Burmese factory workers and security guards in violent clash

Bangkok (Mizzima) – A fight between security guards and Burmese factory workers led to injuries, damage to four vehicles and three motorcycles and a security guard and policeman being held hostage in Bueng Samphan District on Wednesday.

Police were called to the factory in Petchabun Province in northern Thailand. The incident was covered on television, and negotiators finally restored calm on Thursday.

The factory, owned by Golden Line Business Company, employes more than 6,000 workers, mostly female. About 5,000 workers are Burmese and 1,000 are Thai.

Workers said a fight broke out after workers who were relaxing and playing guitars were ordered by security guards to stop. Workers said a security guard beat a Burmese worker on the head with a pistol butt and detained him.

‘The Burmese worker was held at gunpoint and then he was beaten with a gun butt. He was injured in the forehead’, Ko Ye, one of the Burmese workers, told Mizzima.

The injured worker was detained in the factory’s public relations department, said workers, who went to the department to negotiate for his release. When that failed, clashes broke out between workers and security staff.

A factory foreman told Mizzima, ‘I told the workers to be calm, but in vain. I was hit by a stone when I was outside the department’.

The workers demanded the two security guards who beat the Burmese worker be turned over to them, but the negotiations collapsed and serious violence broke out, workers said. The security staff fled to outside the factory compound and then the workers destroyed three cars in the compound. A car and three motorcycles were also pushed into the water, Burmese workers said, and they took a security guard  hostage.

Police came to the factory Wednesday night. Workers took away a policeman’s camera and detained him inside the factory, said the factory foreman.

Armed police were posted at the entrance and exit to the  factory compound overnight. Talks went on between workers and management and the next morning the boss came to the factory and the security staff was released, workers said.

Thursday morning a TV station broadcast a report about the incident. ‘They said that Burmese workers ran riot’, said a worker.

Ko Ye, a worker, said, ‘In fact, we have made sacrifices for the factory for a long time. But, we didn’t have rights. For instance, earlier a Burmese worker was injured by a security staff motorcycle. The worker was not given compensation. So, we had to collect money from the workers for his medical fees’.

He said workers were also unhappy that female workers were spoken to rudely and subjected to sexual harrassment.

The factory boss agreed to pay the worker who was beaten 20,000 baht (US $600) in compensation, the security guards who beat the worker were dismissed and he agreed to address the workers’ other concerns.

‘The boss promised that everything would be fine. He told us to be calm and hard-working’, said Ko Ye.

On Thursday afternoon, factory authorities cleared the debris.

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