ALERT!!!!!! Thailand: Criminal lawsuit lodged against human rights defender Mr Andy Hall

1st April court hearing southern criminal court

Southern Criminal Court, Charoen Krung Rd, TIME  130pm

PLEASE COME AND SHOW YOUR SUPPORT !! THANK YOU SO MUCH

Prachuap Khiri Khan pineapple canning company filed criminal defamation charges against a British human rights advocate over treatment of migrant workers by the company.

Natural Fruit Co Ltd, which has headquarters in Pran Buri, claimed that Andy Hall, a British citizen, had damaged its reputation with libellous statements about its relations with migrant workers, according to papers at the website of the Southern Bangkok Criminal Court’s website and NGO sources.

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Mr Hall, 32, well-known in Thaland although he was reportedly in Myanmar on Tuesday, faces charges under the Computer Crimes Act that carry penalties of up to five years in prison on each count.

In addition, the company filed a civil suit at the Nakhon Pathom Court claiming 300 million baht in civil damages caused by Mr Hall’s discussion of Natural Fruit and the migrant workers.

It is the second time Natural Fruit has instituted legal action against the British advocate. A previous suit cited interviews and allegedly libellous remarks Mr Hall made Jan 15-21 in Bangkok, including at a panel discussion at  the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT).

The suits alleged that at least three media outlets posted reports of interviews with Mr Hall. The lawsuits also cited, but did not charge, the human rights group FinnWatch, which has researched the issue of migrant workers at Natural Fruit.

According to the lawsuits seen at the court’s website, Natural Fruit claimed it “was damaged by (Mr Hall’s) accusation that it violated human rights and labour rights by hiring workers under 15 years” of age, paid them wages below the minimum wage, and provided no holidays or bonus, all illegal acts.

The company also denied reports it had illegally confiscated passports of workers.

“These reports and information have caused damage to the company, brought insults and hatred from the public, both inside the country and internationally,” the suits alleged.

The court scheduled the first preliminary hearing on the defamation charges for April 1.

NGO circles on Tuesday were buzzing with concern over the possible long prison sentences and high compensation demanded by Natural Fruit.

http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/local/338945/british-advocate-andy-hall-sued

———-

H.E. Yingluck Shinnawatra
Prime Minister
Office of the Prime Minister
Government House
Thanon Phitsanulok, Dusit
Bangkok 10300
Thailand

Fax: +66 2 280 0858 / +66 2 288 4016

Letter:

Your Excellency,

On 22 February 2013, human rights defender Mr Andy Hall was informed that a criminal lawsuit was lodged against him on 14 February 2013, based on a complaint filed by the Thai fruit processor Natural Fruit Company Limited. Andy Hall is a prominent migrant and labour rights defender based in Thailand and Burma.

On 22 February, Andy Hall was informed by a European journalist that a defamation lawsuit was initiated against him at Nakhon Prathom Court on 14 February 2013, based on a complaint filed by the Thai fruit manufacturer Natural Fruit Company, located in Pranburi Prachuapkirikhan Province. The human rights defender is accused of defaming and damaging the company by “broadcasting false statements to public media”, following the publication of a report in January 2013 which he co-authored and researched. A trial date has reportedly been set for 10 April 2013, while evidence would be heard on 28 April. If convicted, Andy Hall faces a fine of 300 million Baht (approximately EUR 7.7 million).

In additional to the lawsuit above, a lawsuit was lodged against Andy Hall on the criminal charge of broadcasting false statements, in accordance with Sections 90, 91, 326, 328 and 332, under the Criminal Code, Sections 3 and 4 under the Penal Code Amendment Act (No. 11), and Sections 3 and 4 under the Compute Crime Act, based on a complaint filed by the Natural Fruit Company. If found guilty under these charges, the human rights defender could be imprisoned for a maximum of 2 years, with an additional fine of 200,000 Baht (approximately EUR 5,100).

Established in 2001, the Natural Fruit Company processes canned and concentrate pineapple, as well as other canned fruit products. In January 2013, a report entitled “Cheap has a high price: Responsibility problems relating to international private label products and food production in Thailand” was published by Finnwatch, a Finnish non-profit organisation that studies the responsibility of global business. The report investigated the production practices of private label juices sold in Finland, including the Natural Fruit Company. Andy Hall was lead researcher of the report, working at the time as Associate Researcher at Mahidol University in Thailand.

Based on testimony taken in November 2011 from employees working in various departments of the company’s Pranburi plant in Pranburi Prachuapkirikhan Province, the report found that the Natural Fruit Company had committed serious labour and human rights violations against its workers, in particular against migrant and irregular workers, as well as other reportedly illegal activities. The interviews were carried out in secret, as workers reportedly feared acts of reprisal following their participation in the research.

Despite being approached by Finnwatch and Andy Hall on numerous occasions, the Natural Fruit Company did not agree to meet with the researchers or contribute to the report. The only contact Andy Hall had with the company was during the launch of the report at the offices of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT), when an individual who introduced himself as a representative of the Natural Fruit Company approached him. Upon the initial release of the report’s findings in December 2012, Finnwatch sent communications to the authorities of Finland, the European Union and Thailand, as well as several labour and human rights organisations.

I would like to express my concern at the lawsuits filed against human rights defender Andy Hall, and my belief that they are solely motivated by his work as a prominent migrant rights defender in Thailand, in particular his role as researcher and co-author of the above mentioned report. I believe this legal action to be an attempt to silence human rights defenders in Thailand who, peacefully and legitimately, exercise their right to freedom of opinion and expression, in order to defend and promote migrant and labour rights.

I urge the authorities in Thailand to:

1. Drop all charges against Andy Hall, as I believe that he is being targeted solely as a result of his legitimate and peaceful human rights work;

2. Ensure that the right to freedom of opinion and expression, as guaranteed under international law and as stated, inter alia, in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Thailand is a state party since 29 Oct 1996, is duly respected;

3. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Thailand, in particular those persons defending migrant and labour rights, are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.

Yours Sincerely,

http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/21806/action

Finnwatch reveals serious human rights violations behind European food brands

ထိုင်းနိုင်ငံရောက် မြန်မာရွှေ့ပြောင်းလုပ်သားများ တရားဝင်ရပ်တည်နေထိုင်လုပ်ကိုင်နိုင်ရေးအတွက် မြန်မာအစိုးရ၊ ထိုင်းအစိုးရနှင့် နိုင်ငံတကာမှ အလုပ်သ မားအခွင့်အရေးဆိုင်ရာ တက်ကြွလှုပ်ရှား သူများ ပူးပေါင်းကာ ဝိုင်းဝန်းဆောင်ရွက် ပေးနေ သည်မှာ ကာလအတိုင်းအတာတစ်ခု အထိရောက်ရှိ နေပြီဖြစ်ပါတယ်။

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