Thai Garment Factory Inspection Policies In Spotlight Amid Starbucks Probe

Myanmar migrant workers in Thailand
Migrant workers from Myanmar test the quality of monitors as they work on a TV assembly line at a factory in Bangkok, Thailand July 22, 2019. Picture taken July 22, 2019. (Photo: REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun)

Thailand's garment factory inspection policies are now being questioned after Starbucks announced a probe on plants in Mae Sot that supply fabrics to global firms. Experts are now raising concerns about how the country's inspections are being carried out.

According to The Thaiger, industry experts are questioning Thailand's ability to perform inspections in garment factories and if the policies are being implemented as expected by local and global regulations.

The questions about Thailand's plant inspection policies came shortly after workers who spoke with Reuters revealed that they did not receive their payslips yet. NGO Map Foundation revealed that while they have evidence of payslips, the documents showed that workers were not being paid right.

A senior government official said that he was aware of some instances wherein factory workers at garment companies were not being paid the right amount for their service.

Mae Sot is located 500km away from Bangkok and it is considered the entrance into Thailand's trading center in the west. The town is particularly attractive to migrant workers who travel from neighboring countries so they can make money.

The supposed minimum wage in Thailand is 310 baht, or approximately $10.15. However, migrant workers from Myanmar who agreed to the exposé said they were being paid less than the said amount.

Deputy-Director General of Thailand's Department of Labor Protection and Welfare, Somboon Trisilanun, said the government has been planning to kick off an inspection into Mae Sot garment factories. He said the town "is a black hole."

MAP Foundation further revealed that only around six garment plants in the Tak province are paying their workers right. The non-profit organization noted that many laborers feared their jobs would be lost if they reported to the authorities.

The exclusive report by the Thomson Reuters Foundation revealed that four factories are being investigated by Starbucks. Sports gear provider Bauer Hockey will also join the investigative work.

A spokeswoman for Starbucks said the supplier denied claims made by the workers who exposed their struggles with pay. The representative added that the coffee giant is taking the revelations seriously and a "full investigation" is underway.

A spokesman for Bauer Hockey echoed Starbucks' comments about the investigation, stating that the sports company will "take all necessary action" to ensure that the supplier complies with domestic and international laws on wages.

Mae Sot is a notorious region known for having a stronghold against inspections. Somboon said the area has multiple garment plants that make it hard for the authorities to inspect appropriately.

The Thai government has yet to announce whether it will launch its own investigation regarding the matter.

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