This post is a quotation of a Bangkok post interview published on April 14th 2013. You can click here to find the original interview.
Are you willing to face the court?
I am willing to face the court as soon as I get the documentation, a court summons and also the prosecution case against me. Then I will go to court. At this point, my legal team and I cannot prepare because we don’t know the case against us. So that’s why we are not attending any of the hearings at the court.
Once we find out the case against us, we can prepare a counterclaim and sue the Natural Food Company. The research we conducted and reported is completely true. There’s clearly no intention for me to defame them or to do anything wrong, just to present the truth in the public interest and to protect the workers in the factory.
So if they claim that I did certain things, if we think that those claims are unacceptable, we will prosecute them.
I certainly have all the documents and evidence to show that there is abuse going on at the factory. We have recorded interviews, we have the videos … we were there in the factory a couple of days ago, and the conditions are just the same as we reported. So there is no doubt that we will win the case because what we said is true.
What is your legal strategy?
My legal strategy is simply to tell the truth, to prove that everything we said is true and maybe to countersue people who are maliciously prosecuting me.
What is your current employment situation?
I’m no longer working as a researcher for Mahidol University. My contract wasn’t renewed on Jan 30 this year. I’m now working in Myanmar and that’s where I’m residing at the moment.
Are you able to enter and leave the country?
I have no problem entering and leaving the country legally. When I arrived back in Thailand, I arrived by plane and I’m going to head back to Myanmar the same way I got in, which is by the airport. No one stopped me or asked me any questions, and I never have any problems with the Immigration Department.
Are you being victimised because of your work?
Yes, I think I am being victimised. I think it’s a malicious case and I think it’s an attempt to silence me by the industry. It’s likely to be linked to politicians, also people in the government who are unhappy about what I revealed about the country and the abuse of workers.
Regarding Natural Fruit, I don’t know why they are bringing the case against me because they clearly know what they have done is wrong. So it is clearly an attempt to scare me. Maybe they think if they prosecute me, then there’s a chance that I’ll go to jail or face a huge fine and I won’t come back to Thailand, but they don’t know me very well.
I think I’m also being victimised due to my previous work. I’ve been working with migrant workers in Thailand for almost a decade now. I’ve revealed the corruption and systematic abuses of power by law enforcement officials, government officials, labour officials and immigration officials.
Recently, I’ve highlighted abuses against workers in export industries. I think that has a significant impact on exporters and also damages the reputation of Thailand.
Because the government refuses to work with me [to improve matters] it has quite a negative impact on the Thai economy. I think there are a lot of people who are unhappy with that, whether they be government officials, employers or in the case of Natural Fruit, particularly politicians. Natural Fruit is reportedly linked to a politician in a well-known party, so the workers call the factory “Rong Ngan Sor Sor” (members of the House of Representatives’ factory).
Do you have confidence in the Thai authorities to handle your case properly?
I have no confidence in the law enforcement agencies in Thailand. I worked with them for so many years on migration issues; I never found it to be an effective avenue for any kind of remedy. As for the court system, people have warned me that the court system in Thailand is notoriously difficult.
As far as I’m concerned, I didn’t do anything wrong and I have the facts of the case. So I’m quite confident that the court will rule in my favour. But if it doesn’t, it will reveal much about the Thai justice system.
What sort of support do you have?
I met with the British ambassador on Wednesday at the British embassy in Bangkok to discuss the case, and he pledged support for me.
I’m receiving 100% support from Finnwatch. They support my work, my research and my case. And I’ve received a lot of international support financially.
I also have the support of the International Trade Union Confederation and other international union organisations. Human Rights Watch released a statement last week condemning the case against me. I’ve also been in very close contact with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
I think internationally, people support the work I do and what I have done for the last decade. I think people are becoming increasingly aware of the abuse of power and the refusal of Thai officials to address trafficking and migration issues.
Do you hope one day you can return to work in Thailand and pursue human right issue again?
I’m working in Thailand now. I’m still committed to the migration issue in Thailand. I have many networks I’ve formed over 10 years. I’m ready to support the government, employers and the migrant workers anytime.
I prefer not to be in the country at the moment. The case makes me feel uncomfortable in the sense that it doesn’t feel nice to face criminal prosecution when I didn’t do anything wrong.
I’m not scared and I’m not stressed, but it feels like I’m carrying extra weight on my shoulders that I’d prefer not to. I prefer just to focus on my work. I hope that they will withdraw the case.
Is there anything you would like to add?
I hope that the company will see the error of its ways and will improve their labour condition and drop the case. If they don’t, it will be a really interesting case for Thailand.
At first I felt a little pissed off about the case, but the more I think about it the more I realise it will provide me the opportunity to campaign at a global level to expose the abuse of power in Thailand, particularly against migrant workers. So I think in a way, it’s a blessing. It will clearly show the international community the abuses going on in Thailand, and the complicity of law enforcement officials, politicians, employers and government officials.
I think it would be wise for Natural Fruit and the Thai government to drop the case. If not, I will make it my aim to expose them as much as I can.