Trans4mind Home Page

The Thai Labour Museum - a History of Strife, Sweat and Toil

By Eric Lim

The Thai Labour Museum is housed in a modest single story

red building by the railway line near the Makkasan railway

station. The building used to be the railway police station, then

the railway labour union office, before being converted to a

museum on 17 October 1993.

The monument outside the Thai Labour Museum signifying

the "Dignity of Labour" shows a man and a woman pushing a

huge wheel, the wheel of history.

The museum captures the 300-year history of the Thai labour

movement from the days of slavery to the present, tracing the

evolution of the Thai labour.


The journey in the Thai Labour Museum starts with the period

of slavery. Since the 1700s slaves and commoners or Phrai

worked without wages. The Phrai were tattooed with their

names of the area of abode and their masters.

The advent of paid labour

The Bowing Treaty in 1855 in the reign of King Rama IV

opened up trade and pressure for reform. Increased labour

demand was met by the influx of Chinese immigrants. This was

the advent of paid labour though conditions were abysmal.

Reform - the abolition of slavery

In 1873, King Chulalongkorn or King Rama V abolished

slavery, a watershed in the history of Thai labour fittingly

recorded in the Thai Labour Museum. All men were free to

seek employment for a fair wage.

Political reform and the labour movement

The early 1920s had no clear government policy on labour.

Labour had no right of organization. Industrial disputes and

strikes were frequent. Intellectuals, the pioneers of the labour

movement, tried to raise awareness to this growing problem.

The 1932 coup brought hopes of improvement. The Thai Tram

Workers Association, the first labour union was formed. A

nationalist economic policy required Thai ownership of

companies, registration of unemployed and recognition of

workers' rights.

World War II and the Cold War

The Japanese occupation in World War II put a halt to things,

causing unemployment, inflation and severe hardships. Many

workers joined the underground resistance movement.

Thai labour's setback continued during the Cold War. Military

dictators, who were staunchly anti-communist and anti-labour,

clamped down on labour as workers' rights and unions were

considered unfavourable to investment.

The turbulent 1970s to the end of the century

Widespread discontent forged an alliance of workers, farmers

and students that boiled over in 1973. The video in the Thai

Labour Museum gives a detailed account of the events leading

up to the bloodbath on 14 October 1973.

Other problems were that of abuse of child and women labour

and gross neglect of workers' safety. In 1993 188 workers,

mostly women, perished when a fire burnt down the Kader

Doll Factory. The 1997 economic crisis was another bitter pill.

Thai labour and Songs for life

The last stop in the Thai Labour Museum is a fitting finale as it

embodies the spirit of the politically disenchanted, the

exploited and neglected. The labour movement took their

plight to the people through music.

Hardships and toil are expressed through songs with poignant

images of broken dolls and tearful children mourning the loss

of their mothers in the Kader Doll Factory fire.

Current issues facing Thai labour today

Issues still facing Thai labour today are a fair minimum daily

wage, the privatization of state enterprises and workers' safety.

Will a new page be written in Thai labour history for inclusion

in the Thai Labour Museum?

About The Author
Eric Lim, is a free-lance writer who lives in Bangkok Thailand.

This article first appeared in a historical travel site on people, places and events that left their mark in the landscape of Bangkok. For more, please see

From our extensive site, you'll find good info on many topics using this search:

Support your personal development with these popular and effective hypnosis downloads...

  • Public Speaking Fear ~ Banish speaking anxiety and nerves with hypnosis.
  • Motivate Yourself to Exercise ~ Build a powerful exercise habit that you can't break.
  • Get Rid of Fear & Anxiety ~ Stop worry and apprehension wrecking your life.
  • Self Esteem ~ Break the negative trance of low self esteem and give yourself a chance in life.
  • Create Your Own Reality ~ Use the power of your unconscious mind to transform your life.
  • Deeper Self Respect ~ Use hypnosis to connect with your true inner worth.
  • Detach From Fear ~ Tune out nervousness and anxiety with hypnosis.
  • Improving Concentration and Focus ~ Learn how to discipline, direct and command your mind to improve your performance.
  • Exercise Motivation ~ Give you powerful keys to getting back on track with your exercise - and staying there.
  • Overcoming Shyness ~ Provides an invisible security blanket allowing you to develop social ease and overcome shyness.
  • Quick Confidence Booster ~ An audio hypnosis session that's specifically designed to get you (quickly!) back on track.
  • Stop Negative Thoughts ~ Learn powerful hypnotic techniques to stop negative thoughts before they start.
  • Overcoming Procrastination ~ Let hypnosis help you get on with what you need to do, when you need to do it. Let nothing hold you back.
  • Think Thin ~ Use hypnosis to re-train your brain and lose weight naturally... that's how to get and stay slim.
  • Fall Asleep Fast ~ Relearn how to fall asleep fast and enjoy a good night's sleep.
  • The Next Level ~ Designed to radically boost your performance in any field. It's based on a technique used by top athletes and other successful people to help them make a big stride forward.
This is our selection of favorites, but there's a session for every need! Choose from over 800 Hypnosis Downloads...
Search now on an issue that interests or concerns you...

Welcome to the New Wave in Meditation Technology

Click here to learn more about the iAwake Profound Meditation Program
The iAwake Profound Meditation Program
is a way of enhancing your meditation practice, making meditation not only easier and more enjoyable, but also more efficient and effective.
Profound Meditation provides the smoothest, deepest, richest, most profound meditation experience available anywhere...
Here is a link to a free 20-minute track from iAwake Technologies - a sample of the type of tools that will deepen your meditation immediately and help you quickly become a successful meditator. It's the opening track of iAwake's flagship product, the Profound Meditation Program, called the iAwake Experience...
Learn More and Download the iAwake Experience
We think you'll find this technology a tremendous aid on your transformative journey of becoming your best and most creative self - and you can get started today!
Copyright © 1997-2016 Trans4mind Ltd