FINNWATCH PRESS RELEASE 22nd May 2019: Appeals Court orders British migrant rights defender Andy Hall to pay 10 million baht in damages to Thai pineapple company Natural Fruit (https://finnwatch.org/en/news/625-appeals-court-orders-andy-hall-to-pay-10-million-baht-in-damages-to-natural-fruit)
The Prakanong Court in Bangkok, Thailand today read an Appeals Court’s verdict on Andy Hall’s appeal against a 2018 10 million baht (approx. 281 000 euros) civil defamation conviction, maintaining the lower court’s ruling and conviction. Andy Hall said today he will liaise with his legal defence team to appeal the ruling to Thailand’s Supreme Court but that he also remains open to reconciliation to end a continuing cycle of irrational litigation against him.
In March 2018, the Prakanong Court ordered Andy Hall to pay 10 million baht in damages to a Thai pineapple company, Natural Fruit Co Ltd, including an interest of 7.5% from the date of filing the case in 2013 until the amount was fully paid. The Court additionally ordered Hall to pay 10 000 baht (281 euros) towards Natural Fruit’s lawyer and court fees.
– We are shocked by today’s verdict. An Appeals Court already last year found that the findings in the Finnwatch report Cheap Has a High Price were well-founded. Now another Appeals Court has found Andy Hall guilty of civil defamation because he spoke about those findings to Al Jazeera. This makes no sense, said Sonja Vartiala, executive director of Finnwatch.
Andy Hall, who currently lives in Nepal where he continues to work on migrant worker rights, was not present at today’s hearing. Hall has not been a resident in Thailand since he left the country in 2016 after 11 years of activism there, citing intolerable judicial harassment.
– Whilst I respect today’s ruling, I am disappointed by the verdict. My activism for over a decade in Thailand intended only to promote and uphold the fundamental rights of millions of migrant workers in the country. These workers continue to find themselves without a voice in high risk situations of forced labour and subject to systemic human and labour rights violations in global supply chains. My work has never intended to damage the reputation or legitimate business interests of Thai companies, nor has it been malicious. I remain open to reconciliation to put an end once and for all to this continued and irrational cycle of litigation, said Andy Hall.
In order to appeal this particular civil conviction, Hall had to place a deposit of 422 350 baht (11 880 euros) at the court in advance of the appeal’s submission. UK-based organisation Freedom Fund alongside the Finnish grocery retailer S Group donated the required funds, with Freedom United and Solidarity Center supporting ongoing legal fees.
Today’s decision concerns a 100 million baht (2.8 million euros) civil defamation claim Natural Fruit originally filed against Andy Hall in 2013. The claim was related to an Al Jazeera English interview which Hall gave in Yangon, Myanmar. According to Natural Fruit, Hall intentionally harmed the reputation of the company by speaking and/or publishing false information. The Appeals Court today upheld the decision of Prakanong Court once again affirming that Hall had not convinced the Court through evidence or witnesses of the validity of his statements to Aljazeera English and as such, Natural Fruit had suffered quantifiable damages.
This 100 million baht civil damages claim is just one of four civil and criminal cases filed by Natural Fruit against Andy Hall following the publication of a Finnwatch report Cheap Has a High Price in 2013. The report, for which Hall only conducted worker interviews and fieldwork, alleged several labour and human rights violations at the company’s pineapple processing plant.
Natural Fruit also more recently filed a 50 million baht (1.4 million euros) damages claim against Hall and two of his defense lawyers in relation to a counter prosecution Hall filed against the company that was dismissed in 2018. This latest case shall commence at trial in November 2019.
Andy Hall has previously been acquitted of all criminal charges filed against him by Natural Fruit. The Appeals Court in its ruling on one of the criminal charges confirmed many of the findings in the Finnwatch report. Considerations of the other civil damages claim against Hall filed by Natural Fruit are yet to commence as a related criminal case acquittal is pending an appeal to Thailand’s Supreme Court.
Today’s Appeal’s Court ruling was observed by diplomats from both the Finnish and United Kingdom’s Embassies in Bangkok.
For more information see Q&A: Criminal and Civil Prosecutions – Natural Fruit vs. Andy Hall, last updated on 22nd May 2019, available at https://finnwatch.org/images/pdf/NaturalFruitvsAndyHallQA_May2019_FINAL.pdf
Executive director, Finnwatch
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Independent Migrant Worker Rights Specialist
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