An appeals court in Thailand has upheld a defamation judgement against British activist Andy Hall, ordering him to pay 10 million baht ($313,000) in damages to Natural Fruit Co. Ltd., a Thai pineapple company.
Hall was sued by Natural Fruit following his research for a 2013 report by Finnish consumer organization Finnwatch. In it, migrant workers from Myanmar allege that Natural Fruit abused them and broke labor laws.
Take Action: Drop the Charges Against Andy Hall
“I will liaise with my legal defense team to appeal the ruling to Thailand’s Supreme Court. Whilst I respect today’s ruling, I am disappointed by the verdict,” said Hall.
Hall’s lawyer, Nakhon Chomphuchat, described the suit as “a normal action for capitalists who do not care for human rights. They only think that if the law doesn’t clearly say that they had violated rights, then they shouldn’t be branded or accused of doing that.”
He cautioned that fees to file an appeal with the Supreme Court might be prohibitively high.
Phone calls to Natural Fruit for comment went unanswered.
Hall has been embroiled in a similar long-running battle with a Thai poultry farm, Thammakaset Co., which has filed 15 lawsuits against the British activist, other workers’ advocates, a journalist and several former workers. Much of that litigation is ongoing, though the workers’ side has won some important cases favoring whistle-blowers. The company said it had suffered losses due to allegations made by the workers in a 2016 complaint filed with Thailand’s National Human Rights Commission.
Finnwatch said it was “shocked” at the court ruling, especially because last year an appeals court determined that the findings in the report Hall did were well-founded.
Surya Deva, chair of the U.N. Working Group on Business and Human Rights, warned that this case goes against UN principles.
“These continuous legal proceedings pursued by Natural Fruit are not in line with the Guiding Principles, as they are having a chilling effect on the legitimate role of civil society organizations in holding businesses accountability for human rights abuses,” he said.
“The Thai government also has an obligation to ensure that its legal framework is not misused by companies to harass civil society and human rights defenders, who have a critical role in promoting human rights.”
Chip in and help end modern slavery once and for all.