JELI’s Newsletter August 2021

Coronavirus infections and deaths peaked in Thailand during the month of August, and frustrations over the government’s mishandling of the situation spurred another wave of political unrest on the streets of Bangkok. While the country was deep in the middle of both a health and political crisis this month, the JELI team has been doing what we can to support and empower workers struggling through the lockdown. Here are some updates:

Demanding Support for Factory Workers Struggling under Lockdown

On August 16th, the government once again announced an extension of the lockdown in COVID-19 “red zones” without expanding any relief programs or infection control measures. Workers are struggling more than ever. There have been numerous outbreaks in the factories of Pathum Thani and Samut Prakan, with the virus then spreading easily among the workers’ families and communities. Workers are reporting that they are not being compensated for the time they must spend in quarantine or getting treatment. Moreover, there have been multiple reports of pregnant workers contracting and even dying of COVID-19 and their dependents being left without any aid or means to get by. On August 19th, JELI joined the Labor Network for People’s Rights in front of the Ministry of Labor building to raise awareness of this issue and demand COVID protections for workers. Read more here, in this article written by JELI’s Suthila Leunkam.

Thai Authorities Must Stop Intimidating Labor Activists

Thai authorities continue to use violent tactics at pro-democracy rallies, and activists face arbitrary arrests, detention without due process, and the denial of proper legal representation. Following the wave of rallies held in Bangkok between August 1st and 15th, prominent Thai labor activists such as JELI’s Suthila Leunkam were subject to legal intimidation and police harassment for their organizing work. On August 15th, JELI released a joint statement with 53 labor organizations in Asia and across the globe condemning the state intimidation of Thai labor activists and demanding that the Thai government meet the people’s demands. On August 26th, JELI also joined the Labor Network for People’s Rights in a “car mob” to the Saraburi Police Station, to accompany community organizer and activist Thanaporn Vijan ‘Mai’ who was called in to report to authorities.


Leadership Training: Labor Law and Handling Prosecution

This month, JELI held the second and third sessions of our “Leadership in the Labor Movement” training, where we brought speakers from the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights Center and iLaw to come discuss labor law and how to handle prosecution with various workers’ groups. Given the Thai authorities’ ongoing use of legal intimidation tactics, it is important for activists to know their rights, especially if they are prominent voices of the labor and pro-democracy movements.

“Women in the Platform Economy” Study Group

We also recently wrapped up our “Women in the Platform Economy” Study Group, where women in the platform-mediated massage and domestic cleaning industries came together to exchange knowledge and experience, and get empowered as leaders in the fight for labor justice. Among various topics of discussion was the precarious nature of their work despite the dominant narrative of gig work offering more “autonomy” to workers, the very real threat of sexual harassment that they face on the job, and the hope and prospects of one day creating a platform cooperative where they collectively own and manage their own labor.

Legal Advocacy

Government Subcommittee on Labor Welfare and Platform Work

August 18th marked the first gathering of the Government Subcommittee on Labor Welfare and Platform Work under the Labor Committee of the House of Representatives. JELI was present alongside representatives from various platform worker groups and a team of expert advisors. This working group will be meeting monthly to discuss labor welfare in the gig economy and come up with policy solutions to improve working conditions for app-based workers.

JELI in the Media

The Active x JELI Podcast

The fourth and fifth episodes of our podcast series in collaboration with The Active are out now! (Recorded in Thai). On the fourth episode, labor scholar Sakdina Chatrakul Na Ayudhya from the Institute of Asian Studies at Chulalongkorn University joins JELI researcher “Neab” Chonthita Kraisrikul to discuss the future of labor law concerning the platform economy. On the fifth episode, Neab returns with a food delivery rider and single mother to shed light on the precarious reality of gig work. What is it like being a single mother of two and working in a male-dominated field which offers little to no welfare?

BanFoodpanda: An Analysis

The #BanFoodpanda campaign which started in July has done significant and seemingly irreversible damage to the food delivery company’s brand. However, Foodpanda riders are—unsurprisingly—the ones suffering the most from the consequences of mismanagement. Overall, Foodpanda’s case only highlights the lack of labor protections available for workers in the food delivery sector. For a more in-depth analysis of this situation, check out JELI managing director Kriangsak Teerakowitkajorn’s article on Decode (TH), or his interview for KrAsia (ENG).