Cambodian Migrant Workers Strike at Phatthana Seafood Factory


Primary Goals
1. Reinstatement of a 20 baht (67cent) daily hard work bonus, and 20 baht food allowance to increase salary to 286 baht per day;

2. Return of passports to workers to allow repatriation for those wanting to return to Cambodia

Supplementary Goal
3. Free housing as promised in the original contracts by CDM Trading Manpower. (This goal wsas added after the primary goals were secured).

Time period notes

The grievance was first raised to attention in Cambodia on January 23, 2012. Campaign actions began April 8.

Time period

April 8, 2012 to May 17, 2012



Location City/State/Province

Songkhla Provice

Location Description

Phatthana Seafood Factory
Jump to case narrative

Methods in 2nd segment

Methods in 3rd segment

Methods in 5th segment

Methods in 6th segment

Segment Length

6.5 days

Notes on Methods

One report notes that workers continued protest actions for free housing and access to medical treatment once wage increases were secured. There is no available information on what these actions were, when they took place or how long they lasted.


Sok Sorng (strike representative)


Migrant workers from Myanmar and Thailand

External allies

CLEC – Community Legal Education Center
SERC – State Enterprises Workers' Relations Confederation
Andy Hall, Mahidol Migration Center
Human Rights Watch
United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (called on Walmart to intervene)
Task Force on ASEAN Migrant Workers
Making Change at Walmart

Involvement of social elites

You Ay, Cambodian Ambassador to Thailand


Phatthana Frozen Food Factory, CDM Manpower Trading

Nonviolent responses of opponent

Not known

Campaigner violence

Not known

Repressive Violence

Gun shots fired above striking workers as intimidation tactic during 8-10 April strike


Economic Justice
Human Rights



Group characterization

Migrant Workers
human and labour rights organisations

Groups in 1st Segment

Migrant workers at Phatthana Seafood Factory
Andy Hall
Making Change at Walmart

Groups in 2nd Segment

United Food and Commercial Workers International Union

Groups in 3rd Segment

Task Force on ASEAN Migrant Workers

Groups in 5th Segment

Groups in 6th Segment

SERC May 15

Additional notes on joining/exiting order

Change to Win and Making Change at Walmart were involved as international solidarity partners. SERC's involvement was reported during 6th Segment but may have been involved earlier.

Segment Length

6.5 days

Success in achieving specific demands/goals

6 out of 6 points


1 out of 1 points


3 out of 3 points

Total points

10 out of 10 points

Notes on outcomes

All demands were met by Phatthana Seafood for the different groups. Some groups demanded immediate release of their passports and repatriation, others increased wages and conditions such as free housing. Some campaigners paid for their passports to be released before Phatthana began releasing the passports at no cost.

International solidarity partners attempted to draw attention to consumer connections, particularly through Walmart and Rubicon are major purchasers and shippers of Thai seafood. This was an area of significant movement growth.

Most Cambodian workers repatriated to Cambodia as soon as their passports were released. Some paid the "required" fee, others waited until Phatthana released them at no cost.

The group of workers who did not win concessions were the so-called “illegal” immigrants who were procured directly by Phatthana without passports and immigration documents. However, there was never a specific demand by the workers to address this issue – instead, workers' rights groups highlighted their particular situation.

Database Narrative

Thailand is one of the world's largest exporters of shrimp, with customers all over the globe including the US, Europe and Australia. Walmart's purchases of Thai shrimp provided around 70 percent of the US market.

On 23 January 2012 Keo Ratha, a Cambodian migrant worker at the Phatthana Seafood Factory in Thailand, contacted the Cambodian newspaper Phnom Penh Post to call attention to poor working conditions and broken contractual agreements with the factory and CDM Trading Manpower, the company which recruited hundreds of Cambodians to work at the factory.

Following the news article, and Keo Ratha's subsequent forced repatriation back to Cambodia, Cambodia's legal aid NGO, the Community Legal Education Center, began investigating the situation to ensure workers were sufficiently represented.

On 8 April between 1000 and 2000 workers, including 700 Cambodian migrant workers, began striking at the seafood factory. They were joined by migrant workers from Myanmar (Burma) and Thailand. The workers demanded the reinstatement of a 20 baht (0.64USD) daily hard work bonus and 20 baht food allowance which had been cut after the Thai government announced a law ensuring a minimum wage for workers across the country. 

The Cambodian workers also demanded the return of their passports which were being held by Phatthana officials, and free housing and access to medical treatment. International human rights law requires workers to have access to their identity papers. Phatthana, however, held on to workers' passports so workers could access their papers only after paying a significant holding fee of 6000 baht ($194 USD).

Workers at the factory claimed this was not the first mass strike at Phatthana, with current workers having waged two previous strikes that resulted in higher wages. The striking workers publicly stated that they would continue the strike until their demands were met.

After hearing about the case, a number of Cambodian, Thai and international human rights and and labour organisations claimed that the Phatthana Seafood Factory was engaged in debt bondage, a form of slavery.

The Thai Vice-Minister of Labour Anusorn Kraiwatnussorn sent staff to Songkhla (the province where the factory is located) to investigate the issue. Workers expected talks between workers and management, but on 9 April no management turned up. Instead, police fired shots in the air. Workers returned to their accommodation vowing to return the next day.

On 10 April workers returned and management promised to return passports to the documented workers who wished to leave, and release them from their contracts. Management said that undocumented workers, on the other hand, would be required to pay 6500 baht or face termination without repatriation, leaving them in Thailand with no legal status.

About 200 Cambodian workers voluntarily repatriated to Cambodia at this time.

International pressure groups including, Human Rights Watch, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, State Enterprises Workers' Relations Confederation, Making Change at Walmart and, began lobbying Walmart, a key purchaser from the Phatthana Seafood Factory. Walmart made public statements that it was “investigating” the issue. No further specifics were given to the nature of the investigation. Andy Hall from the Maihidol Migration Center called on Australians to question where their seafood was coming from.

Workers claimed that Phatthana was charging 1000 baht ($30 USD) for the return of their passports, reduced from the 6000 baht ($194USD) price before the protests.

You Ay, the Cambodian Ambassador to Thailand issued a statement that she ordered CDM Trading Manpower to settle the issue quickly and smoothly or face losing their business license.

Workers also reported that Phatthana management retained half of their salary every two weeks to ensure they did not leave.

On 13 April You Ay reported that 90 percent of Cambodian workers had agreed to return to work following negotiations. However, Phatthana refused to allow workers who struck to return to work until the 19th -- after the New Year weekend -- leaving many without money and up to 300 workers relying on NGOs for food.

By 18 April workers told newspapers that Phatthana had agreed to half of their demands:  to pay a 20 baht daily salary raise, but not a 20 baht daily food allowance. The firm also agreed to 50 baht per hour overtime pay.

Workers continued protesting for free housing, which they argued was promised by Cambodian labour firm CDM Trading Manpower in the contracts they signed prior to leaving Cambodia. 

On 19 Apr a further thirty undocumented Cambodian workers from the factory fled over the border to Cambodia. 

On the 20th, Phatthana returned 500 passports to Cambodian workers. Many workers were still too poor to return to Cambodian and planed to continue working at the factory until they could afford the cost of repatriation.

About 100 undocumented Cambodian workers were uncertain about their situation. An attache from Myanmar arrived to address the Burmese workers' concerns.

Cambodian Ambassador You Ay, and Phatthana management met face to face on 23 April, while a coalition of NGOs called the Taskforce on Asean Migrant Workers issued a statement to ASEAN to introduce binding protections for migrant workers and to significantly increase penalties against employers who seize migrant workers’ identity documents.

On 6 May Internet-based advocacy organisation began its online petition calling on Walmart to pressure companies to end human trafficking and allow independent monitors to audit factories, rather than company officials.

On 10 May worker representative Sor Song said that conditions at the factory had improved significantly since they negotiated a 266 baht daily wage last month but confirmed that undocumented workers were still being forced to pay the 6,500 baht fee.

On 15 May The State Enterprises Workers' Relations Confederation (SERC) asked a major US buyer to get involved in alleged violations of workers' rights at Phatthana Seafood Co.

On 17 May, You Ay, the Cambodian Ambassador to Thailand announced that an agreement had been reached between the factory management and workers, allowing Cambodian workers to access their passports and repatriate back to Cambodia if they wished to do so. They would not be bound to their original contracts. Part of the deal included access to free housing and medical treatment, which were part of the original contracts made between individual workers and CDM Trading Manpower.

You Ay said she had helped strike an agreement that ensured the workers received free housing, required CDM Trading Manpower to visit the factory every month and address their access to healthcare.

The situation of the undocumented workers had not been one of the formal demands of the campaigners. After the campaign's victory, undocumented workers remaining in Thailand continued to face both high prices and multiple steps to gain legal status for working in that country. 


Previous strikes by workers at the factory had won concessions such as increase of wages “from 166 to 177 baht plus food allowance” (1)
International solidarity advocacy campaign pressuring Walmart as major buyer of Thai seafood(2)


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Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy

Chris Baker Evens 15/06/2012