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TITLE:  THAILAND HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993                            
DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994


Thailand is a democratically governed constitutional monarchy 
with a history of frequent military coups and powerful 
military-bureaucratic influence over political life.  The King 
exerts strong informal influence on carefully selected issues.

Thailand's return to democratic government was solidified in 
1993, as the popularly elected civilian government has 
revitalized the country's democratic institutions.  After 
prodemocracy protests were violently suppressed by the military 
in May 1992, free and fair elections were held that September.  
The military leaders responsible for the crackdown were removed 
from their positions or demoted but have not been prosecuted,  
although many were removed from their positions or demoted.  
According to government and nongovernmental organization (NGO) 
sources, approximately 48 protesters are still listed as 
"missing."  Prime Minister Chuan, a veteran legislator widely 
respected for his strong democratic beliefs, heads a five-party 
coalition that enjoys a 12-seat majority in the Parliament.  He 
has committed his administration to extending the benefits of 
Thailand's rapid economic growth to all sections of the country.

The Thai security apparatus has wide-ranging legal powers, 
largely deriving from past militarily controlled 
administrations.  The military has been supportive of the new 
democratic government.  Nonetheless, military leaders continued 
to have an informal but influential role in internal politics, 
especially in areas outside the capital.  There continued to be 
credible reports of summary executions and physical abuse of 
detainees by police officers, as well as infringements by 
security forces on the right of peaceful assembly.  It is 
unusual for victims or their families to initiate legal action 
against the police or military, in part because convictions are 
rare.  Enforcement of a broad range of laws and regulations by 
police is noticeably lax.

A newly industrializing country with a free enterprise economic 
system, Thailand continued to enjoy remarkable economic growth, 
averaging greater than 8 percent annual growth for the past 5 
years.  The Thai political system generally provides strong 
protection for individual economic interests, including 
property rights.  Although the industrial sector is still 
expanding rapidly, 65 percent of the population still lives in 
rural areas and depends on agriculture as the chief means of 
livelihood.  There has been little progress in rectifying the 
gap between urban and rural incomes.

Under the Chuan administration, the Government commitment to 
human rights and civil liberties has become more pronounced.  
The Government expanded protection of the right to freedom of 
speech and assembly, increased the number of women in 
government, sought to reduce child labor and prostitution, and 
visibly supported human rights organizations operating in 
Thailand.  Government control of the media relaxed somewhat and 
several new newspapers were established.  Areas of human rights 
abuse in 1993 included instances of extrajudicial killing and 
abuse of criminal suspects by police along with government 
failure to prosecute offenders; legal and societal 
discrimination against women; violence (including trafficking 
for purposes of prostitution) against women and children, 
persistent widespread use of child labor, and selected 
restrictions on free speech and press.


Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There is no credible evidence that criminal suspects are 
systematically or regularly targeted for violence.  However, 
there continued to be credible reports by legal organizations, 
reputable nongovernmental organizations (NGO's), and the press 
that police summarily executed criminal suspects, particularly 
in areas outside the capital.  Reliable NGO sources who have 
access to court records report that over 60 deaths occurred 
either during arrest or while in police custody in 1992.  These 
figures represent only the 34 district courts (of a total 95) 
that reported their 1992 statistics.  It is difficult to 
determine what percentage of police homicides were justified.  
NGO legal advocacy groups pursued legal action against the 
police in approximately 15 percent of the cases in 1993.  
Official government statistics on the number of criminals and 
suspects killed by police in 1993 were unavailable.

For example, on August 7, five police officers from Ban Pong 
district, Ratchaburi province, were accused of killing a 
vegetable exporter who ran a traffic light.  The Ministry of 
Interior (MOI) agreed to conduct an autopsy and initiate an 
investigation into the incident.  Relatives of the vegetable 
vendor have retained an attorney to help track progress of the 
MOI investigation, which was still in progress at year's end.  

Although in the past there have been reports that police killed 
detainees to keep them from reporting abuse to authorities, 
there were no such cases reported in 1993.  However, police 
beat to death a demonstrator during protests against falling 
rice prices.  (See Section 2.b.)

Convictions of police in summary execution cases are rare, as 
evidence is often lacking due to witnesses reportedly being 
intimidated or paid not to testify.  The law allows personal 
suits against police officers for criminal actions taken while 
making an arrest.  However, due to flaws in the legal process 
and ingrained cultural attitudes, victims or their families 
rarely file suits against the police.  During the initial 
police inquiry, most police investigations routinely determine 
that no wrongful action was taken on the part of the police; 
judges generally follow the prosecutor's recommendations.  In 
cases of police homicide, a blood relative of the deceased has 
the legal right to sue.  If pursued by the family, the case is 
handled by the same office, in some instances by the same 
prosecutor, who has already ruled that no wrongful death 
occurred.  Reliable law advocacy organizations know of four 
cases that were filed against the police for homicide in 1992.  
There is no information to determine how many cases are settled 
out of court, but in cases where suits are filed, the family of 
the deceased often receives compensation from the Government 
and the suit is dropped.

In August the Pattani United Liberation Organization (PULO) 
Muslim separatist group was blamed for an attack on a train 
that resulted in one death.  In August and September a wave of 
violence erupted in southern Thailand, resulting in the deaths 
of several soldiers and one civilian.  Muslims and particularly 
PULO were blamed for the violence, but as of September, the 
Government had not produced any evidence to link PULO to the 

     b.  Disappearance

There were no new cases of disappearance in 1993.

After months of debate, NGO's, the MOI, and police officials 
agreed on a list of approximately 48 "missing" protesters 
following the military's violent suppression of prodemocracy 
protesters in May 1992.  Local investigations into their 
whereabouts continue, and many family members and NGO's suspect 
the majority are dead.  An amnesty decree, reaffirmed in 
November 1992 by the new administration, effectively protects 
military leaders and protesters accused of criminal activities 
during the May events from criminal prosecution.  In response 
to the decree, NGO's and the relatives of the missing filed a 
civil suit against three of the top military leaders involved 
in the May violence.  At year's end, the court had postponed 
the preliminary hearing on the suit while it considered a 
petition by the plaintiffs that they be allowed to sue in forma 

Also in response to the May 1992 violence, legislation was 
passed in July requiring full Cabinet approval before military 
force can be used to quell civil disturbances.  There was no 
progress in the cases of eight Cambodian criminal suspects who 
disappeared after being turned over to Thai police in April 
1992.  With the closure of all Cambodian displaced person camps 
earlier this year and the repatriation of all displaced Khmer 
to Cambodia, the Government appears to have dropped this case.

No instances of disappearance at the camps for displaced 
persons along the Thai borders were reported.  On March 2, the 
MOI charged a police lieutenant colonel with the kidnaping in 
February 1990 of a Saudi Arabian businessman suspected of 
involvement in the 1989 murder of Saudi Arabian diplomats in 
Bangkok, but in September the charges were dropped.  The 
businessman and two other Thai suspects have been missing since 
1990 and family members believe they are dead.  The families of 
the two Thai suspects claim that police repeatedly harassed the 
men and eventually detained them to try to elicit a 
confession.  The police have no official record of arrests or 
release of any of the three involved, but all were last seen in 
police custody.

One lingering disappearance case that began in 1991, that of 
Labor Congress of Thailand (LCT) President Thanong Po-An, 
remained unresolved at year's end.  The LCT continued to press 
the current administration to make a more serious attempt to 
locate Thanong.  A government-appointed committee reported in 
August that it had no additional evidence to determine the fate 
of Thanong.  It is widely believed that Thanong was kidnaped 
and killed because of his criticism of the military regime that 
took over the country in February 1991.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

Although Thailand's Criminal Code forbids cruel, inhuman, or 
degrading treatment or punishment, there continued to be 
credible reports of police beatings of prisoners and criminal 
suspects.  Security forces do not use systematic physical abuse 
or violence to target any particular group.  However, criminal 
suspects regularly complain of police attempts to secure 
confessions or evidence through the use of torture such as 
electric shocks.

In general, access to prisoners is not restricted.  The foreign 
prison population regularly receives visitors, and there are 
scheduled visiting times for both Thai and foreign prisoners.  
Solitary confinement is sometimes used to punish difficult 

Conditions in most prisons do not, in general, threaten the 
life or health of inmates.  However, there have been continuing 
unsubstantiated reports of sporadic physical abuse of both Thai 
and foreign prisoners by prison guards in response to 
disciplinary problems.  International observers have commented 
that conditions at the Suan Phlu immigration detention center 
are so bad as to constitute cruel and unusual punishment, 
noting extreme overcrowding and lack of medical care.  
Immigration detention facilities are not administered by the 
Department of Corrections and are not subject to many of the 
regulations found in the regular prison system, such as those 
mandating exercise and medical care or limiting length of 
detention.  Detainees are therefore held for extended periods 
without being allowed to leave their cells or exercise and may 
be incarcerated for an indefinite period of time.  Thai 
immigration law requires that prosecutors formally charge 
detainees in court within 91 days of their detainment.  
However, some detainees unable to put up bail or pay 
deportation costs, or detainees whose countries refuse to 
readmit them, can and have been held longer.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Thailand's Criminal and Penal Codes are based largely on 
Western European models.  Except in cases of crimes in 
progress, arrest warrants are generally required.  Specific 
charges must be brought against detainees within 48 hours, but 
police have the authority to extend the detention period to 7 
days if required to complete an investigation.  Detainees do 
not have the right to have their lawyers present during 

There is a functioning bail system, but it is also evident that 
judges have considerable discretion in determining eligibility 
for bail.  In a recent prominent case of an alleged plot to 
assassinate the President of the Supreme Court, the presiding 
judge denied bail to two of four co-defendants, releasing the 
others (including the alleged mastermind) on bail.  The only 
legal basis for detention without specific charges for long 
periods (up to 480 days) is the Anti-Communist Activities Act.  
No one has been detained under the act's provisions since 
1984.  Nevertheless, some detainees at the Suan Phlu 
immigration detention center reportedly have been held as long 
as a year.  In response to the amnesty decree, all remaining 
detainees arrested during the May 1992 events were released 
from police custody and charges were dropped.

Of the approximately 50,000 inmates in Thailand, it is 
impossible to ascertain what percentage are pretrial 
detainees.  Prison officials do not maintain statistics on 
sentencing and detention and pretrial detainees are not 
segregated from the general prison population.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Thai legal system provides for the presumption of innocence 
and access to courts or administrative bodies to seek redress.  
The civilian judicial system has three levels of courts:  
courts of first instance, courts of appeal, and the Supreme 
Court.  A separate military court hears criminal and civil 
cases pertaining to military personnel as well as those brought 
during periods of martial law.  Also, Islamic courts hear civil 
cases concerning members of the Muslim minority.  A serious 
flaw in providing due process rights is the lack of appeal from 
decisions of a military court.  Trials for misdemeanors are 
decided by a single judge, although two or more judges are 
required in more serious cases, in courts of first instance, 
and by a panel of judges at the appellate level.  While most 
trials are public, the court may order a trial closed.  This is 
most often done in cases touching on national security or the 
royal family.

Career civil service judges preside over the courts.  Judicial 
appointments and structures are not subject to parliamentary 
review.  Although generally regarded as independent, 
commentators frequently charge the judiciary with venality and 
complain of competition for preference among judges.  In March 
a former Supreme Court judge filed a malfeasance suit against 
former Prime Minister Anand for failing to comply with a 
resolution concerning the reassignment of judges.  The lawsuit 
stemmed from Anand's 1992 effort to increase executive branch 
control over the Judicial Commission, which is responsible for 
assigning judges.

The widely publicized lese majeste trial against Sulak Siwarak 
began June 2 after his return from self-exile in December, 
1992.  The trial was open to the public and Sulak Siwarak 
remained free on bail during the court proceedings; the trial 
is expected to continue until mid-1994.

The trial continued in the lese majeste and secession case of 
four Shiite Muslims, who have been held in prison since their 
arrest in Pottanim in 1990.  Suspects in other similar cases 
have been released on bail, but repeated attempts to secure 
bail for the four have been denied without justification.

The 10 officials of the former Chatchai government found to be 
"unusually wealthy" filed suit to recover assets seized by the 
former military junta, following a Supreme Court ruling that 
the decree under which the assets were seized was 
unconstitutional.  In the wake of a subsequent lower court 
ruling in favor of one of the plaintiffs, the Government 
announced it would not appeal the order to return the seized 
assets.  It also decided that as a result of the precedent set 
in this case, it would return the assets of all "unusually 
wealthy" politicians (minus any outstanding taxes owed) without 
waiting for the courts to rule on each case.  At year's end, 
the assets of most of the 10 politicians had been returned.

Defendants tried in ordinary criminal courts enjoy a broad 
range of legal rights.  Although they have no right to counsel 
during the investigative phase of their cases, detainees are 
granted access to a lawyer of their own choice before and 
during the trial.  A government program provides free legal 
advice to the poor, but indigent defendants are not 
automatically provided with counsel at public expense.  Most 
free legal aid comes from private groups, including the Thai 
Lawyers' Association and the Thai Women Lawyers' Association.

Well-informed legal sources estimate that there are at most 10 
political prisoners in Thailand.  Political affiliation and 
questionable evidence may influence the ability of the accused 
to receive a fair trial or fair punishment.

The trial of 2 members of the outlawed Communist Party of 
Thailand indicted in 1991 on charges of having joined in a 1982 
plot to assassinate the Queen, the Prime Minister, and the army 
commander continued in 1993.  Ex-Major General Manun 
Rupkhachon, accused of masterminding the plot, returned to 
Thailand in November 1992 to face similar charges and was 
released on bail.  Little progress was made in the case since 
his return; only two of 134 state witnesses have testified, and 
several others refused to appear in court.  Attempts to speed 
up the judicial process were unsuccessful.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 

The law requires that police possess a search warrant prior to 
entering a home without the owner's consent.  However, search 
warrants are issued by the police with prior approval only from 
the MOI or provincial governor and are not subject to prior 
judicial review.  There have been credible reports that 
officers sometimes endorse warrants in advance and then allow 
their noncommissioned subordinates to apply them as needed.  
The Anti-Communist Activities Act allows officials engaged in 
"Communist suppression operations" to conduct searches without 
warrants, but these powers rarely have been invoked in recent 
years and were not invoked in 1993.

Thai society is essentially an open one; membership in 
political organizations is voluntary and the unmonitored 
exchange of ideas is generally permitted.  However, it is 
widely suspected that security services monitor persons 
espousing leftist or controversial views.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for, and Thai citizens generally 
enjoy, a substantial measure of freedom of speech, especially 
with regard to criticism of government personalities and 
policies.  However, criticism of the royal family (lese 
majeste), threats to national security (or advocating a 
Communist system of government), or speaking in a manner likely 
to incite disturbances or insult religion are not permitted 
under the law.

The Government permits open criticism of its policies by both 
journalists and private citizens.  Privately owned newspapers 
and periodicals practice some self-censorship especially with 
regard to the monarchy and national security issues.  Strong 
criticism of political parties, personalities and the 
Government is common and quite robust.  In the past, there were 
rare instances of journalists being killed in order to 
suppress, or retaliate for, their reporting; there were no such 
cases in 1993.  In fact, journalists report they feel free to 
comment on government activities without fear of reprisal.

The Government maintains tighter control over the electronic 
media than it does over the print media.  Radio stations are  
government licensed and operated by government, military, and 
private entities.  They are required by law to broadcast 
government-produced newscasts four times daily and a 
military-produced commentary once a day.  However, in 1993, two 
prominent university stations refused to broadcast the military 
commentary.  There was no government retaliation for their 

Although programmers are generally free to determine the 
content and nature of television broadcasts, a government 
committee set up in 1975 reviews television and radio 
programming.  It is common for internal censorship boards to 
edit or "blackout" portions of programming deemed politically 
sensitive.  In January a popular politically oriented talk show 
was censored because the frank and open conversation was 
considered too controversial.

Authorization for the establishment of two new, privately owned 
television channels was approved last year, and the bidding 
process began in October.  Of the existing five national 
television channels, two are run by the army and three by the 
Government.  Two cable networks (totalling nine stations) are 
available in the capital and operate without significant 
government interference; satellite television is also available 
in other areas of the country.

Representatives of the Thai film industry continued to 
criticize the police-controlled film censorship board, which 
regularly deletes all references in films to a number of topics 
deemed politically sensitive or considered pornographic.  Among 
the topics subjected to censorship are police corruption, 
criticism of the Thai military, misconduct by members of the 
Buddhist clergy, and the 1976 student uprising.  Thai domestic 
publications continued to present a wide range of political and 
social commentary in 1993.

Unless critical of the royal family or the monarchy, foreign 
and domestic books normally are not censored and circulate 
freely.  The 1941 Press Law empowers the police Director 
General to prohibit the import of printed matter deemed 
dangerous to public order and morals.  He publishes a list of 
books barred from import in the "Royal Gazette" each year.  
While the list mainly consists of literature widely regarded as 
pornographic, it also still includes books written by 
Communists.  The Government imposed no new permanent or 
temporary bans on the import of foreign publications during 
1993; the last case of a foreign publication being barred from 
import occurred in 1989.  Academic and technical research was 
conducted freely, including widely publicized research on 
corruption in political parties and the police, in 1993 .  

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

While the Thai legal system generally recognizes the right to 
peaceful assembly, in practice government officials at times 
act to restrict this right.

Official intolerance of public demonstrations appears highest 
in rural areas, particularly in the northeast of the country.  
Residents of these areas who stage peaceful public protests are 
sometimes detained for inciting unrest and assembly of 10 or 
more persons with intent to commit violence; rarely are 
protesters actually charged.  In one ongoing case, students 
were charged with inciting unrest after arranging a protest in 
which one student committed self-immolation; the trial began in 
1990 and all defendants are free on bail.

In 1993 there was one notable incident of violence during a 
peaceful protest.  Thousands of farmers in Kamphaeng Phet 
protested falling rice prices and their rally blocked the main 
roads leading to the provincial hall.  After several days of 
peaceful protest, farmers allegedly injured several policemen 
monitoring the scene.  Police responded by beating the 
protesters with batons, causing 25 injuries and one death.  
After one farmer died from massive head injuries while in 
police custody, local politicians demanded an investigation 
into the killing.  Soon after the incident, relatives of the 
victim decided not to pursue legal action against the police 
after receiving an amount equivalent to $4,000 from the 
provincial administration.  Local officials deny that the 
compensation was awarded to the relatives to persuade them to 
stop legal action.  An interim report by the government panel 
investigating the death that was leaked to the press in June 
absolved the Government of responsibility for the violence.  A 
police probe to identify those officers responsible for beating 
the farmer is ongoing.  

Freedom of association is generally guaranteed for Thai 
citizens as long as it is not perceived to threaten national 
security.  Private associations must register with the 
Government, but permits are not required for private meetings 
or gatherings unless held on public property.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

Freedom of religion is generally practiced and protected by law 
and custom.  The de facto state religion is Theravada Buddhism, 
but other faiths are not restricted.  Religious publishing, 
regardless of faith, is allowed.  Foreign clergy are permitted 
to preach freely, although there are limits on the number of 
foreign missionaries admitted.

There are no restrictions on religious ceremonies or 
instruction, or on conversions from one faith to another, but 
members of minority religious movements have on occasion been 
subjected to legal action.  One example of this has been the 
ongoing trials (begun in 1990) of dissident Buddhist leader 
Phra Potirak and his followers, who have been accused of 
violating the law governing the Buddhist ecclesiastical 
hierarchy and impersonating Buddhist monks or nuns.  Phra 
Potirak and his followers remain free on bail and have 
continued their religious activities.

Like other private associations, religious groups are generally 
required to register with the Government.  Since the 1970's, in 
an effort to limit the number of separate registrations by 
Christian denominations, the Government has required Christian 
church bodies to register with one of five umbrella groups.  
Fixed numbers of work permits for Muslim and Christian 
missionaries and religious workers are allocated to each 
umbrella group.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

The right of citizens to change their residence or workplace 
was unabridged.  Travel was restricted in certain border areas 
where foreign or vestigial domestic insurgent groups remain 
active.  Longstanding restrictions on the travel and place of 
residence of certain Chinese and Vietnamese aliens living in 
Thailand remained in place in 1993.  In addition, some 
long-term noncitizen residents of Thailand must seek permission 
from local authorities for domestic or international travel.

Foreign travel by women may be restricted by a new regulation 
enacted by immigration authorities which requires women to list 
their marital status.  The Government states the new regulation 
is intended to help reduce trafficking in women for purposes of 
prostitution.  There is also a law dating to the last century 
that requires women to obtain their husbands' permission before 
traveling outside Thailand.  Available evidence indicates this 
law is used only to combat trafficking in women for purposes of 
prostitution.  An additional, often criticized requirement that 
female passport applicants under age 36 sit through a series of 
interviews regarding their employment records and finances 
remained intact.  Passport applications by single Thai women 
and children under the age of 14 must also be approved by the 
Department of Public Welfare.  These provisions are intended to 
prevent the export of children for sale and women for purposes 
of prostitution.

The Government has not revoked citizenship for political 

While not a party to international conventions on the status of 
refugees, Thailand has acted impressively in the spirit of 
those agreements by providing first asylum to over 1 million 
people from Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam since 1975.

In May Thai police and soldiers removed 563 Cambodians from the 
Site 2 border camp and transported them to a U.N. High 
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reception center in 
Cambodia.  The group had refused to join the UNHCR repatriation 
convoys that returned 370,000 Cambodians from camps in Thailand 
between April 1992 and April 1993.  Although the return of the 
563 was involuntary, they were not entitled to third country 
resettlement, and there is no evidence that excessive force was 

Thailand continued to provide first asylum to Vietnamese and 
Lao asylum seekers and to process them in accordance with the 
Comprehensive Plan of Action (CPA) agreed to in Geneva in 
1989.  There were no reports of any pushoffs of Vietnamese 
asylum seekers in 1993.

While there were unconfirmed reports of pushbacks of Lao asylum 
seekers by Thai government officials in 1993, Lao asylum 
seekers in Thailand continued to be screened under provisions 
of the CPA to determine their eligibility for refugee status.  
Thailand announced that all Lao camps are to be closed by 1995 
and continued to cooperate with the UNHCR and Laos in a 
trilateral program to facilitate the voluntary repatriation of 
certain Lao in Thailand.

Official Thai policy since April 1, 1989, has designated 
Burmese asylum seekers in Thailand as illegal immigrants 
subject to deportation.  However, senior Thai officials stated 
on several occasions in 1993 that no Burmese recognized by the 
UNHCR as a "person of concern" would be deported.  In November 
1992, the Government opened a first asylum camp in Ratchaburi 
province, commonly referred to as the "Safe Area", for Burmese 
dissidents residing in Bangkok.  Residents of the Safe Area 
have regular access to UNHCR which has concluded that the 
conditions at the safe site meet broadly accepted international 
standards for the protection and welfare of asylum seekers.  
The camp provides legal status for eligible Burmese who have 
been subject to arrest and deportation as illegal immigrants.  
About 150 of the 738 Burmese explicitly authorized to live in 
the camp resided there by year's end.  Despite threats of a 
crackdown, the majority of eligible Burmese refused to move to 
the camp.  Some cited a fear of summary deportation, while 
others preferred the relative freedom of life in Bangkok.  In 
September the UNHCR temporarily withdrew its contractor from 
the camp in response to acts of violence by a few residents 
against her and her property.

Approximately 1,500 Burmese young people, students, and 
dissidents live in camps along the Thai-Burma border.  By 
year's end, there were also about 73,000 ethnic minority 
Burmese residing in some 30 camps in Thailand near the Burma 
border.  In 1993 there were increasing reports that some of 
these camps served as support bases for combatant activities in 
Burma by ethnic insurgent groups against the Burmese military.  
On this basis, the Thai Government ordered the relocation of 
several camps to Burma.  The Thai Government continued to 
permit voluntary agencies to provide food, medical, and 
sanitation assistance along the border.  Thailand also allowed 
the UNHCR greater access to Burmese border camps in Thailand.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

The right of Thai citizens to criticize and peacefully alter 
their government increased in 1993.  The democratically elected 
coalition Government was generally successful in its efforts to 
strengthen democratic institutions.  Although Thailand's 
history has been marked by frequent military coups and powerful 
military-bureaucratic influence over political life, since the 
May 1992 violence the military's role in politics has 
significantly declined.  The multiparty elections held in 
September 1992 were widely deemed the most free and fair in 
Thailand's history.  Although future military intervention in 
politics cannot be ruled out, the coalition Government of Prime 
Minister Chuan is strongly committed to protecting democratic 
principles.  Thailand's current military leadership appears 
genuinely supportive of the civilian government and of 

While there are no legal restrictions on political 
participation, women are generally underrepresented in national 
politics and in high governmental positions.  However, the 
number of women in local and national politics increased in 
1993 as a result of more progressive government attitudes and 
the 1992 MOI decision to abolish regulations that banned women 
from serving as deputy district officers.  In January the 
Cabinet approved Thailand's first female governor and deputy 
governor, and in March the first 13 women were appointed deputy 
district officers by the MOI's Department of Local 
Administration (DOLA).  In May three more categories of civil 
service positions were opened to women, and the first female 
police major general was named in August.  Also, in September, 
a woman was named deputy minister of public health--the first 
woman to be appointed to a Cabinet position by the current 

Although there are no laws that prohibit participation of 
ethnic and religious minorities, these groups remain noticeably 
underrepresented in national politics.  Ethnic minorities in 
the north often lack documentation of Thai citizenship, 
effectively barring their participation in the political 
process. (See Section 5.)

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

Local human rights organizations, which operated without 
government restriction, were more visiblethan previously in 
their attempts to press the Government to institutionalize 
democratic reforms.  Local human rights organizations have been 
credited with helping to bring about changes in laws concerning 
child prostitution, publicizing environmentally threatening 
development, and promoting the status of women.  They also 
continued to pressure the Government to account for those still 
missing after the 1992 demonstrations.

The Government took a more active role in human rights issues 
in 1993 and has generally received positive assessments from 
NGO's and other groups concerned with the protection of human 

In February the Government allowed a group of seven Nobel Peace 
Prize Laureates, including the Dalai Lama and Bishop Desmond 
Tutu, to visit Thailand and advocate the release of fellow 
Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest in 
Burma since 1989.  The decision to allow the Nobel Laureates to 
visit Thailand was significant as it reaffirmed the 
Government's commitment to human rights, even in the face of 
some military and civilian opposition.

International human rights NGO's have worked freely in Thailand 
on potentially controversial and sensitive issues including 
AIDS, narcotics, and refugees.  Although the Government often 
criticizes these groups for being politically motivated and 
biased, it has not penalized or repressed human rights 

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status


Women generally have equal legal rights, with specific 
guarantees of equality with men in the areas of education, 
matrimonial property, the right to choose habitation and 
employment, and child custody.  There has been a National 
Commission on Women's Affairs since 1991.  Inequality remains 
in the area of domestic law.  A man may sue for divorce on the 
grounds that his wife has committed adultery, while a woman 
faces the additional legal burden of proving her husband has 
maintained or honored another woman in a manner equal to his 
wife.  There are no laws in place to punish men who refuse to 
pay child support.

Though no Thai law specifically addresses domestic violence, 
the Criminal Code's provisions on assault and abuse make both 
spousal and child abuse criminal offenses.  While reliable 
statistics are hard to come by, one NGO that counsels abused 
women states that in 1993, 175 cases of spousal abuse were 
reported.  This NGO notes that between 1980 and 1993, there 
were an estimated 2,598 reports from battered wives.  NGO's 
concerned with these issues believe the number of abuse cases 
is rising, and women's rights groups have set up counseling and 
shelters for victims.

Although the Government denounces domestic violence, law 
enforcement has not been vigorous; physical abuse often goes 
unreported.  There is no legal procedure to combat domestic 
violence short of criminal prosecution.  Rules of evidence 
often make prosecuting such cases difficult, especially when 
the victims are children.  Due to these reasons and ingrained 
cultural attitudes that permit spouse abuse, police are often 
reluctant to pursue these cases.  Private women's and 
children's rights groups provide limited legal assistance to 
victims of abuse.  

Prostitution is acknowledged as one of the country's most 
pervasive and troubling social problems.  Estimates of the 
numbers of women and children engaged in prostitution vary 
widely.  According to the Public Health Department, there are 
approximately 75,000 prostitutes in Thailand.  The large number 
of temporary sex workers and the migratory nature of 
prostitution in Thailand makes an accurate estimate of the 
number of women involved in the sex industry difficult.  
Several well-informed NGO groups estimate that the number of 
prostitutes at any given time ranges between 200,000 and 
500,000; other credible sources place the figure at close to a 
million.  However, all NGO's generally discount the 75,000 
figure reported by the Government as grossly misleading.

Women engaged in prostitution typically come from poor rural 
areas, particularly from the north.  With scant economic 
opportunities in their home villages, many turn to working as 
prostitutes in urban areas as a way of fulfilling familial 
obligations and improving the standard of living for themselves 
and their families.  It is common for procurers to advance the 
parents of young women a substantial sum against their future 
earnings; the money frequently is used to pay off debts or to 
build a new house.  The women are then obligated to work in a 
brothel for a fixed period of time in order to pay back the 
loan.  No data are available on the number of women forced into 
prostitution against their will.  Human rights monitors believe 
that the majority of the women who engage in prostitution are 
not kept under physical constraint, although such cases exist, 
particularly with women lured into prostitution from Burma.

In order to combat the lure of prostitution, the Government in 
January set up a vocational training rehabilitation program to 
keep women and children from reentering the sex trade.  The 
Government and NGO's also initiated efforts to educate women in 
rural areas about the dangers of prostitution.

The trend of trafficking in women from hill tribes and 
neighboring countries continued.  Brothel operators reportedly 
favor such women because they are cheaper to buy and their 
inability to speak Thai makes them easier to control.  In a 
widely publicized brothel raid in Ranong in July, 150 Burmese 
women were arrested by police as illegal immigrants and 
prostitutes.  Many of the women claimed they were tricked into 
coming to Thailand by offers of employment.  The women were 
kept locked in dormitory style rooms, and many complained they 
were physically abused by the brothel operators if they refused 
to work as prostitutes.  Because they are considered illegal 
immigrants, the women have no right to legal counsel or health 
care while imprisoned.  Women's rights groups lobbied the 
Government to allow them to provide basic health care to the 
women until they are deported back to Burma, but were denied 
access to the jail.

There have also been a number of well-documented cases of local 
networks that "export" women for prostitution to such countries 
as Germany, Japan, and the United States.  Recent press reports 
publicized the return of 2,000 Thai prostitutes who had been 
working illegally in Japan.  Recruiters reportedly receive 
$12,000 for each prostitute who successfully enters Japan, 
thereby making the export of women lucrative for both the 
procurer and the women themselves, who can earn significantly 
more money abroad.

Despite occasional high profile raids on brothels, laws against 
prostitution have not been effectively enforced.  In many 
cases, brothels pay off local government representatives and 
police.  One NGO has reported publicly that it knows of many 
instances where Thai police drove Burmese women into Thailand 
in police vehicles and delivered them directly to brothels.  In 
the much publicized raid against brothels, hundreds of 
prostitutes were arrested while very few brothel owners or 
police were arrested.  Of these, only a small number were 
charged and even fewer prosecuted.  There are currently four 
laws designed to combat adult and child prostitution, but 
observers note that these laws are rarely enforced.  Under the 
Penal Code, prostitutes are considered criminals, whereas 
brothel owners, procurers, and clients are not subject to 
criminal statutes.  In September a Cabinet resolution was 
passed to begin drafting a revision of the antiprostitution 
laws to include customers, procurers, and brothel owners and to 
reduce punishments for the prostitutes themselves.  Poor 
legislation, police corruption, and ingrained cultural norms 
are widely blamed for the lack of effective measures against 

Statistics compiled by NGO's concerned with women's issues note 
that women represent half of the economically active 
population; women outnumber men in nonfarm enterprises.  Women 
are also more likely to migrate to urban areas for employment, 
and female workers dominate the primary export industries of 
textiles, shoe manufacture, food production, and tourism.

The number of women in professional positions has increased, 
and government regulations require employers to fix the same 
wages and benefits for similar work regardless of sex.  
However, discrimination in the workplace continue to exist, and 
there is a significant gap between average salaries earned by 
men and women as a result of the concentration of women in 
traditionally lower paying jobs.  In rural areas, sex 
stereotypes are more pronounced with regard to employment and 
social status, but even urban women face discrimination and 
negative stereotypes.

NGO's concerned with the status of women became more active in 
1993.  Local NGO's have been credited with pressing the 
Government to abolish discriminatory practices within the civil 
service (see Section 3).  Primarily privately financed and run, 
women's organizations focus on providing legal assistance, 
health care, and counseling for victims of abuse.  These groups 
report that while they receive generally positive feedback from 
the Government and other NGO's, they face difficulty in 
combating ingrained cultural stereotypes of women.


There is widespread abuse of children in prostitution and child 
labor.  The Government is committed to eliminating child 
prostitution, and the Cabinet passed a resolution in September 
to begin revision of the existing Criminal Code to include 
clients and procurers of child prostitution.  As in the case of 
adult prostitution, the current laws against prostitution have 
not been adequately enforced.  Although NGO's have attempted to 
track the number of children involved in the sex industry, 
there are no accurate statistics.  In the past few years, NGO's 
and government agencies have begun to counsel young people 
about the dangers of prostitution and the threat of AIDS.

The Criminal Code provides for the protection of children from 
abuse, and laws on rape and abandonment provide for harsher 
penalties when the victim is a child.  As in the case of 
domestic violence against women, police are often reluctant to 
pursue abuse cases, and rules of evidence makes prosecution of 
child abuse cases difficult.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Progress in integrating ethnic minorities into Thai society has 
been limited.  Only half of the estimated 500,000 to 700,000 
members of hill tribes are believed to possess documentation as 
Thai citizens, which prevents them from exercising their basic 
rights, including participation in the political process. 
Advocates consistently cite the difficulties faced by many hill 
tribe members in obtaining Thai citizenship as the primary 
obstacle to their successful integration into society.  The 
hill tribe population has higher incidences of disease, 
unemployment, drug abuse, and prostitution than other groups in 

Vietnamese who entered Thailand prior to 1900 enjoy all the 
rights of ethnically Thai citizens.  However, the approximately 
45,000 Vietnamese who fled Indochina in the 1940's and 1950's 
and reside in northeastern Thailand live under a set of laws 
and regulations restricting their movements, residences, 
education, and occupations.  As the threat to Thai national 
security declined, the Government has seen it in Thai interest 
to incorporate the Vietnamese population into Thai society.  
The Government has pursued a more lenient policy toward 
longtime Vietnamese residents in recent years and moved quickly 
to process naturalization applications of approximately 30,000 
third generation Vietnamese born in Thailand who became 
eligible for citizenship in 1992.  Vietnamese residents must 
apply for permission to travel within Thailand or to study in 
the universities, but permission is usually granted.  
Noncitizen Chinese and their descendants who migrated to 
Thailand in the 1960's and live in border areas must seek 
permission from local authorities to travel.

     Religious Minorities

Muslims represent a significant minority within Thailand as a 
whole and constitute the majority in the four southernmost 
provinces that border Malaysia.  Although the Government has 
attempted to integrate the Muslim community into Thai society 
through development efforts and expanded educational 
opportunities, recent violence in the south demonstrates that 
divisions remain.  The southern provinces are not only 
separated by religion but by language and culture as well.  
Discrimination against Muslims is widespread.  There are no de 
jure restrictions on Muslim participation in the political 
process and several Muslims hold powerful positions within the 
Government.  However, Muslims remain underrepresented in 
postsecondary education and consequently in many professions.

Following a spate of arson attacks and other violence in 
southern Thailand in August 1993, security forces arrested and 
charged four Muslim suspects believed to be supporters of the 
separatist PULO.  The trial of the first suspect arrested has 
begun, but could take several years as over 40 prosecution 
witnesses are scheduled to take the stand.  The Government has 
been criticized by some Muslims for its decision to try the 
suspects in Bangkok in order to protect witnesses from being 
intimidated.  In the wake of the violence, army troops have 
engaged PULO fighters in occasional skirmishes which have 
produced minimal casualties on both sides.

     People with Disabilities

Since the disabled rehabilitation bill was approved by 
Parliament in 1991, the Government has taken few steps to 
implement the bill's provisions.  The bill established a quota 
system and employer incentives for hiring the disabled, but did 
not include provisions for special education or training in the 
workplace.  There are no laws or regulations mandating access 
for disabled persons.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

The Labor Relations Act of 1975, as amended in 1991, grants 
freedom of association only to private sector workers.  The 
1975 Act extends to these workers the right to form and join 
unions of their own choosing without prior authorization; to 
decide on the constitutions and rules of these associations and 
unions; to express their views without government or employer 
interference; to confederate with other unions; to receive 
protection from discrimination, dissolution, suspension, or 
termination by any outside authority because of union 
activities; and to have employee representation in direct 
negotiations with employers.  However, no law explicitly 
protects workers from discrimination due to their participation 
in organizing new unions which have not yet been officially 
registered.  There are widespread reports that workers seeking 
to organize unions face discrimination from employers.  The 
1975 Act specifically withheld from government workers the 
right to form unions.  Nonetheless, civil servants may and do 
form "employee associations," which are influential in 
determining salary scales, benefits, and conditions of 

Since the advent of the democratically elected Chuan 
Government, the labor environment has improved.  On September 
23 a new Ministry of Labor was created to take over functions 
which were previously the responsibility of the Ministry of 
Interior, reflecting a change from the traditional tendency in 
the Government to view organized labor as a security problem.  
In 1993 the Government also passed laws which improved 
maternity and overtime benefits for state enterprise workers.

In April 1991, the military-appointed National Legislative 
Assembly amended the 1975 Act to exclude state enterprise 
workers, who represented half of organized labor in Thailand, 
and enacted a new State Enterprise Labor Relations Act (SELRA), 
which dissolved all unions in this sector.  In place of unions, 
workers in each state enterprise could form a single 
"association" after at least 30 percent of the enterprise's 
employees submitted a petition to the Department of Labor to 
register such association.  These associations may submit 
employee grievances to management and propose changes in 
benefits and working conditions, but may not negotiate wages.  
Associations do not have the right to confederate or to join 
private sector federations.  Unofficial contacts between public 
and private sector unions have continued, however, and the 
democratically elected Government that took office late in 1992 
has not interfered with these relationships.  A number of 
associations have maintained affiliations their predecessor 
unions had with international labor organizations.

The SELRA, like the 1975 Act, denies all state enterprise 
workers the right to strike.  In the past, public sector unions 
circumvented this prohibition by holding "extraordinary 
meetings" which took workers off the job for days at a time.  
The SELRA requires associations to hold general meetings only 
on weekends and holidays, with severe sanctions for holding 
unauthorized meetings during work hours.  Also, under 
Announcement 54 of 1991, both management and labor must select 
outside advisers from those who have been certified by the 
Ministry of Labor as having the requisite qualifications.  The 
ministry offers training courses for those not fully qualified 
on the basis of prior experience.  Advisers can be removed for 
violations of the government-established standards.  Labor 
leaders maintain that government involvement in the selection 
of labor advisers weakens their ability to organize and to 
bargain collectively.  Seven labor leaders from the state 
enterprises have been certified as labor advisers, out of a 
total of 600.  However, many state enterprise labor leaders 
refuse to apply to become labor advisers, believing that to do 
so would lend credibility to a system which they do not want to 
support.  Announcement 54 also requires that a proposed strike 
in the private sector be approved by a majority of the union 
members in a secret ballot.

In November 1991, the International Labor Organization (ILO) 
strongly criticized the SELRA.  The ILO faulted it for 
dissolving unions, transferring their assets, limiting the 
number of associations which may be formed in each state 
enterprise, setting unusually high minimum membership 
requirements for associations, denying associations the right 
to affiliate with private sector unions, and completely 
forbidding strikes in state enterprises.  Enforcement of these 
restrictions, like enforcement of laws generally, is less than 
complete.  The ILO continues to request that the Government 
rescind the law.  The Chuan Government proposes to replace the 
SELRA with a new version of the law which effectively restores 
the rights enjoyed by state enterprise workers prior to the 
promulgation of the SELRA.  The proposed law has been endorsed 
by state enterprise labor leaders.  It has been approved by the 
Cabinet and by the Juridical Council, but the last 
parliamentary session in 1993 ended before the legislature 
could consider the bill.  The Government has said the new SELRA 
will be a priority agenda item when the parliament reconvenes 
in May 1994.

With respect to the private sector, under the 1975 Act the 
Government has the authority "to restrict the right to strike 
whenever a strike would affect national security or cause 
severe negative repercussions for the population at large."  
The Government seldom invokes this provision and did not do so 
in 1993.  However, local enforcement officers often threaten to 
use this provision when dealing with strikes in progress.  Thai 
labor law also forbids strikes in "essential services," defined 
much more broadly than the ILO standard.  No strikes were 
disapproved on those grounds in 1993.

Labor unrest has been relatively minimal since a period of 
social upheaval in the mid-1970's.  Because of the red tape 
involved in getting government approval for a work stoppage and 
the lack of understanding of proper labor procedures on the 
part of many union leaders, the number of approved strikes has 
averaged fewer than 10 annually for the past 15 years--there 
were 7 in the first 6 months of 1993.  Unauthorized strikes are 
far more numerous, with 103 occurring from January to June.  In 
these work stoppages (deemed "unauthorized" because the law's 
procedures had not been followed) management often ends up 
making some of the concessions demanded by workers.  However, 
gains from such strikes are frequently won only at the cost of 
excessive acrimony (by Thai standards) which could be avoided 
by a more effective bargaining process.  There were also seven 
lockouts in 1993.  In two of these instances, the Ministry of 
Labor determined that management had not bargained in good 
faith, as required by the 1975 labor law, so as to justify the 

Almost 60 percent of the work force is employed in the largely 
unorganized agricultural sector.  Even before the dissolution 
of state enterprise unions, less than 3 percent of the total 
work force, or about 12 percent of the industrial work force, 
was unionized.  Factors discouraging the growth of organized 
labor are the antiunion sentiment and paternalistic approach of 
employers, the Thai preference to avoid confrontation, and a 
provision of Thai labor law permitting the formation of private 
sector labor unions with as few as 10 members.  This provision 
has resulted in a proliferation of small, weak unions--about 
700--grouped into 7 national federations.  It also helped to 
create a type of labor hustlers who formed small unions and 
threatened strikes in order to extract payoffs.

While violence against labor leaders is rare, the 1991 
disappearance of leading labor activist Thanong Podhiarn 
remains unsolved.  There are often reports of intimidation of 
union leaders by management.  In one highly publicized case, 
the management at the Thai Durable Textile Company announced a 
layoff of 376 workers to pave the way for increased 
productivity.  Those to be laid off included the senior local 
union management.  The Government intervened on behalf of the 
workers, and the Interior Minister threatened to invoke the law 
and order the company to reinstate the workers.  The company 
then agreed to offer a relatively generous severance package to 
all workers to stimulate voluntary departures.  More than 500 
took the offer.  However, six union leaders whom the company 
insisted on dismissing at year's end were still fighting in the 
labor court to keep their jobs.

Although there is a legacy of corrupt public sector union 
leaders who were exploited by the military, politicians, or 
employers for their own purposes, private unions generally 
operate independently of the Government and other outside 
organizations.  The 1975 Act encourages this policy by 
exempting union officials from prosecution in pursuing the 
interest of their followers "provided that the activity does 
not involve politics."  Unions are free to associate 
internationally with other trade union organizations and they 
maintain a wide variety of such affiliations.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The right to organize and bargain collectively is recognized 
for Thai private sector workers under the 1975 Act, which 
defined the mechanisms for such negotiations and for 
government-assisted conciliation and arbitration in cases under 
dispute.  Despite the law, genuine collective bargaining 
probably occurs only in 10 to 20 percent of workplaces which 
are unionized.  In practice, bargaining in most instances 
continues to be characterized by traditional paternalistic 
attitudes on the part of employers and a lack of education on 
labor organization and/or willingness to be assertive on the 
part of workers.  Under the SELRA, state enterprise employees 
may propose changes in working conditions, but not wages, to a 
government-dominated labor relations committee in each state 
enterprise.  The ILO's Committee on Freedom of Association, 
however, questions whether true collective bargaining takes 
place within the labor relations committees established by 
SELRA, since their proposals require approval by the relevant 
ministry and enterprise.

The Government sets wages for both civil servants and state 
enterprise employees.  A system of labor courts created in 1980 
exercises judicial review over most aspects of labor law for 
the private sector.  However, when courts determine that a 
worker has been unjustly dismissed, they usually order 
severance pay compensation rather than reinstatement.  Workers 
may also seek redress for their grievances from a tripartite 
Labor Relations Committee.

The SELRA has no explicit provision allowing state enterprise 
employees to appeal to the labor courts.  Instead, they may 
apply to an overall State Enterprise Labor Relations 
Committee.  Though no precise records are kept of the 
determinations of the State Enterprise Labor Relations 
Committee, it typically hears two or three cases a month and 
labor leaders have not indicated dissatisfaction with the 
treatment their concerns have received in this forum.  

There are several special export processing zones (EPZ's) in 
Thailand, with many more planned to stimulate the growth of 
export-oriented industry.  No separate labor legislation 
applies to EPZ's, where wages and working conditions in fact 
usually exceed national norms.  There are some trade unions and 
a few collective bargaining agreements in EPZ's.

In August 1993, the Government, for the first time intervened 
to force resolution of a case where a private company was 
refusing to bargain in good faith.  Workers at the Thai 
Pattraporn Company had been legally on strike for 10 months 
when the Government called on both sides to reopen the factory, 
prompting an illegal lockout.  The Minister of Interior invoked 
Article 35 of the Labor Act of 1975, which forced the Thai 
Pattraporn Company to end the lockout.  After reopening for a 
time in accordance with the Government's order, the company 
chose to close permanently rather than submit to arbitration.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Constitution prohibits forced or compulsory labor except in 
the case of national emergency, war, or martial law.  The ILO 
has criticized provisions of legislation which in theory could 
punish with imprisonment or forced labor acts of labor 
indiscipline, participation in illegal strikes, or propagation 
of Communist ideology.  At the request of the Government, an 
ILO direct contacts mission went to Thailand in September to 

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The legal minimum age for employment is 13.  The law permits 
the employment of children between the ages of 13 and 15 only 
in "light work."  The employment of children at night (10 p.m. 
to 6 a.m.) is prohibited.  The Government has estimated that 
there are 100,000 children between the ages of 13 and 15 in the 
labor force, but the actual number is probably much greater.  
Stated government policy is to increase the minimum age to 14 
by the end of the Seventh National Economic Plan in 1996, with 
an expectation to raise the minimum to 15, the ILO standard, by 
the end of the Eighth Plan in 2001.  The Government has 
initiated a teacher training and school construction program, 
that when completed, will allow it to increase the number of 
years of compulsory education from 6 to 9.

Child labor continued to cause considerable domestic and 
foreign criticism in 1993.  The Chuan Government has committed 
itself to enforce the existing child labor laws.  In June 1993, 
the ILO, which in 1991 issued a "special paragraph" against 
Thailand, welcomed the Government's commitment to eliminate 
exploitation and illegal use of existing child labor but 
stressed that much more needs to be done.

In 1992 the Department of Labor more than doubled the number of 
inspectors specifically responsible for child labor issues.  In 
addition, the number of general labor inspectors increased from 
500 to 618 in 1993.  Prosecutions against employers for illegal 
child labor rose from 7 in 1991 to 29 in 1992 to 34 in the 
first 8 months of 1993.  As of December, 22 violators had been 
fined and two had been jailed.  Nonetheless, police raids 
continued to find children under age 13 working illegally and 
others employed in dangerous, unhealthful, or otherwise harmful 
circumstances.  Enforcement of child labor laws remained 
inadequate.  There are no export industries in which child 
labor is significant.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

A tripartite wage committee consisting of government, employer, 
and worker representatives in 1993 again increased the daily 
legal minimum wage.  Minimum wage rates now vary between $4 and 
$5 per day (100 to 125 Baht) depending on the cost of living in 
different provinces.  The wage is not adequate to support a 
worker and his family, but as the Thai often live in extended 
families with financial contributions from several members, 
often including single members working away from home and 
sending a portion of their wages back, the minimum wage 
provides the basis for a marginally adequate standard of living 
overall.  Unskilled migrant workers who pour into Bangkok from 
the poorer countryside often work at less than the minimum 
wage, as do many in the agricultural sector.  The Government 
has not mandated a uniform workweek for the entire labor 
force.  Commercial employees work a maximum of 54 hours per 
week, employees in industry 48, and those in "dangerous" work 
such as in the chemical, petroleum, mining or other industries 
involving heavy machinery 42.  Transportation workers are 
restricted to no more than 8 hours per day.  Enforcement of 
these standards is spotty.

Working conditions vary widely in Thailand.  In medium and 
large-size factories, government health and safety standards 
are often maintained.  However, in May 1993 fire broke out at 
the Kader Toy Factory near Bangkok and nearly 200 workers lost 
their lives in the worst factory fire in Thai history.  The 
majority of those who died were women, many of whom had brought 
with them their children, who also perished.  The tragedy was a 
vivid reminder of the lax enforcement of safety standards that 
continues to be all too common even in large enterprises.  As 
of December, the Government was pursuing actions against the 
company owners in the courts.  Thailand's large informal sector 
is subject to even less effective inspection.  Employers are 
able to ignore safety regulations in part because workers do 
not have access to safety and health standards and are thus 
unable to report violations.

[end of document]


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