Thai court finds Andy Hall – British human rights defender – guilty of defamation

September 20, 2016

A Thai court found British labor activist, Andy Hall, guilty of defaming a fruit canning company, and gave him a suspended prison sentence in a case that has raised serious concerns among human rights workers and free speech advocates. He was found guilty of criminal defamation against Natural Fruit Company Ltd. in connection with a 2013 report he researched for the Finnish consumer organization Finnwatch that alleged labour abuses at the company’s facilities. [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2013/04/11/defamation-charges-against-hall-will-chill-labor-rights-in-thailand-says-human-rights-watch/]

Andy-Hall-court

The case raises questions about Thailand’s punitive criminal defamation laws and the ease of being condemned for violating the Computer Crimes Act because the information was posted on the internet. Hall was given a suspended sentence of three years with a probationary period of two years, and a fine of 150,000 baht ($4,300). He said he will appeal the ruling. He was allowed to go free after his fine was paid. Two civil suits by the company against him are pending, as is an appeal against his acquittal on a previous criminal defamation charge.

I don’t feel any shame, I don’t feel any regret. But I feel it is an injustice, what’s happened here today,” Hall said. “I respect the decision of the court, but I feel real injustice, not for me, it’s not about me, this case was never about me, it was never about Andy Hall doing research about migrant workers. It was about a human rights activist doing research for the public interest.”

Sonja Vartiala, executive director of Finnwatch, said her organization was “shocked by today’s verdict.” “The report was authored and published by Finnwatch; we take full responsibility for it,” Vartiala said. “Andy has been made a scapegoat in order to stifle other voices that speak out legitimately in support of migrant worker rights.” “This is a sad day for freedom of expression in Thailand,” … “We fear that many other human rights defenders and victims of company abuse will be scared to silence by this ruling.”

Finnwatch was not sued, nor was the Al Jazeera news network, to whom Hall gave an interview that was the basis for part of the cases against him.

Virat Piyapornpaiboon, the owner of Natural Fruit, said justice was done. “I think that it’s not important whether he goes to jail or not, but what’s important is whether or not what he said was true,” Virat said. “This is proof that no matter who you are, if you are not just and you make up stories and cause damage to others, you must be punished.

Source: Thai Court Finds British Activist Guilty of Defamation – The New York Times

https://business-humanrights.org/en/thailand-court-finds-migrant-rights-defender-andy-hall-guilty-of-defamation

http://sea-globe.com/british-activist-andy-hall-found-guilty-defamation-thai-court/

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