Agents of Change: Migrant Grassroots Organising in Thailand’s Agriculture and Fishing Sectors

Globally, the agriculture sector is the second largest source of employment after the service sector. Often subjected to temporary employment conditions, many agricultural workers are excluded from national labour protection laws, including those safeguarding minimum wages, maximum working hours, and social security entitlements. The fishing industry, specifically the catching and processing of fish and other seafood products for commercial profit, has also long been characterised by its informality, with fewer regulations than other industries. Throughout the world, both the agriculture and fishing sectors heavily rely on migrant workers, who often work under precarious conditions due, in part, to state-sanctioned restrictions on their right to unionisation.

In Thailand – a country whose agriculture and fishing sectors depend on migrant labour – the Labour Relations Act B.E. 2518 (1975) prohibits foreign workers from forming unions and serving on a union’s executive council. Given the constraints placed on migrant agricultural, fish, and seafood processing workers in terms of their employment conditions and migration status, the Mekong Migration Network (MMN), a sub-regional network of civil society organisations, conducted a research project exploring the different ways in which these workers collectively organise into grassroots groups. In doing so, MMN seeks to gain a better understanding of the challenges they face, and the benefits such groups bring to their members and migrant communities across Thailand.

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Executive Summary in Thai and Burmese.