Bangkok Post 3rd June 2016: Fruit firm abused migrant workers, Hall tells trial

ANDY HALL WILL TAKE THE STAND FOR CROSS EXAMINATION OF HIS TESTIMONY ON 9th JUNE 2016, 9am at BANGKOK SOUTH CRIMINAL COURT

 

Defending himself as a witness in a defamation case filed by global pineapple supplier Natural Fruit Co Ltd, British activist Andy Hall said Thursday migrant workers at the plaintiff’s factory in Prachuap Khiri Khan were underaged and underpaid.

Natural Fruit Co Ltd of Pran Buri, Prachuap Khiri Khan, has retaliated against Mr Hall’s Finnwatch report with a series of criminal and civil lawsuits. (Logo from company website)
Mr Hall, commissioned by Finnish labour rights group Finnwatch in 2012 to research labour conditions at Natural Fruit and two other Thai exporters, told the Southern Bangkok Criminal Court that information for the report was obtained through interviewing about a dozen migrant labourers at Natural Fruit in a safe house in the province.

 

One of the labourers was a 15-year-old girl who had worked there for two years, meaning the company had hired an underaged worker, Mr Hall said. “They entered Thailand illegally and worked at the firm through brokers. If the workers had problems in town such as lacking work permits or ID cards, they would simply say they work for the ‘MP’s factory’,” the researcher told the court, referring to a member of parliament.

 

The workers received their wages according to their legal status, but below the then legal minimum wage of 240 baht. They weren’t paid overtime, nor given holidays.

 

Last month, a Natural Fruit executive told the court as a prosecution witness that Mr Hall supplied false information about the company’s labour record, hitting its reputation and exports.

 

Natural Fruit is ranked in the world’s top 10 exporters of canned pineapple and juice. It filed two criminal and two civil lawsuits against Mr Hall in 2013. The most serious of the charges is violating the Computer Crimes Act. If convicted, he faces up to seven years in prison. Natural Fruit also has sought 300 million baht in damages.

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