.  However, the compensation is yet undone.  Adding more wounds to workers, theBangladeshfire once again revealed the negligence and irresponsibility of Li & Fung in upholding labour rights.

Li & Fung and the international buyers such as Walmart and C & A have an undeniable responsibility in compensating the workers.  Let us be clear.  Playing a blame game with other parts of the supply chain is in violation of the UN Business and Human Rights guidelines.  All the companies concerned should uphold their due diligence and their obligation to mediate.

ATNC demands:-

1.    Li & Fung and other international buyers of Tazreen Factory should pay full and fair compensation to the victims and their families.

2.    Li & Fung and other international brand companies should be obliged to comply with national and international health and safety measures, whichever is a higher standard, in a serious manner through their annual audit on the health and safety standards.

3.    The manufacturers as well as the international brand companies should ensure all the supply-chain factories are manufacturing under the satisfactory working conditions where both national and international health and safety standards are strictly not violated. Any improvements should be carried out.

4.    The Bangladeshi Government to set up an independent and transparent body to investigate the causes of this fire and to examine whether there is any ongoing negligence in failing to comply with both national and international health and safety standards to garment factories. The Government should take appropriate legal action to prosecute when necessary. Also, this body should look into the redress for all victims.

Should there be any enquiries, please contact the spokesperson of ATNC, Mr. Jason Chan on +852 2815-9003 or email at coordinator@atnc.asia.

 

Against LVMH Group on appointing Sebastian Suhl as COO of Givenchy while the candidate is in the case of sexual harassment and discrimination case in Prada Japan and Prada Luxemburg

To:

LVMH Moët Hennessy – Louis Vuitton S.A.

Mr. Bernard Arnault

Chairman & Chief Executive Officer

22, avenue Montaigne, 75008 Paris, France

Tel.: + 33 (0) 1 44 13 22 22

 

Against LVMH Group on appointing Sebastian Suhl as COO of Givenchy

while the candidate is in the case of sexual harassment and discrimination case

in Prada Japan and Prada Luxemburg

 

Asian Transnational Corporation Monitoring Network (ATNC) is a regional network consisting of civil society groups and labour unions in various Asian countries. Recently it has been reported that your company has appointed Sebastian Suhl as the new Chief Operating Officer of Givenchy, who appears as the key player of sexual harassment and discrimination case in Prada Japan when he was the Chief Operating Officer at Prada SpA.  Sebastian Suhl is also involving in the decision making of countersuing the victim for “hurting the brand logo by voicing harassment and discrimination in public” in Prada Luxemburg where the logo is registered.

The case is still proceeding at Tokyo District Court and the case clearly states Sebastian Suhl was the one who ordered the firing of the former Senior Retail Manager after she reported for help to Sebastian Suhl on the sexual harassment and discrimination issues at work and illegal accounting based on forced purchase by store staff at Prada Japan.

As labour rights concern groups advocating labour justice and gender equality, we are shocked and very concerned about your company’s decision to hire a candidate involved in the discrimination and harassment case while you are stating the below as part of your recruiting policy under “Talent Recruitment”.

“The LVMH group considers diversity to be a great asset and commits to deflecting any discrimination linked to age, sex, background, opinion or any other personal characteristics during its recruitment process.”[1]

As reported in the media, the plaintiff of the case Rina Bovrisse and other former Prada employees filed a labour lawsuit with the Tokyo District Court in 2009. Sebastian Suhl appears as the Global COO who ordered Prada Japan on illegal actions taken to the victims. Hitherto, the case is still unresolved and is in legal proceedings.

As a world renowned multinational luxury business group, LVMH should show commitments in corporate social responsibility and ensuring its employees of a discrimination-free working environment and fully respected labour rights protection.

However, to public outrage and disappointment, as a luxury business group which targets women as the major consumers for its Fashion and Leather Goods division, LVMH Group appointed a candidate being alleged of sexual harassment and discrimination practices towards female employees in Japan, especially in the middle of the lawsuit.

It is not the first time that LVMH Group was involved in hiring a candidate with controversial record of discrimination.  John Galliano, the former chief designer of Dior under LVMH Group was arrested and found guilty by the French court of anti-Semitic behavior in two complaints in 2011.  The former Dior designer was charged in connection with incidents in October, where he was accused of verbally abusing an English language teacher at CafeLa Perlein Paris.

 

LVMH Group has the responsibility to ensure the fundamental recruiting policy that is internationally recognized labour rights as prescribed by the International Labour Organization (ILO), including the rights to freedom of association and organizing. To consumers, it is very regrettable to see unethical labour practices behind the luxury business.

While the aforementioned labour disputes at Prada Japan have not yet been settled, your company is reported of recruiting Sebastin Suhl who is being the sexual harassment and discrimination case defendant.

Indeed, last year we expressed our deep concern to Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited for Prada’s attempt to file an IPO at the stage when the legal disputes have not yet solved. As a multinational enterprise committed to corporate social responsibility, LVMH Group should proactively adopt measures to eliminate any forms of discrimination and fully observe the laws and regulations regarding labour rights, social justice and equal opportunities in all jurisdictions where you invest and operate, in order to fulfill the expectation of the society, investors and consumers as well.

We, therefore, demand LVMH Group:

  1. To give a satisfactory response to the public and to Ms. Rina Bovrisse over appointing a new COO suspected of sexual discrimination, harassment and unfair dismissal at Prada Japan;
  2. To explain whether your company has requirements on your suppliers in observance with the rights of freedom of association and union organizing; and explain the implementation measures and the monitoring polices concerned;
  3. To explain whether your company has adopted any policies or measures against sexual discrimination and harassment

We sincerely look forward to your written reply. Should there be any enquiries, please contact the coordinator of the ATNC Monitoring Network at email: coordinator@atnc.org

Thank you for your kind attention.

Yours sincerely,

Asian Transnational Corporations Monitoring Network

Cc:

Ms. Chantal Gaemperle,

Group Executive Vice President, Human Resources and Synergies

 

Release Somyot and other political prisoners in Thailand

Prime Minister Mr. Abhisit Vejjajiva
c/o Government House
Pitsanulok Road, Dusit District
Bangkok 10300
Thailand
Fax: + 662 282 8631/280 1589/629 8213
Tel. + 662 280 1404/3000
Email: abhisit@abhisit.org, public@democrat.or.th ,
publicchearing@opm.go.th,
soc@soc.go.th

Your Excellency Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva,

We in the international Community are shocked to hear news of the re-arrest of Somyot Pruksakasemsuk and are very concerned for his safety in the prison.

I write to ask you for the immediate release of Somyot Pruksakasemsuk who was arrested on 30th April 2011 and is currently being held at Klong Prem Central Prison, in Bangkok.

We know Somyot Pruksakasemsuk through his work for the international trade union movement and we have been active in the campaign in 2010 to release him from Adisorn Army base in Saraburi. We have come to know him as a loyal Thai citizen who is strongly committed to Human Rights in his role as an independent journalist and academic promoting freedom of speech.

We understand that Somyot was arrested on a charge of defaming, insulting and threatening the King, Queen and heir apparent (Section112 of the Penal Code) a charge which he fully denies. He also was not aware that any arrest warrant had previously been issued and strongly denies any claim that he resisted arrest.

We were informed by Somyot Pruksakasemsuk from a letter written by him in prison on 2 May 2011. He believes that his arrest was due to the effort by him and other pro democracy activists to collect the 10,000 signatures needed to table for a repeal of section 112 of the Criminal Code/Lese Majeste Law in parliament. This action was done in a peaceful manner and according to the procedure prescribed by the 2007 Constitution.

We are concerned about the current state of human rights and democracy in Thailand, where even peaceful and legal methods to express one’s views are suppressed and denied.

We believe that the country should move towards a genuine reconciliation in good faith and intention from all sides. Therefore any dissident voice should not be brutally suppressed, particularly prior to a national election. The arrest of Somyot for his peaceful activity will deter this process.

We further understand that the Criminal Court agreed with the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) to extend the detention of Somyot, it is something we believe to be an unacceptable abuse of Somyot’s human rights. Please urgently respond to this request for the immediate release of Somyot to allow him to organise his response to the charges against him.

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