The Natural Fruit Company filed a 318 million baht ($10 million) criminal defamation case on February 14 against migrant rights advocate and foreign national Andy Hall for his role in publicizing an investigative report released in January and commissioned by the NGO Finnwatch that alleged serious labor rights violations at the company’s factory in Prachuap Khiri Khan Province.
The company subsequently filed additional criminal defamation charges in September in relation to videos posted by NGO Finnwatch that features comments by Hall, Natural Fruit workers, European Union parliamentarians, and a Finnish retailer about the fruit company’s labor practices.
Allegations included child labor, failure to pay overtime, confiscation of migrant workers’ passports, and conditions that amount to human trafficking.
The company claimed that Hall defamed and damaged the company by “broadcasting false statements to public media.”
Hall and other human rights advocates maintained that the company filed charges to silence him and other activists.
Four UN special rapporteurs have expressed in a letter to the government their concerns that the charges against Hall may infringe upon his right to free speech, that the charges may have the effect of silencing other human rights advocates, and that the underlying allegations of human rights violations in the report in question have not been adequately addressed.
In August the government released a report of January 28 and February 4 government inspections of the factory, in which it interviewed six workers and found no evidence of child labor, some discrepancies in overtime pay, and widespread document confiscation. –