Beyond the Mekong

Fighting Back: Trade Unions in Thailand and Myanmar

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Beyond the Mekong | Economy | Southeast Asia

Fighting Back: Trade Unions in Thailand and Myanmar

A conversation with Dave Welsh from the Solidarity Center.

Fighting Back: Trade Unions in Thailand and Myanmar
Credit: Photo Supplied

Independent trade unions in Thailand and Myanmar are currently doing it hard, with authoritarian regimes in both countries taking a dim view of labor activism and using the courts to silence complaints over plant closures and even disputes over railway safety.

Charges against the State Railway Union of Thailand and13 unionists, including Sawit Kaevwan, head of the overall Thai Trade Union Movement, and court orders issued against major garment brands like Victoria’s Secret, Torrid, and Lane Bryant are among them.

Dave Welsh is the country director for Thailand and Myanmar of the Solidarity Center, an international labor rights organization headquartered in Washington, D.C. with offices and programs in 60 countries.

A lawyer by background, Welsh has previously been the Solidarity Center’s director in Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia, and Bangladesh over the past 16 years.

Welsh spoke with The Diplomat’s Luke Hunt about growing support for independent trade unions as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to punish regional economies, forcing businesses to restructure – which all too often leaves workers stranded without compensation.