Andy Hall’s personal reflections on ongoing judicial harassment against him in Thailand: 25th April 2018

Researching serious migrant worker human and labour rights violations that continue to be systematic in Thai labour intensive export industries including seafood, poultry, rubber, garment/textiles, fruit, vegetables & electronics, as well as in tourism/restaurants and many other industries, is not a crime. In fact, it’s the moral and ethical responsibility of non-Thai people like myself and all those around the world including companies and importing governments, investors, consumers, traders and media/civil society who are knowingly or unknowingly complicit in this systematics abuse that exists in global supply chains that source from Thailand and whose often cheap products come easily into our lives everyday. It’s our joint responsibility and duty, and especially that of companies, investors and governments under the international business human rights framework, to understand, uncover and respond diligently and with real commitment and effort to the real extent and nature of the inhumane abuse of migrant workers and modern day slavery that still exists in every corner of Thailand. This is despite some significant and notable improvements in conditions of migrant workers in Thailand in the past, which must be acknowledged but which also have mostly been sector specific and only in response to extensive public exposure of this specific abuse (i.e. seafood). In my time in Thailand, I unfortunately didn’t have enough time to delve deeper and in more detail into the ongoing systematic migrant worker rights abuses and modern slavery that still exists in its many global supply chains like in rubber (linked to medical/rubber gloves, contraceptives, tires, footwear), fruit, garment, electronics and even tourism and hospitality. I only exposed the tip of the iceberg in my limited and challenging research undertaken for Finnwatch/Swedwatch and other consumer watchdogs on seafood, poultry, pineapple, rubber gloves and children’s toys. The ongoing judicial harassment that prevented my ongoing work and projects in Thailand and meant that I was left with no choice but to leave the country sends a clear signal to researchers, activists, human rights defenders and reporters around the world that Thailand does not welcome this kind of independent scrutiny of conditions of migrant workers in its supply chains as a genuine means to enhance rule of law and contribute, supplementing alongside existing audits and business efforts, to positive change in migrant worker and business human rights conditions in the country. It’s now up to the Thai government and the many increasingly ethical responsible businesses in the country to show, with investor and overseas company/government support, that independent scrutiny of supply chain conditions is welcome and indeed much needed also. Law reform to protect human rights defenders, researchers and journalists against SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) cases is urgent. And it’s necessary for Thailand to also show that the irrational, vengeful, hate-filled and face obsessed owners and management of outdated irresponsible companies like Natural Fruit and Thammakaset are not what Thailand is really about these days. These companies must now face the hard consequences of their irrational actions and unless they change their behaviour, find that they have no place to export their tainted products overseas. The mafia like and impunity breeding dominance of influential industry leaders in export industries of the past is hopefully slowly changing to give way in Thailand to responsible and transparent corporate conduct that respects and enhances the rule of law. The ongoing onslaught of criminal and civil prosecutions against me, the witch hunt essentially being undertaken by ONE company only that is leading this irrational response to silence dissent, save face and prevent transparency of past wrongs sends the completely wrong signal to the international community, governments, companies, investors, traders, consumers, civil society and media that impunity continues unchecked in Thailand, injustice reigns, that civil society work is not respected or supported and corporate conduct remains unethical despite pledges to respect business human rights as a national agenda. That’s deeply disappointing and counterproductive for everyone involved, not least Thailand, it’s ethical industry actors and the migrant workers I have always fought for and who arrived in Thailand only with the hope of leading a better life, supporting their families and fulfilling their personal dreams.

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