Left to eat uncooked meat in the dark, workers sealed in Thai factory protest mistreatment

Cal-Comp workers staged a protest Thursday night to complain about conditions and demand action by the factory’s management and health officials. Photo: Petchpoom Hot News
Cal-Comp workers staged a protest Thursday night to complain about conditions and demand action by the factory’s management and health officials. Photo: Petchpoom Hot News

Sealed inside a factory to contain a COVID-19 outbreak, hundreds of frustrated and angry migrant workers say they’ve been left in the dark by power outages without adequate food and no medical care.

The poor conditions that led more than 1,300 workers at the Cal-Comp Electronics factory in Phetchaburi province to protest, including loss of electricity for 12 hours, had not been addressed as of today, according to workers and an NGO there, and no Thai authorities had arrived to help.

“We take care of each other. No officers here,” Tlay Nyo, one of the Burmese workers stuck at the site, said by phone in Thai. “There was no electricity for hours yesterday and we don’t know if it will happen again today.”

A photo of Cal-Comp workers checking each other’s blood pressure. Photo: Than Zaw Htike / Courtesy
A photo of Cal-Comp workers checking each other’s blood pressure. Photo: Than Zaw Htike / Courtesy

The actual number of workers stuck at the factory is unclear. While media reports put it at 1,300, Tlay Nyo said there are at least 1,500 Burmese workers plus others who are Cambodian. 

While he said that he had received enough food, others said they did not.

“At around 9am today, a worker told me they had not been given breakfast,” Than Zaw Htike of the Migrant Workers Rights Network, who is currently at the site, told Coconuts Bangkok.

He confirmed Tlay Nyo’s assertion that there were no Thai officials present as of Monday morning. 

The number of infected workers has ballooned in the past week. Labor rights campaigner Andy Hall said the most recent count had put it at more than 3,500 people.

Calls to Cal-Comp went unanswered as of publication time. It is owned by Taiwanese manufacturing concern New Kinpo Group. It supplies electronics to U.S. computer maker HP as well as Japan’s Hitachi and Konica Minolta, according to the Migrant Workers Rights Network. Two years ago it paid compensation to workers who were led into virtual slavery by large debts to the recruiters who got them jobs there.

The Cal-Comp Electronics factory was ordered shut from May 21 through June 4 after nearly 700 of its  3,300 workers tested positive for COVID-19. 

Phetchaburi provincial health chief, Petcharuek Tansawat, said the closure of the factory was a “voluntary decision” by the management, who promised to care for the employees quarantined inside. 

Than Zaw Htike shared photos taken inside of the workers taking care of their own by checking each other’s blood pressure along with images of uncooked meat the workers were forced to eat last night because the electricity had been cut for hours.  

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Some of the Burmese workers, who account for the majority, cited discrimination among the workforce as well – saying the Thai workers received more food of a higher quality.

On Thursday, officials said they were alerted at around 5pm about the factory’s power problem. It wasn’t restored until almost midnight.

Uncooked meat provided for workers who lacked electricity to prepare it. Photo: Than Zaw Htike / Courtesy
Uncooked meat provided for workers who lacked electricity to prepare it. Photo: Than Zaw Htike / Courtesy

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