Global Policy Forum

Unions Fight Privatisation


By Nick Fredman

Green Left Weekly
March 17, 2004

Marching behind a banner reading "Thailand is not a company Thaksin", tens of thousands of Thai workers protested in the Thai capital on March 9 against the plans of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinauatra's government to privatise the country's electricity supplier.

The Shinauatra government has plans to rapidly privatise all state-owned enterprises, a move actively campaigned for by the country's capitalist class, represented by the Federation of Thai Industries. The struggle over the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) seems set to be a major contest between the government and Thai workers and poor.

Protesters, organised by unions representing workers at EGAT and other state enterprises, surrounded Government House and demanded Shinauatra negotiate with unions, which he has so far refused to do. After the rally, Sirichai Mai-ngam, chairperson of the EGAT union, said "we did not meet him today but he cannot run away from us".

The protest movement, which has also consisted of thousands of workers picketing the EGAT head office continuously since late February, has forced the government to give some indications of a backdown. It has apologised for the speed at which the electricity privatisation plan was adopted and is hinting that electricity and water privatisation plans may be negotiable.

However, unions are demanding that all privatisation plans be scrapped and that any further proposals be preceded by public hearings and referenda. Under Thailand's constitution, adopted in the wake of the 1992 pro-democracy uprising, citizens have the right to petition for referenda.

Unions are also putting forward proposals for the extension of the public sector.



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