British activist Andy Hall found guilty of defamation by Thai court

British migrant rights defender Andy Hall was found guilty this morning for his role in highlighting alleged human rights abuses committed by a Thai fruit company

Logan Connor
September 20, 2016
British activist Andy Hall found guilty of defamation by Thai court
British migrant workers’ rights activist, Andy Hall (C) speaks to memebers of the press as he arrives for a hearing at the Bangkok South Criminal Court in Bangkok, Thailand, 20 September 2016. A Thai court on 20 September will hand down a verdict in the case of British migrant workers’ rights activist Andy Hall. Hall is accused of violating the Computer Crimes Act and is also facing criminal defamation charges in a case filed by Natural Fruit Company Limited, a agricultural firm that owns and operates pineapple plantations. In early 2013, Natural Fruit filed charges against Hall, including two criminal defamation charges, a criminal charge under the Computer Crimes Act, and two civil defamation actions, after the publication and dissemination of a FinnWatch report titled 'Cheap Has a High Price.' EPA/NARONG SANGNAK

British migrant rights defender Andy Hall was found guilty this morning for his role in highlighting alleged human rights abuses committed by a Thai fruit company

Andy Hall speaks to press after guilty ruling
British migrant workers rights activist, Andy Hall (C) speaks to the media after his sentencing hearing at the Bangkok South Criminal Court in Bangkok, Thailand, 20 September 2016. Photo: EPA/NARONG SANGNAK

In what has been widely described as a shock ruling, a Bangkok court this morning found British migrant rights defender Andy Hall guilty of criminal defamation charges related to a report alleging human rights abuses at a Thai pineapple processing plant.
The Bangkok South Criminal Court found Hall guilty of criminal defamation and Computer Crimes Act charges concerning the 2013 report Cheap Has a High Price, which alleges a spate of human rights violations at a pineapple processing plant owned by the Natural Fruit company in Thailand’s Prachuap Khiri Khan province.
The court gave Hall a four-year suspended prison sentence ­– reduced to three years –accompanied by a two-year ‘suspension period’. If Hall does not commit a crime during the two-year suspension period, then he will not serve any time in jail, according to a press release by Finnwatch, the Finnish NGO that had employed Hall as a freelancer for the 2013 report.
Sonja Vartiala, executive director of Finnwatch, said that the organisation was stunned by the court’s ruling.
“The report was authored and published by Finnwatch; we take full responsibility for it,” Vartiala said in a press statement. “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.”
Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, said that the ruling would have a “chilling effect” on human rights investigators in Thailand.
“This is another clear example of Thailand shooting itself in the foot,” said Robertson, “because consumers and companies around the world that are concerned about human rights abuses in supply chains will now have to reconsider whether it’s smart or safe for them to source anything from Thailand.”
The Cheap Has a High Price report, published in January 2013, accused Natural Fruit of a host of human rights abuses committed against Myanmar workers at its pineapple processing plant in Prachuap Khiri Khan, including illegally low wages, unsafe working conditions and discriminatory treatment. Natural Fruit denied the allegations and soon brought defamation charges against Hall.
In 2014, the Prakanong Court in Bangkok dismissed a separate criminal defamation case brought by Natural Fruit against Andy Hall, citing a flawed prosecution in breach of the Thai Criminal Procedure Law. Appeals in this case, submitted by both Thailand’s Attorney General and Natural Fruit, are currently being reviewed by Thailand’s Supreme Court.
Natural Fruit, in addition to the two criminal suits, has also filed civil claims against Andy Hall for claims totalling nearly $11.5m. These suits are on hold until the criminal cases have concluded.
Hall is currently in custody with Thai police but will be released upon paying a court-ordered fine of roughly $4,300.





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