Andy Hall, British labour labour rights defender, flees Thailand

November 7, 2016

 

British rights activist Andy Hall leaves the Bangkok South Criminal Court
Andy Hall – Image copyright REUTERS

On 7 November 2016, the BBC, Reuters and other media reported that labour rights defender Andy Hall has left Thailand after a three-and-a-half year legal battle with a pineapple processing company accused, in a report he contributed to, of abusing its workforce. The dismissal of one set of charges against the British activist was confirmed by Thailand’s Supreme Court last week. But he was convicted in September on two other counts under sweeping criminal defamation and computer crimes laws and was given a three-year suspended prison sentence. He also faces civil complaints by the pineapple company, Natural Fruit, which is demanding around $12m in damages.

But it was mostly the prospect of further criminal charges over another group of workers he is supporting that persuaded Mr Hall that he should leave Thailand and not returner the time being. He and the 14 migrant workers from Myanmar – who have alleged abusive treatment at the hands of a farm which supplied the big Thai poultry processor, Betagro, with chickens – recently had defamation lawsuits filed against them. [see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/andy-hall/]

Before he left Thailand Mr Hall told the BBC that he felt that the prospect of having to contest continuous lawsuits filed against him would make it impossible for him to defend migrant workers’ rights effectively. The situation for human rights defenders, he said in a statement made as he prepared to depart, has rapidly deteriorated in Thailand, with significantly increased risks.

The challenge confronting Mr Hall is one faced by many Thai activists as well. Defamation is a criminal charge that can carry a two-year prison sentence, often used alongside the even tougher Computer Crimes Act, which mandates a sentence of up to five years in prison.

  • Two years ago, the editors of a small newsletter, Phuketwan, were prosecuted by the Thai navy for an article in which they quoted a Reuters news agency report alleging Thai military involvement in human trafficking. They were finally acquitted last year, but the effort of defending themselves contributed to the newsletter being shut down.
  • In June this year three prominent human rights defenders were prosecuted under the same two laws by a unit of the Thai military over a report they took part in which alleged the use of torture against military detainees in southern Thailand.

On Thursday 3 November, the U.N. Human Rights office in Bangkok issued a statement praising the Supreme Court’s decision. But it also called on the Thai government “to drop charges against all human rights defenders who have been charged with criminal offenses for reporting human rights violations in accordance with its obligations under international human rights law.

On 6 October EU Trade Commissioner Cecilie Malmström had strongly backed the British labour rights activist who helped expose labour abuses in Thailand, for which he received a three-year suspended jail sentence. Andy Hall met Malmström in Strasbourg, where MEPs also passed a strong resolution condemning Hall’s treatment under the military junta now running the country.

Sources:

Thai Supreme Court Dismisses Defamation Claim Against Labor Activist – Malaysia Sun

 Andy Hall, British labour rights activist, flees Thailand – BBC News

Malmström backs EU whistleblower over Thai labour rights

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: