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Issue #1791      August 23, 2017

Region Briefs

Sri Lanka: In July, tens of thousands of workers at the state-owned Ceylon Petroleum Corporation went on an indefinite strike reacting to plans to privatise part of their sector. The government enacted the essential services law, banning industrial action in key sectors of the economy, and mobilised the army to prevent workers from demonstrating and organising. With the arrest of over 20 labour activists and the authorities demonstrating willingness to use force, the strike was broken. On August 1, union leaders met with President Sirisena and then declared that no further industrial action was needed. This was based on a promise that a clause would be inserted into the lease agreement with China Merchants Ports Holdings (CMPH) for Hambantota Port that could be amended at any time. The workers were opposed to selling the Sri Lankan facilities to other countries, as they saw this sale as being a further attack on their conditions.

Thailand: With an apparent forced abduction of Wutthipong “Ko Tee” Kochathmmakun by a group of armed Thai-speaking individuals, the Thai military junta’s reign of oppression has now spread into neighbouring Laos. Ko Tee had been a fierce critic of the Thai Monarchy and military for years, calling for a federal state. Facing charges of defaming the royal family he fled the country in the aftermath of the coup in 2014. Watana Muangsook, a politician from the Pheu Thai Party, and Pravit Rojanaphruk, a senior reporter at Khaosod English, who have consistently criticised Thailand’s Junta and the Lèse Majesté law, have been charged over separate Facebook posts under the draconian article 116 law against sedition.

Korea: On August 10, tens of thousands of plant construction workers at Gwanghamun Square staged a massive rally in Seoul. The workers demanded improvements in pay and working conditions. In another sector, brewery workers employed by the global AB In Bev group held strike action against the company’s violation of their collective bargaining agreement. In a separate development, Samsung Electronics have tried bribing the lawyer representing the workers who are suing the company over toxic workplaces. Semiconductor and LCD workers who became unwell were mostly in their 20s and 30s, 76 of them have died.

Malaysia: At the end of a 13-year struggle, hundreds of workers won back their collective agreement and restored collective bargaining rights from the Shangri-La hotel group. The struggle began in 2004 when the Shangri-La hotel’s “Rasa Sayang” closed its doors for two years, for the owner to renovate the resort. After the renovations were finished and the hotel was re-opened, the employer told the workers that the wages and benefits agreed to under the pre-existing collective agreement no longer applied, because the hotel was “new”. The National Union of Hotel, Bar and Restaurant Peninsular Malaysia (NUHBRW) which represented the workers is also involved in another dispute with the Shangri-La Hotels group.

Next article – Culture & Life – Who is the real “Rogue State”?

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