Lao workers suffer abuses in Chinese-owned factory in Luang Prabang


Lao workers complained of abuses and unfair labour practices in a Chinese-owned cement factory in Luang Prabang City, claiming they suffer long hours of work at no extra pay and physical assaults in the hands of Chinese employees.

One worker at the CONH Luang Prabang Co., Ltd., Factory told RFA’s Lao Service in an interview this week, those who report late for work find their salaries cut.

“But if we work two or three hours overtime, we aren’t paid for the extra time,” the worker said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“Some days, we don’t even get a lunch break,” he said, adding, “Many of us have quit.”

Another worker confirmed the factory’s refusal to pay overtime for extra hours worked.

“But if we’re even two or three minutes late, our salary will be reduced,” the worker said, adding that no health care is provided for factory employees, and that workers falling ill must pay for their care by themselves.

Meanwhile, Chinese factory employees freely beat and assault Lao workers at the plant, sometimes tying them together and forcing them to stand for long hours in the sun, other sources said.

“I once put some pieces of rusty scrap metal and put them in the back of my pick-up truck, but three Chinese men stopped me at the gate,” a truck driver hired by the factory told RFA.

“A short time later, another worker drove up to the gate with two bags in his truck, and the Chinese stopped the guy and then handcuffed the two of us together and had us stand out in the sun for 12 hours.”

In another incident, a plant security guard said that while on duty one day at 2:00 a.m., he picked up a piece of wire to tighten a fence. “Suddenly, the Chinese came and accused me of stealing it, and hit me on the face, legs, and arms,” he said.

Another worker meanwhile said that he had witnessed beatings too. “About two weeks ago, I saw the Chinese tying up two Lao workers together and then kicking them,” he said.

A local police officer told RFA that the Lao workers who were attacked should have reported the matter immediately to village authorities.

“What the Chinese did was wrong,” he said. “They must be charged.”

The Chinese employees’ actions reported by Lao workers at the factory “are wrong and need to be investigated,” an official from the Luang Prabang Labor and Social Welfare Department told RFA in an interview this week.

“We investigated this factory months ago, but we had no access to workers. We only spoke to the management team,” he said.

On January 15, the Lao Ministry of Planning and Investment reported that 800 companies are now invested in 12 special economic zones nationwide. These employ only 2,607 Lao workers, though, only 9.74 percent of the total workforce of 27,000, the Ministry said.

Most workers are Chinese, making up about 20,000 of the total, with Vietnamese workers numbering about 3,500, according to Ministry figures.

Chinese-owned industrial, hydropower, mining, and tourism projects in Laos have meanwhile caused friction with local residents over pollution, loss of farmland, and economic compensation for displaced villagers, sources told RFA in earlier reports. (Source: RFA)