Asia’s Dismal Record of Workplace Safety —Factory Disasters from Bangladesh to Thailand
20 years after the Kader Factory Fire
Bangkok, Thailand (May 10, 2013)-As another garment factory burned in Dhaka and the death toll topped 1000 following the April 24 Rana Plaza garment factory collapse in Bangladesh, Asian occupational victims’ rights groups today commemorated the anniversary of the tragic Kader toy factory fire that claimed the lives of 188 Thai workers 20 years ago.
Muhammad Mominur Rahman, a survivor of the November 2012 Tazreen factory fire in Bangladesh that killed 112 workers, said at the press conference, “Less than six months ago I was forced to jump three stories to escape a fire, which engulfed the coworkers around me. We were locked inside the factory. No one should have to face such dangerous and deadly conditions to go to work to support their families. These senseless tragedies must end.”
“Two decades after the Kader industrial disaster in Thailand that robbed so many young people of their lives, it is criminal that workers’ bodies are still being pulled out of the ruins of factories in Asia,” said Chalee Loysung, chairperson of Thai Labour Solidarity Committee. “Governments and employers must be held accountable and workers must be guaranteed the right to freedom of association and to collectively bargain to ensure a safe workplace.”
Only weeks before the September 2012 factory fire that killed nearly 300 workers in Karachi, Pakistan, Social Accountability International, a nonprofit auditing firm, gave the factory a health and safety certification. “Corporate social responsibility driven initiatives and self-regulatory mechanisms have failed time and time again to protect workers,” said Sanjiv Pandita, executive director of the Asia Monitor Resource Centre (AMRC). “Government institutions must be strengthened to protect workers, guilty employers must be prosecuted, and occupational victims must be compensated.”
At the press conference, which was held at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Bangkok, AMRC also released a new legal resource handbook covering ten Asian countries for practitioners working to obtain compensation and justice for sick and injured workers in collaboration with members of the ANROEV network.
“There is a systemic attack on the national institutions that are supposed to be enforcing the laws” explained Noel Colina, director of the Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development in Manila. “We have very weak regulatory institutions throughout Asia and we have to stop the attack on workers. That’s why we have produced the legal handbook to give workers and their advocates an additional tool to remedy the situation.”
About ANROEV: The Asian Network for the Rights of Occupational and Environmental Victims (ANROEV) is a coalition of victims’ groups, trade unions and other labor groups committed to the rights of victims and health and safety at the workplace. The 1993 industrial disasters of Kader and Zhili, which killed more than 250 workers in Thailand and China, led to a campaign by the labor and victims groups in Asia towards better health and safety rights of the workers and the victims.
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Contact: Omana George, Asia Monitor Resource Centre—0860755645 or 0920464833 (English)
Ardcha Premruedeeleert, Solidarity Center–0867132924 (Thai)