December 2, 2008
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On November 27, 2008, a Bangkok labour court gave Body Fashion Thailand, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Triumph International, the green light to dismiss union president Jitra Kotshadej.
The company filed a case against Ms. Kotshadej in relation to her participation, during her private time, in a national television debate wearing a t-shirt saying: ‘Those who do not stand are not criminals. Thinking differently is not a crime.' The t-shirt refers to the right of people not to stand when the royal anthem is played and the abuse of lèse-majesté legislation to suppress political opposition.
Claiming that her appearance damaged the company's reputation, Body Fashion Thailand first dismissed Ms. Kotshadej in July 2008 after an earlier labour court hearing.
In response, more than 2000 of her co-workers walked out to demand her reinstatement. After a 45-day strike, the company and the union agreed to a retrial of the dismissal case, since Ms. Kotshadej, who had never been properly informed of the company's charges against her, was not able to present a defence at the initial labour court hearing.
Triumph International's Code of Conduct "emphasise[s] the paramount importance of the protection of human rights laid down in the "[United Nations Universal] Declaration of Human Rights", Article 19 of which states: "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers." Triumph's Code also explicitly supports freedom of association and prohibits acts of anti-union discrimination as set out in ILO conventions.
"Although the company has every right to distance itself from Ms. Kotshadej's personal opinions, it has an obligation to support her right to express them," says Tessel Pauli, coordinator of the Clean Clothes Campaign, which has been coordinating support for the Triumph workers.
Ms. Kotshadej will appeal the recent labour court order.