PRESS RELEASE 16th MAY 2014
Finnwatch Researcher Andy Hall to Face Police Investigators to Defend Latest Natural Fruit Company Ltd. Criminal Charges in Thailand on 19th May
For more information on this media advisory, please contact:
1.Sonja Vartiala, Executive Director, Finnwatch: +358 445687465 and Sonja.email@example.com
2.Andy Hall, Migration Researcher: +66 846119209 and firstname.lastname@example.org (@atomicalandy)
3.Nakhon Chomphuchart, Legal Advisor to Andy Hall: +66 818473086 and email@example.com
For more detailed information on Natural Fruit’s prosecutions of Andy Hall and the campaign to have the charges dropped, see http://www.andyjhall.wordpress.com
British migrant rights activist Andy Hall, who campaigns to improve conditions for migrant workers in Thailand, has appointed investigators at Bangna Police Station in Bangkok on Mon. 19th May 10am to give evidence against the latest criminal charges filed against him by Natural Fruit Company Ltd., a pineapple exporter based in Prachuap Kiri Khan, Thailand. Human and labour rights abuses against Natural Fruit’s workers have now been the subject of two Finnwatch research reports, the first to which Hall contributed.
The latest criminal charges filed against Hall by Natural Fruit Company Ltd. at Bangna Police Station, the 3rd set of charges filed against him so far, reportedly relate to defamatory remarks made by Hall in an interview to Aljazeera in Myanmar. The Aljazeera story featured Hall’s reflections on migrant conditions in Thailand and also charges of criminal defamation and breaches of the Computers Crimes Act and a 300 million baht (US$10m) civil defamation case filed against him by Natural Fruit.
If a court finds Hall guilty of the criminal charges laid against him, he could face a maximum of 7 years imprisonment per count. This has raised strong concerns from 6 UN human rights Rapporteurs. All the charges reportedly relate to his role in conducting interviews with migrants from Myanmar to assist Finnwatch to compile a report, Cheap Has a High Price. This report, released in Jan 2013 (available here) outlined poor labour conditions in various seafood and pineapple export companies in Thailand. A follow up report, released in Jan 2014 (available here), outlined how all previously researched companies still failed to remedy abuses reported in the original report. According to interviewed Natural Fruit workers, the company still confiscated work permits, prevented workers from changing employer and made deductions from unlawful salaries. The problems highlighted in Thai officials own investigation of conditions at the Natural Fruit factory still persisted. Natural Fruit has responded to Finnwatch’s findings denying all illegalities.
Hall previously reported to Bangna Police Station on 28 Sep. 2013 after the British Embassy in Bangkok notified him of fresh criminal charges filed against him but refused to provide details. During this visit, an officer attempted to get Hall to sign a Thai language confession accepting guilt. Hall refused to sign the document, requested a copy and left the station. Hall later filed complaints against police misconduct to the Commander of the Thai Police Force, Thailand’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Thailand’s National Human Rights Commission and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London. In a Nov. 2013 letter, Bangna Police stated officials had already informed Hall of the charges against him in compliance with law and no unfair conduct was present. The letter did not mention the confession statement Hall was asked to sign.
Hall continues to insist the latest criminal charges against him at Bangna Police Station have no legal basis as they relate to an interview given to Aljazeera outside of Thailand. In any case, prior to pressing defamation charges, Natural Fruit Company Ltd. only listened to part of the interview he gave to Aljazeera that was disseminiated. In order to assess admissibility of such a case, police officers should first obtain all related evidence, including a copy of the full interview, prior to deciding whether to proceed with the case. Hall understands officers didnt adequately investigate charges against him prior to his previous station visit.
According to internal documents obtained by Hall under the UK’s Freedom of Information Act, by the end of Sep 2013 the British Embassy in Bangkok was informed by Bangna Police Station that an arrest warrant against Hall was pending in relation to the latest charges and likely to be issued in Oct 2013. Following this, Hall would be apprehended by Immigration officials should he arrive to Thailand from overseas. The same documents described how the Embassy planned not to inform Hall of these developments as they were ‘unable to interfere in the judicial process.’
However, following Hall’s Sep 2013 attendance at Bangna Police Station and the reported confession documents, in Oct 2013 the British Ambassador to Thailand, Mr. Mark Kent, wrote a letter to Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stating that ‘Any accusation of attempted coercion to sign a confession is of course a serious claim and we hope that the Thai authorities will look into this as a matter of urgency.’
The initial 2 criminal and civil cases filed by Natural Fruit Company against Hall have yet to proceed due to the failure to serve case summons on him. However, Hall considers it important that in the latest case filed at Bangna Police Station he should again attend the police station to deny the charges and defend himself. In addition, on 19th May, Hall will again press officers to drop the latest case as there is no legal jurisdiction to prosecute and the full interview he gave to Aljazeera has yet to be obtained. Hall also accepts the Thai criminal justice process and respects the need to face police officers to defend charges laid against him.
Finnwatch continues to demand that Natural Fruit Company drop all criminal and civil charges filed against Andy Hall and address poor labour conditions in it’s factory. Finnwatch, alongside the Finnish League of Human Rights, also continues to express it’s dissatisfaction at the validity of Thai officials inspections of Natural Fruit’s factory and urges the Thai authorities to properly investigate labour conditions at Natural Fruit’s factory again more thoroughly and without further delay.