FINNWATCH Press Release 8th February 2017
Andy Hall’s Legal Team Appeals Conviction to Bangkok South Criminal Court
The legal team representing British human rights defender Andy Hall today submitted an appeal to the Bangkok South Criminal Court in Thailand against Hall’s earlier conviction in September 2016 on criminal defamation and Computer Crimes Act charges. The conviction related to publication of a report Cheap Has a High Price in 2013 by Finnwatch, a Finnish civil society organisation. The report outlined allegations of serious human rights violations at Natural Fruit Co. Ltd.’s pineapple processing plant in Prachuap Khiri Khan Province in Thailand.
Finding Andy Hall guilty of all charges on 20th September 2016, the Bangkok South Criminal Court sentenced him to three years in prison, suspended by two years, and fined him 150, 000 baht. Following immediate payment of the fine jointly by the Thai Tuna Industry Association (TTIA), Thai Union Group and Finnwatch, Andy Hall was released from detention. The Court’s decision met with international criticism including statements of concern from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the International Labour Organisation, European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström and, on 6th Oct, a strongly worded European Parliament resolution was passed.
– Finnwatch is grateful for all the international attention and ongoing support for Andy. The widespread concern expressed regarding his conviction and recognition of the importance of his work by many international actors represents a glimmer of hope to others who seek to improve working and living conditions of migrant workers in Thailand, but who do so in deteriorating conditions amidst fears of possible negative repercussions, said Sonja Vartiala, executive director of Finnwatch.
The criminal conviction appealed today, which is in one of four criminal and civil cases brought by the pineapple company Natural Fruit against Andy Hall, poses a dilemma for international companies sourcing from Thailand and committed to respecting human rights in their business operations.
In response to Hall’s conviction, on International Human Rights Day on 10th December 2016 over 110 companies, members of the European Parliament, trade unions and NGOs sent a letter to Thai Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha expressing their concern. The letter also urged the Thai authorities to ensure that rights of migrant workers and human rights defenders in Thailand are respected and protected in line with international law and standards.
– Signatories to this letter reminded the Thai authorities that an increasing number of international companies see the work of labour rights researchers as contributing important value to their decisions around sourcing and production, said Vartiala. Finnwatch is one of the NGOs that signed the letter.
Natural Fruit already appealed the conviction regarding Hall’s suspended sentence in December 2016.
Hall, who lived in Thailand for 11 years, left the country in November 2016 after again being prosecuted on criminal defamation and Computer Crimes Act charges in a case initiated by a poultry company, Thammakaset. In June 2016, the Migrant Workers Rights Network (MWRN), to whom Hall is the international affairs advisor, exposed allegations of forced labour at one of Thammakaset’s poultry farms in Lopburi Province of Thailand. At the time, Thammakaset was a supplier of Betagro, a food and pet food producer supplying major retailers in Europe and North America.
For more information please see Q & A document, updated today, available at http://finnwatch.org/images/pdf/NaturalFruitVSAndyHallQAFebruary2017.pdf