British lawyer and human rights activist Andy Hall has revealed a new twist in his case with Natural Fruit Company Ltd, which has intimidated him through defamation charges with potential consequences that would be unthinkable in most other fruit-exporting countries.
The update is that not only does Wirat Piyapornpaiboon head up the Prachuap Khiri Khan-based fruit processor, but he is also the president of the Thai Pineapple Industry Association (TPIA).
Background articles on the case can be accessed here.
“According to recently obtained Thai Ministry of Commerce documents attached and [the] Thai Pineapple Industry Association (TPIA) website, Natural Fruit Company, who is prosecuting me in Thailand for multiple counts of criminal defamation and under [the] Computer Crimes Act, is President of the Thai Pineapple Industry Association (TPIA),” Hall said in an email.
“TPIA membership is required for companies for permitted export and other reasons.
“TPIA members include global fruit conglomerate DOLE (Thailand) and many other international and domestic fruit export companies.”
On its website, the non-profit association describes itself as the “national voice and the national resource serving the interests of the entire Thailand’s pineapple industry”.
A range of global groups have spoken out against Hall’s treatment in Thailand, and the latest is the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) which described Thailand as being ‘on trial’ for allowing a company to prosecute a human rights defender for his work in the canned fruit and fishing industries.
The federation demanded that the charges against Hall, who is due to stand trial in September, be dropped.
“Andy Hall’s investigations into the fruit and fish industries in Thailand helped expose shocking abuses there to a worldwide audience,” ITF acting general secretary Steve Cotton said in a release.
“He should be praised, not prosecuted. Thailand’s attorney general must act now to disallow this case, which is an example of blatant victimisation of someone for no greater crime than telling an unacceptable truth.”
ITF president Paddy Crumlin also highlighted the fact Thailand was downgraded by the US government over human trafficking.
“If ever a country needed to allow defenders of human rights to identify problems, it’s this one,” Crumlin said.
“This impending trial is a national and international embarrassment and should be called off immediately.”
If you would like to support Hall with what look to be some fairly high legal costs, Youcaring.com has set up a page where donations can be made. The site includes Hall’s contact details if you would like to directly offer him support.
Related story: Opinion: it’s time to drop the charges against Andy Hall in Thailand