Community craft centre exploiting indigenous Karen weavers

Karen weavers claim to be paid less than minimum wage

Members of the Bang Kloi Karen community employed as weavers in a community craft centre have accused the centre of exploiting indigenous workers. The Karen workers claim they suffer poor working conditions and are paid less than the minimum wage.

Community craft centre exploiting indigenous Karen weavers | News by Thaiger
The craft centre at Pong Luek-Bang Kloi Village employs members of the indigenous Karen community as weavers.

Activist Anchalee Ismanyee said weavers are paid much less than the official minimum wage in Phetchaburi province of 335 baht (US$10) per day. Working conditions at the centre are not up to standard, with insufficient lighting in the building causing eye problems for workers.

A weaver working on her house balcony, with a backstrap loom in Mae Takri, Doi Saket District, Chiang Mai Province. Photo by Sali Sasaki.
It takes up to eight months to complete a piece of fabric. Weavers are not paid daily but for each piece of fabric.

Workers are paid as little as 5000 baht (US$160) for each piece of textile they complete. That’s roughly two weeks of minimum wage, and they have to wait two months after completing their work before being paid. Anchalee said community members are constantly in debt.

The community craft centre once did not pay weavers for four months, without giving any reason for the delay.

Community craft centre exploiting indigenous Karen weavers | News by Thaiger
Activist Anchalee Ismanyee said the craft centre employs around 50 people from Pong Luek-Bang Kloi Village.

Anchalee said that the community craft centre employs around 50 people from the Pong Luek-Bang Kloi Village, mostly women who have no land to farm.

The Bang Kloi indigenous Karen community was forcibly evicted from Chai Phaen Din, their ancestral homeland in the Kaeng Krachan forest, in 1996, and for a second time in 2011, when park officials burned down their houses and rice storage barns.

They were relocated to the Pong Luek-Bang Kloi Village, and each family was promised land by the authorities but were not allocated the agreed amount. The land they were given is not suitable for agriculture.

In late January 2021, members of the community returned to Chai Phaen Din. On March 5, they were forcibly removed from the forest and taken into detention with 29 people charged with encroaching on national parkland.

The Kaeng Krachan Forest Complex, which includes the Kaeng Krachan National Park and three other conservation areas, was named a natural World Heritage site in July 2021, despite ongoing concerns about human rights violations against indigenous communities in the area.

Detail of an embroidered tunic using local fruit seeds as ornaments. This community in Doi Saket has re-introduced the use of natural dyes in recent years through the support of a training programme. Photo by Sali Sasaki.
Bang Kloi textiles.

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Jon Whitman

Jon Whitman is a seasoned journalist and author who has been living and working in Asia for more than two decades. Born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland, Jon has been at the forefront of some of the most important stories coming out of China in the past decade. After a long and successful career in East sia, Jon is now semi-retired and living in the Outer Hebrides. He continues to write and is an avid traveller and photographer, documenting his experiences across the world.

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