Finnwatch: Natural Fruit’s Harassment of Finnwatch Researcher Drags On, Illegalities at Thai Factory Remain Unsolved

FINNWATCH PRESS RELEASE 18th of September 2013

Finnwatch, a Finnish non-profit research organisation, today released a short documentary film highlighting consequences of its January 2013 report on the responsibility of private label products originating from Thailand. A leaked internal inspection report by Thai officials confirms labour rights violations at Natural Fruit, Prachuap Khiri Khan based pineapple company featured in Finnwatch’s research.

The Bangkok Southern Criminal Court on 13th September continued hearings related to two criminal charges brought by Natural Fruit against Andy Hall. Official court summons still have not been delivered to Hall, who conducted the field research for the Finnwatch report in 2012. An additional US$10 million civil defamation case against Hall, also brought by Natural Fruit, shall be heard again on 7th October.

“The legal process is a farce. Natural fruit is suspected of serious human rights violations. It’s the company’s managers and not Andy Hall who should be facing the threat of a trial,” Sonja Vartiala, Finnwatch’s executive director, says.

Natural Fruit has denied all wrongdoings. However, an inspection report prepared by Thai labour officials, leaked to public via the Thai Embassy in London, following the release of Finnwatch’s report in January 2013 does not support the company’s view.

“While the inspection report is in many ways less than perfect, it demonstrates that Natural Fruit is guilty of violations.”

According to the report, the company has for example hired undocumented migrants, charged unusually high fees for workers’ passports, restricted toilet access and made unclear deductions from workers wages.

Finnwatch received a copy of the report from the Thai embassy in Finland in spring 2013 and together with the Finnish League for Human Rights (FLHR) has asked the Thai government to explain its inspection methods and findings in more detail but to date, no response or further information has been provided.

According to Finnwatch, the report fails to address many of the key problems raised by the workers.

“It seems strange that the inspectors have not dealt with the unlawfully low wages reportedly paid by the company in 2012, for instance,” Vartiala says. “Thailand should thoroughly investigate all suspected violations and take Natural Fruit to court.”

Among the many international actors calling for more in-depth investigations of labour standards at Natural Fruit, most prominent is the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). In it’s letter of allegation, made public last week to the 24th Session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, five human rights rapporteurs demanded that Thailand promptly explain how labour conditions at Natural Fruit were assessed and raised serious concerns regarding harassment of Hall, for which the experts state the Thai Government cannot shirk responsibility. Thailand has provided only a partial response to the OHCHR’s letter.

Finnwatch and the FLHR will continue promoting labour rights in Finnish companies’ supply chains in Thailand. The mini-documentary that is released today features, among others, representatives of the S Group, one of the two leading retail chains included in the Finnwatch report, and members of the European Parliament.

“The S Group has already taken active measures to make its supply chain more sustainable. We would also like to encourage the European Commission to stress human rights in its on-going free trade negotiations with Thailand,” Vartiala says.

Sonja Vartiala
Executive director
+358 44 568 7465

Finnwatch’s mini-documentary, directed by Sonja Potenze, can be downloaded here >>

Thai officials’ leaked inspection report can be downloaded here >>

Finnwatch and the FLHR’s letter asking the Thai government for clarifications can be downloaded here >>

OHCHR letter to Thailand can be downloaded here >>

Thailand’s response to OHCHR letter can be downloaded here >>

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