Monday 16 December 2002

Thais flee jobs, complain of conditions in Malaysia

Opposition seeks Labour inquiry

The Labour Ministry will be asked to look into the plight of Thai workers in Malaysia following complaints of harsh working conditions and dishonoured employment terms.
Ong-art Klampaiboon, head of the opposition's working group on labour problems, said one complaint came from a group of seven Thai labourers who had managed to sneak back to Thailand to escape hardship in Malaysia.
The group was among 13 Thai workers who chose to trek four hours through dense Malaysian jungle to get home, to escape cruel treatment by their employers.
The other six Thais were arrested by Malaysian police before they reached the border, he said.
The Thais, mostly employed as farm hands, were paid less than agreed. Mr Ong-art said that in the worse cases, the workers were given only food. Their employers seized their passports to stop them escaping.
``The living conditions of the workers were generally poor. The workers complained that in some places, only one toilet was available for 100 workers,'' he said.
Another 23 Thais are thought to be lost in the jungle inside Malaysia, he said.
Mr Ong-art said Thai workers were in high demand, after Malaysia launched a major drive against illegal migrant labourers from Indonesia.
The Thai workers were sent to Malaysia by local job placement companies.
However, on their arrival in Kuala Lumpur they found that they would be given different jobs at lower wages, Mr Ong-art said.
The Democrat MP said he would contact the Labour Ministry today to discuss ways to help the workers get home and to rescue those still trapped in the jungle.
Many workers had contacted their families here, saying they wanted to come home but could not because their passports had been taken by their employers, Mr Ong-art said.