Migrant rights activist and researcher Andy Hall has come one step closer to freedom from judicial harassment as a 300 million baht (over 9 million USD) case against him was dropped.
The civil defamation case, which relates to a Finnwatch report entitled Cheap Has a High Price, was one of several filed by Thai pineapple company Natural Fruit Co Ltd against Hall over the past decade.
The 2013 report alleged serious labor rights abuses at Natural Fruit’s facilities in Thailand, including excessive overtime and physical and verbal abuse.
In July this year, Thailand’s Supreme Court acquitted Hall in a related criminal case, with the civil case kicking off earlier this week in Nakhon Pathom.
However, a day into the case, Natural Fruit announced in a statement to the court that it was withdrawing its complaint, citing the Supreme Court’s July decision.
In August, the Freedom United community supported Hall by raising $5,600 to help cover the costs of his legal defense team in Thailand.
After Natural Fruit’s announcement today, Hall commented:
“I welcome today’s developments. But after years of ongoing judicial harassment that has taken a heavy toll on me, my family and my colleagues, this withdrawal of one case against me is not a victory. My activism for over a decade in Thailand was intended only to promote and uphold the fundamental rights of millions of migrant workers in the country. These workers continue to find themselves without a voice in high risk situations of forced labour and subject to systemic human and labour rights violations in global supply chains.’’
Natural Fruit has taken action against Andy Hall in four separate criminal and civil cases, in two of which the Supreme Court has cleared him of criminal charges.
The remaining case, another civil defamation suit relating to comments Hall made in an interview to Al-Jazeera in 2013, was adjourned this week and scheduled for late December this year.
The case had originally been dismissed by a lower court in 2016 but was reopened after an appeal from Natural Fruit, after which Hall was eventually convicted and ordered to pay 10 million baht in damages; December’s Supreme Court trial will decide the final ruling.
Sonja Finér, executive director of Finnwatch, said that the sustained campaign of judicial harassment was reflective of the ease with which powerful business exploit Thailand’s courts to silence journalists and activists.
Freedom United has long stood behind Andy Hall for his crucial work uncovering modern slavery in Southeast Asia; read our field report from our latest campaign supporting him here.
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