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3 Mär 2023

Emily Dugan, The Guardian (UK)

Thai factory used by Tesco faces criminal charges over treatment of workers

Thai police have brought criminal charges against a clothing factory that was used by Tesco to make F&F clothes, over its treatment of workers.


The charges mark a major change in tack by Thai police after the Guardian reported that officials initially took one day to conclude no laws were broken in what was dubbed a “sham” investigation. Less than a month after that article was published, the police went back and interviewed 52 workers again and have now brought charges.


Police said the second interviews established that VKG “had committed offences,” and that criminal charges were filed at the end of January. They denied their initial investigation had found no laws were broken, contradicting a statement made at the time.


The superintendent [of Mae Sot police station] said workers had documentary evidence to support their statements and that the investigation was continuing. “Within the next week we plan to interview 52 Myanmar migrant workers. We have enough evidence to prosecute VK Garment and associates, both documents and witnesses.”

Oliver Holland, a partner at Leigh Day representing the workers in the UK lawsuit, welcomed the new Thai police investigation.


Roisai Wongsuban of Freedom Fund said there was frustration that charges had not been brought over allegations of illegally low pay and forced labour.


Tesco did not comment on the latest charges but in an earlier statement a spokesperson said: “Protecting the rights of everyone working in our supply chain is absolutely essential to how we do business. In order to uphold our stringent human rights standards, we have a robust auditing process in place across our supply chain and the communities where we operate.

“We understand the Thai labour court has awarded compensation to those involved, and we would continue to urge the supplier to reimburse employees for any wages they are owed.”

Sirikul Tatiyawongpaibul, the managing director of VKG, did not respond to requests for comment. She previously said the factory had not broken any laws. “We have provided safe working conditions to all employees,” she said. She added the claims should be presented in court and could not be commented on, given the pending appeal in Thailand.