Thursday, 22 September 2016

British migrant rights defender Andy Hall convicted of defamation and computer crimes

Thailand Human Rights Campaign UK is gravely concerned about the judicial harassment against human rights defender Andy Hall on charge of criminal defamation for his research into conditions for migrant workers in Thailand.  

On 20 September 2016, the Bangkok South Criminal Court found British activist and researcher  Andy Hall guilty of criminal defamation and Computer Crimes Act charges case brought against him by Natural Fruit Company Ltd. The court sentenced Andy Hall to prison for 3 years and fined him 150 000 thai baht (£3,300). Imprisonment will be suspended for 3 years. He was originally sentenced to 4 years imprison, but this was reduced to 3 years because he was cooperative during the trial. Andy Hall will appeal the ruling and apply for bail. After the verdict the court has immediately revoked its order to restrict Andy Hall’s travel in and out of Thailand and returned his passport.

THRC UK urges the Thai authorities to drop all charges against human rights defenders Andy Hall.  We also call upon Thailand to decriminalize defamation and amend the Computer Crime Act in line with international standards protecting freedom of expression.


Background


In 2013, Finnwatch, a Finnish non governmental organization published a report highlighting a number of abuses against migrants working for the Thai fruit exporting company, Natural Fruit Ltd.  Andy Hall, then a Finnwatch researcher, conducted a number of interviews with workers in a Natural Fruit factory exposing violence against workers, child labor, forced overtime and the confiscation of passports.

The report  - Cheap has a High Price -disclosed allegations of abusive conditions, illegally low pay and discrimination made by Burmese laborers at the Natural Fruit canning facility.
Natural Fruit, which is a major supplier to the western world,  denies the allegations and lodged defamation cases within weeks. Rather than inquiring into the allegations published in the report, Natural Fruit brought criminal charges of defamation and computer crimes against Andy.
Finnwatch have condemned National Fruit’s choice to prosecute a private individual instead of the organization that authored and bears responsibility for the report.
In addition, Natural Fruit has also filed two civil claims for damages against Andy Hall totaling 400 million baht (about US$11.5 million). These cases are on hold until the criminal cases have been concluded.

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