Releasing original court testimony threatened Myanmar defence witness Natural Fruit Case

One of Andy Hall’s Myanmar migrant worker defense witnesses in the Natural Fruit vs. Andy Hall case, who previously testified at court to being a
former worker at the Natural Fruit Company Ltd. for several years, on
Saturday 1st November formally reported to Thai police allegations of
being subject to threats and tracking over several days.

This developing situation has led this witness and his family to fear
for their personal security and well-being and has significantly
disrupted their lives. This worker and his family had previously been
re-located securely some distance out of the Natural Fruit Company Ltd
area as preparation for becoming a case witness.

As a result of this developing situation, Andy Hall and his legal team
have made the decision to release publicly BELOW the original (and
unofficially translated) testimony of this witness, named Aung Kyi,
given to Prakanong Court on 10th September 2014.

In this testimony, Aung Kyi explains under oath from several years of
allegedly working at Natural Fruit Company Ltd. about his conditions
of work and those of others like him.

The purpose of distributing this information publicly is to ensure
future protection/safety of Aung Kyi, one of Andy Hall’s defence witnesses and
a brave migrant worker, and NOT in any way to impact negatively on or
damage the reputation of Natural Fruit Company Ltd.

Andy Hall and his legal team will now be formally petitioning the Ministry of
Justice and related authorities under the Thai government responsible
for ensuring witness protection and promoting the rights of migrant
workers/anti-trafficking measures.

Should the Thai government not be able to provide adequate protection
to such persons as Aung Kyi, a serious question about Thailand’s
willingness and ability to promote and protect the rights of migrant
workers would surely arise.
——————

Defence witness testimony (lead) For court use
[Garuda]
Case No. Black 2051/2557
True Copy
Phrakhanong Provincial Court
[Signature]
(Mrs Sutthi Kitiprawat) 30 September BE 2557 [2014]
Specialist, Courts of Justice
18 June 2557
Criminal Case

(Prosecutor, Office of the Attorney-General Plaintiff
(
(Natural Fruit Co Ltd Joint Plaintiff
Between
(Mr. Andrew Jonathan Hall or Mr. Andy Hall Defendant

I, witness, have taken an oath and wish to testify as follows.

Name Mr Aung Kyi

Born – date, – month, – year, age 25 years

Position or Profession Employee

Address 18/1 Kingkaew Village, Kingkaew Rd, Bang Phli District, Samut Prakan Province

Relationship to the parties No relationship

And I wish to testify further in answer to questions by the defence lawyer (witness gave evidence through an interpreter, Mr Ti, who was on oath)

I worked at Natural Fruit Co Ltd from 2551 [2008] as a forklift truck driver and left Natural Fruit Co Ltd on 21 April 2557 [2014]. At the time of leaving I worked as a 10-wheel truck driver carrying pineapple and aloe. At that time, my final salary was at a daily rate of 270 baht. From the 270 baht there were compulsory reductions for water, electricity and accommodation.

When a foreigner came to interview workers at the end of May 2555 [2012], I knew about it. There was request to interview me. I went to give an interview. The foreigner did not interview me. The reason I knew about the interviews was that we were together.

I do not know about a woman who came for more interviews in 2556 [2013]. I then changed the testimony that I knew there was a woman called Aung Sa. She came to interview last year on labour rights and I do not know who that woman worked for.

– 2 –

When I worked, these were the conditions inside the factory. I witnessed an incident in which a security guard physically assaulted an employee. The factory withheld my passport together with all the workers’ passports.

In the factory there were 20-30 workers who were under 15 years of age. Since their parents worked, the children joined in the factory work and there were cases of overtime forced on unwilling workers.

In the factory there were both legal and illegal workers.

Inside the factory, those who didn’t have a card could only go to areas around the factory. Workers could not move to work elsewhere.

I didn’t work anywhere else other than Natural Fruit Co Ltd. The company had 4 factories. There were Burmese workers like myself working in all 4 factories which were all close by each other, sharing the same conditions.

Responses to cross examination by prosecutor

No questions.

Responses to cross examination by co-plaintiff’s lawyer

I came to court today because I was brought here. [The witness pointed at the person who brought him to testify in court today, naming him as Mr Jo So Ren.]

What I have testified is in accordance with the truth. The lawyers or the ones who brought me did not coach me in what to say.

Natural Fruit Co Ltd conducts business involving 2 types of fruit: rambutan and pineapple. It also does business with aloe plants.

At the time I resigned from Natural Fruit Co Ltd, my wage was 300 baht per day. Whether or not the 270 baht I received was the result of deductions for accommodation and electricity as the prosecutor asked, I would not know because no payslip was given to us to check.

On receipt of the wage, I had to sign my name. I did not complain abut the amount. All of the workers in the factory did not receive 300 baht a day, only 270 baht due to a deduction for transport.

[Signature] Witness [Signature] Co-plaintiff’s representative
[Signature] Plaintiff [Signature] Co-plaintiff’s lawyer
[Signature] Defendant [Signature] Defendant’s lawyer

– 3 –
(40 Pho) For court use
(Note of Testimony of Mr Aung Kyi)

I saw a security guard physically assault a worker in 2553 [2010]. The injured person was a cousin of mine. But I did not report it. The injured person’s name was Loi.

When I say there were 20-30 workers under 15 years of age, it was in 2551-2552 [2008-2009] when I went to work in the factory.

I worked in many jobs such as mechanic, driver of a forklift truck, and also factory work.

I drove a forklift truck for 2-3 years. I did not get along with the supervisor so I moved to work in the factory.

I saw child workers in the factory, but when someone came to visit this factory, they were brought together in one place so no one could see them.

When I was working there, a Burmese leader came to visit the factory but I didn’t know who it was/

Provincial labour officials came to inspect the factory many times.

When labour officials came to inspect the factory, I did not report the case of assault on a worker because I did not dare to do so as I was afraid of the boss.

The fact that Natural Fruit Co Ltd took workers’ passports was in order to extend them properly. On the improper conduct of Natural Fruit Co Ltd, this testimony in court is the first time I have talked about it.

Responses to re-examination by defendant’s lawyer

In taking the passports for extension, each worker had to pay 150 baht for it. Natural Fruit Co Ltd kept the passports and when it was time for extension, they would collect 150 baht from each worker. After the extension, they did not return the passports to the workers.

Responses to judge’s questions

I was born in Tenasserim. I came to Thailand in 2549 [2006] when I was about 18-19 years old. I entered at the Singkhon Checkpoint, Prachuap Khiri Khan Province together with an older brother who worked in Thailand. I did not personal documents with mw when I left Burma, no passport, only a card issued by the Burmese authorities.

My brother took me to work in rubber-tapping and construction with an employer called Chu for about 1 year. In the meantime, I gave my personal documents to the employer to apply for a work permit.

– 4 –

The reason I came to work at Natural Fruit Co Ltd in 2551 [2008] was because a friend was working there and I asked the friend about t and he took me to apply for a job there. In applying for the job, I did not have an alien card or passport. I contacted a staff member whose name I do not remember. A photocopy was made of the Tho Ro 38 document issued by the Ministry of Interior. Natural Fruit Co Ltd proceeded to acquire a Tho Ro 38/1 document for me and I was told that the expense for the document was 4,900 baht. After that a deduction of 500 baht per month was made against my wages to pay for the expense. Apart from the document I also received a health insurance cad for Pranburi Hospital where I went once for treatment for my throat which was affected by dust while driving. The hospital charge was 30 baht.

Initially I worked in pineapple canning. The working hours were 8:00 to 17:00 with a break from 12:00 to 13:00, from Monday to Saturday with Sunday as a rest day.

While working there I loved in a row of rooms near the factory. I shared a room with 6 workers.

The room had no equipment at all. There was a bathroom attached and there was water for use and electricity. We had to pay for accommodation and for water and electricity, 150 baht in total per 2 weeks. The factory deducted this from our pay. During 2551-2553[2008-2010] there were documents showing a list of deductions for electricity, water, room rent, uniforms, hats and gloves. These are one-time deductions; the short cost 150 baht, gloves 35 baht and hat 45 baht. Newcomers did not have cash to pay so the factory deducted it from their ages. The required garments such as hats, gloves and shirts had to be bought by the workers. Those who had cash could pay for them outright, but they could not be bought elsewhere. I could not read the payslip but asked others to read and translate it for me.

I worked past 17:00 hours because the work was not yet finished and ad to be completed. In such cases, workers received overtime payments. I worked overtime too, sometimes until 4 or 5 in the morning. I did so voluntarily because I needed the money.

The company paid the workers twice a month, on the 5th and the 20th.

When I acquired a passport, the company started to deduct social security payments.

[Signature] Witness [Signature] Co-plaintiff’s representative
[Signature] Plaintiff [Signature] Co-plaintiff’s lawyer
[Signature] Defendant [Signature] Defendant’s lawyer

– 5 –
(40 Pho) For court use
(Note of Testimony of Mr Aung Kyi)

[The witness exhibited his passport to the court and it showed that it was issued in 2011.] I applied for a passport in Rayong Province. Natural Fruit Co Ltd told me to go and get a passport. I don’t remember how much I paid for it. The factory deducted 500 baht per month from my pay to pay for the expense. A staff member of Natural Fruit Co Ltd took me to get it. I don’t remember how much was deducted from my wages to pay for it and how.

In the initial period when I had a passport, there was no social security. I heard that if one does not have a passport, one cannot obtain social security.

On the day I went to apply for a passport, other workers were also taken together amounting to a full busload of workers. I received the passport on the same day I applied for it. The staff of Natural Fruit Co Ltd who took me to apply for a passport, kept my passport without telling me why. I received the passport back in 2555 [2012]. It was returned to me and all the workers.

In cases when I needed the passport for some transactions that required passports, I asked the factory for it and was given it. But there were cases when people asked for their passports and they disappeared altogether, so the company did not return the passports.

After I acquired a passport, the company deducted social security contributions from my pay. At that time I received 240 baht per day.

I worked in pineapple canning. At that time I received 240 baht per day.

I worked in pineapple canning for 2 years and did various work in the factory. Layer on, I head that a driver had left, so I told the manager that I could drive and would like to work as a driver. Initially, I was put to drive forklift trucks for over 2 years. Before I resigned I worked as a 10-wheel truck driver taking pineapple waste to the dump site. It was a 10-wheel truck. I did not have a driving licence. I was stopped by policemen. When I told them I was an underling of an MP, I was let go. I was stopped 3 times. The police stopped all trucks to inspect them, asked to see the driver’s licence and asked whether they were Burmese or not. But when told the trucks belonged to an MP, they let them go.

I have made use of my social security rights at Pranburi Hospital.

– 6 –

At the time I left Natural Fruit Co Ltd, the factory had a lot of Burmese workers. When they fell sick, they had to travel to hospital themselves since not all of them had social security coverage; some of them did not have passports but they were able to work and earn the same wage as me.

There were workers I know that do not have social security, but I don’t know how many. / Read

[Signature] [Signature]
(Mr Sukhum Namwiset) (Miss Rotsawan Thapsuphan) Recorders/Readers

[Signature] Witness [Signature] Co-plaintiff’s representative
[Signature] Plaintiff [Signature] Co-plaintiff’s lawyer
[Signature] Defendant [Signature] Defendant’s lawyer
[Signature] Miss Fongjan (Interpreter) [Signature] Mr Ti (Burmese Interpreter)
Wiphachari … Court Official/Typist

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