Thailand: 110 Global Signatories Condemn Conviction of Human Rights Defender Andy Hall and Call Upon Thailand to Protect Human Rights Defenders
Following the conviction of Andy Hall, a coalition of 110 signatories, including 60 civil society organizations, 28 unions and worker organizations, 13 companies and 9 members of the European Parliament, endorsed an open letter calling on Thailand to protect human rights defenders and migrant workers by: repealing criminal defamation provisions of the Penal Code amending the Computer Crime Act to bring it into compliance with international law freedom of expression guarantees; implementing the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders; and, ratifying and implementing the ILO Core Labour Conventions, particularly No. 87 and No. 98.
10 December 2016 General Prayut Chan-o-cha Prime Minister of Thailand Government House, 1, Phitsanulok Road, Dusit, 10300, Bangkok, THAILAND; Fax: +66 (0) 2282 5131 Email: email@example.com
Re: Andy Hall’s Conviction of Criminal Defamation and Computer Crimes Violations
Dear Prime Minister Prayut:
On this International Human Rights Day, we, the undersigned, write to you concerning the conviction of Andy Hall for criminal defamation and violations of the Computer Crime Act. Hall’s conviction was in relation to research he undertook by interviewing migrant workers and sending raw interview data to Finnwatch, which then analyzed the information and published it in the Finnwatch report Cheap Has a High Price. Finnwatch wrote and published the report online in January 2013 in Helsinki, Finland. We are writing to you as an international coalition of civil society groups (human rights, labor, development and environmental organizations), national civil society groups, members of parliament, and corporations who seek to ensure that the rights of migrant workers and human rights defenders in Thailand are respected and protected in line with international law and standards. While we acknowledge the decision of the Bangkok South Criminal Court in this case, we remain deeply troubled about the potential of this judgment to seriously hinder the work of human rights advocates by preventing effective and confidential research and monitoring of supply chains, thereby putting migrant and other vulnerable workers at higher risk of debt bondage, forced labor and other abuse. Without basic rights like free association and collective bargaining, migrant workers in Thailand lack the means to effectively protect themselves from abuse and exploitation. This judgment could put them at even greater risk. In June 2016, the U.S. government highlighted Thailand’s anti-trafficking efforts by upgrading it to Tier 2 Watch List in its annual Trafficking in Persons Report. The U.S. government noted, however, that the prosecution of Andy Hall “impeded a climate conducive to preventing trafficking, discovering and reporting trafficking crimes, identifying victims, and apprehending additional traffickers.” It is extremely worrying that a Thai court has acted to criminalize the actions of Hall in contributing to professional research on alleged grave human and labour rights abuses committed by a Thai corporation. This decision will undoubtedly create a chilling effect on independent supply chain research, which benefits migrant workers and their families, the environment, the Thai government and people, and the international companies that source their products from Thailand. We have been consulting closely in the aftermath of this decision and conclude that international brands committed to ethical sourcing are now facing a serious dilemma prompted by the conviction of Andy Hall. An increasing number of international corporations see such research as contributing important value to their decisions around sourcing and production of products. Many of these corporations have made a commitment to their customers to source and produce ethically. Increasing transparency helps international corporations to identify human rights risks and support Thai companies in efforts to improve. Any nation that hinders or obstructs supply chain research may be putting business and investment from those companies at risk. It is important to note that during Hall’s trial, some of Thailand’s leading seafood companies and associations, as well as a leading European retailer, attested to the benefit of Hall’s research. Unfortunately, the Court’s decision sends a signal to international brands and retailers that the current environment in Thailand may not be conducive to ensuring ethical sourcing and may also embolden further prosecution of human rights defenders who report allegedly illegal practices at companies that harm human rights. As a step toward assuring civil society, governments, and the private sector that Thailand is genuinely committed to protecting the rights of migrant workers, Thailand should decriminalize defamation and amend the Computer Crime Act to bring it into line with Thailand’s international human rights obligations. The present use of the Computer Crime Act in tandem with prosecution of human rights defenders for criminal defamation undermines the rights to freedom of expression and information of independent researchers, journalists, and human rights defenders, in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Thailand is a party. We also urge Thailand to actively and effectively implement the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders to ensure that human rights defenders have a safe and enabling environment in which to carry out research, education and advocacy. Furthermore, we encourage the Royal Thai Government to ratify International Labour Organization (ILO) Core Labor Conventions, particularly Conventions No. 87 (Freedom of Association) and No. 98 (Collective Bargaining), which would empower migrant workers to protect themselves from employer abuses. The work of Andy Hall and other human rights defenders on supply chains is essential to improving the lives of migrant workers in Thailand and their families in Southeast Asia. It also benefits all consumers of Thai products exported overseas who want to be assured that the products they buy from Thailand are produced in a manner that respects human rights. This work should be commended, not criminalized, by the Thai government.
We urge Thailand to act now to ensure that human rights defenders and migrant workers in Thailand are fully protected by: 1. Repealing the provisions in the Penal Code criminalizing defamation; 2. Amending the Computer Crime Act to bring it into compliance with international human rights law regarding freedom of expression; 3. Actively and effectively implementing the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders; and 4. Ratifying and implementing ILO Core Labor Conventions, particularly No. 87 and No. 98.
Sincerely, 1 American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations Cathy Feingold, Director of International Affairs 2 Amnesty International 3 Anti-Slavery International Aidan McQuade, Director 4 Attac Finland Omar El-Begawy, President 5 Australia Asia Worker Links Pier Moro, Secretary 6 Australian Council of Trade Unions Ged Kearney, President 7 Axfood Åsa Domeij, Head of Environmental & Social Affairs 8 Axfoundation Carolina Sachs, Secretary General 9 Building and Woodworkers International Ambet Yuson, General Secretary 10 Burma Campaign UK Mark Farmaner, Director 11 Business & Human Rights Resource Centre Bobbie Sta. Maria, Senior Researcher & Representative for Southeast Asia 12 California Institute for Rural Studies Gail Wadsworth, Executive Director 13 Center for Alliance of Labor and Human Rights – CENTRAL Tola Moeun, Executive Director 14 Child Labor Coalition Reid Maki, Coordinator 15 Civil Rights Defenders Robert Hård, Executive Director 16 Coalition of Immokalee Workers 17 Comite de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agricolas (CATA) Jessica Culley General Coordinator 18 Concordia Matthew Swift, Co-Founder & CEO 19 Consumers’ Union of Finland Juha Beurling, Secretary General 20 Coop Sweden Louise König, Sustainability Manager 21 Dalit Solidarity Network Finland Minna Havunen, Chair 22 Electronics Watch Björn Claeson, Director 23 Environmental Justice Foundation Steve Trent, Executive Director 24 Ethical Trading Initiative Peter McAllister, Executive Director 25 Dame Glenis Willmott MEP, Leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party 26 Jude Kirton-Darling MEP, European Parliament 27 Heidi Hautala MEP, European Parliament 28 Sirpa Pietikäinen MEP, European Parliament 29 Liisa Jaakonsaari MEP, European Parliament 30 Merja Kyllönen MEP, European Parliament 31 Miapetra Kumpula-Natri MEP, European Parliament 32 Nils Torvalds MEP, European Parliament 33 Pirkko Ruohonen-Lerner MEP, European Parliament 34 EuroPoultry Mikael Kristensen, Owner 35 Fair Action Ulrika Urey, Director 36 Fair World Project Kerstin Lindgren, Campaign Director 37 Fairfood International Sander de Jong, Managing Director 38 Farmworker Association of Florida Antonio Tovar 39 Finn Church Aid Jouni Hemberg, Executive Director 40 Finnish Food Workers’ Union SEL Veli-Matti Kuntonen, Union Chairperson 41 Finnish League for Human Rights Kaari Mattila, Secretary General 42 Finnish Metalworkers´ Union Riku Aalto, President 43 Finnwatch Sonja Vartiala, Executive Director 44 FishWise Tobias Aguirre, Executive Director 45 Food Chain Workers Alliance Joann Lo, Co-Director 46 Fortify Rights Amy Smith, Executive Director 47 Freedom Fund Audrey Guichon, Senior Program Officer 48 Frontline Defenders Andrew Anderson, Executive Director 49 Giant Eagle Richard Castle, Director of Seafood 50 Global Witness Ben Leather, Campaigner 51 Green America Todd Larsen, Executive Co-Director for Consumer & Corporate Engagement 52 Greenpeace Southeast Asia Yeb Sano, Executive Director 53 Hazards Magazine Rory O’Neill, Editor 54 Human Rights at Sea David Hammond, CEO 55 Human Rights Now Kazuko Ito, Secretary General 56 Human Rights Watch Brad Adams, Asia Director 57 Humanity United Action Ame Sagiv, Investments Manager 58 Hy-Vee Food Stores Inc. Greg Frampton, V.P. Meat and Seafood Operations 59 Industrial Union TEAM Heli Puura, President 60 IndustriALL Global Union Valter Sanches, General Secretary 61 International Federation of Journalists Anthony Bellanger, General Secretary 62 International Labor Rights Forum Judy Gearhart, Executive Director 63 International Solidarity Foundation Miia Nuikka, Executive Director 64 International Trade Union Confederation Sharan Burrow, General Secretary 65 International Transport Workers’ Federation Stephen Cotton, General Secretary 66 International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF) Ron Oswald, General Secretary 67 Irish Congress of Trade Unions Patricia King, General Secreatry 68 Kepa Timo Lappalainen, Executive Director 69 KISA – Action for Equality, Support, Antiracism Doros Polykarpou, Executive Director 70 Labor Safe Screen and Sustainability Incubator Katrina Nakamura, Founder 71 Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada Gail Davidson, Executive Director 72 Laundry Workers Center 73 Martin&Servera AnnaLena Norrman, Chief Sustainability & Quality Officer 74 Migrant Workers Rights Network Sein Htay, President 75 Multicultural Center Prague Marek Canek, Executive Director 76 National Consumers League Sally Greenberg, Executive Director 77 National Guestworkers Alliance Jacob Horwitz, Lead Organizer 78 Norvida Calle Ramvall, Quality and Environmental Director 79 NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights Sarah Labowitz and Michael Posner, Co-directors 80 Olof Palme International Center Jens Orback, Secretary General 81 Pioneer Valley Workers Center Gabriella della Croce, Development Coordinator & Community Organizer 82 Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants Michele LeVoy, Director 83 Pro Ethical Trade Finland Anna Ylä-Anttila, Acting Executive Director 84 Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC) Fekkak Mamdouh, Co-Director 85 S Group Lea Rankinen, Senior Vice President Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility 86 Service Union United PAM Ann Selin, President 87 Slave Free Seas Craig Tuck, Founder and Director 88 Social Accountability International (SAI) Jane Hwang, President & CEO 89 Stop The Traffik Australia Carolyn and Fuzz Kitto, Co-Directors 90 Svensk Cater Lars Carlsson, CEO 91 Swedwatch Alice Blondel, Director 92 Teamsters Joint Council 7 Doug Bloch, Political Director 93 Tehy – The Union of Health and Social Care Professionals in Finland Rauno Vesivalo, President 94 Tenaganita Glorene A Das, Executive Director 95 The Finnish NGDO Platform to the EU Kehys Rilli Lappalainen, Secretary General 96 The Swedish Foundation for Human Rights Jenny Jansson Pearce, Secretary General 97 The Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors JHL Päivi Niemi-Laine, President 98 Trade Union Pro Jorma Malinen, President 99 Trade Union Solidarity Centre of Finland SASK Janne Ronkainen, Executive Director 100 Trades Union Congress Frances O’Grady, General Secretary 101 Transient Workers Count Too John Gee, Chair, Research Sub-Committee 102 Tuko Logistics Pirjo Heiskanen, Quality Assurance Manager 103 UNI Global Union Philip Jennings, General Secretary 104 Unil Julie Haugli Aarnæs, Manager Sustainable Sourcing 105 Union to Union Kristina Henschen, General Secretary 106 Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of Victoria and Tasmania Mark Zirnsak, Justice & International Mission 107 Verité Shawn MacDonald, CEO 108 Walk Free Joanna Ewart-James, Director 109 Wegmans Food Markets Carl P. Salamone, V.P. Seafood Sustainability 110 Worker Justice Center of New York Lewis Papenfuse, Executive Director