Thai Court Fines Andy Hall $321,000 for Defamation

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Anti-Slavery ActivistsForced LaborHuman TraffickingLaw & PolicySupply Chain

A Thai court in Bangkok has ordered labor rights activist Andy Hall to pay 10 million baht ($321,000) in damages for defamation.

Hall had helped expose labor abuses committed against Myanmar migrant workers at factories operated by pineapple canning company Natural Fruit. Natural Fruit retaliated by filing four defamation suits against Hall.

The Washington Post reports:

Hall’s legal troubles stem from a 2013 report he researched for the Finnish consumer organization Finnwatch that alleged labor abuses at Natural Fruit’s facilities. They also concern an interview that he gave to Al-Jazeera on the subject, which was the focus of Monday’s ruling. Natural Fruit claimed that the report Hall helped research and his interview comments both hurt their business.

Hall has prevailed in one of the two criminal defamation suits against him, while the other is pending, as is another civil suit. He has also filed a countersuit against Natural Fruit.

Hall left Thailand in 2016, citing intolerable legal harassment after another company, poultry producer Thammakaset Farm, sued him in another case, but still works on labor rights issues concerning migrants in Thailand.

After the verdict was issued, Hall expressed his disappointment on Twitter. “This verdict is a major setback for rights of human rights defenders, migrant workers, labour/migration activists and researchers everywhere and casts a dark shadow over recent positive progress the Thai government and Thai industry has made to improve migrant worker conditions.”

Thailand has been the subject of international scrutiny after major media investigations uncovered widespread human trafficking and forced labor in the country’s seafood industry. Notably, Hall had also worked with several fishing and seafood companies in Thailand to improve labor conditions for migrant workers.

Observers say Hall’s case is being closely watched by companies that source from Thailand and human rights activists.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, explained that defamation is being used as a tool by companies to silence criticism.

“When problems in their supply chain are brought to light, companies like Natural Fruit or Thammakaset Farm can so easily sue and ruin the life of an activist to try to keep them silent. It has a chilling effect on this type of research. It has a chilling effect on the freedom of expression in Thailand,” he said.

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Paul Richards
2 years ago

Mr Hall is to be applauded for fighting against thr low life perpetrators of slavery in Thailand.This man deserves a medal.

ADRIAN PAUL
ADRIAN PAUL
2 years ago

If the Court is also corrupt and will not listen to evidence against these companies, then the Judges should be forced to stand-down

Tasi
Tasi
2 years ago

I saw the exploitation of Burmese with my own eyes in a resort in Koh Phangan..There is no freedom of speech in Thailand..I lived and work there I know this very well

Allan Beesey
Allan Beesey
2 years ago
Reply to  Tasi

I have lived in the country for over 20 years and I would say there has generally been a relatively high level of freedom of speech. However, the military has curtailed this somewhat since 2014, yet most of the media, such as newspapers, have a high degree of freedom, save for discussing the monarchy.

Gabriele Meloni
Gabriele Meloni
2 years ago

How can we incentivate people not to buy “Natural Fruit” product? Is anywhere a map of their distribution network?

pascal molineaux
2 years ago

The courts wrongly accused Hall of wrongdoing, when those who behaved criminally are the businesses denounces by Hall’s investigative work. His revelación of mistreatment of migrant workers is one that SHOULD lead to the indictment of those found guilty, not the human rights worker denouncing such egregious behavior. This decision to punish Hall is fundamentally immoral and unfair.

Yavor Hadzhiev
Yavor Hadzhiev
2 years ago

There is an old saying, of Chinese origin if I am not wrong, that when you point to the Moon to a stupid person, he rather looks at the finger… 🙁

Globalfreearctictern
Globalfreearctictern
2 years ago

Then hold Freedom United to do about it, something that I have not yet heard of it doing, but it’s only trustable if it does. Make widely known, and cite for use of, multi-country breakthrough the Non-Finality Situation. courtchange.wordpress.com/the-court-change-or-the-non-finality-situation/, which makes courts faultable, it ends the abusable power of final decision. It applies to Thailand courtchange.wordpress.com/the-court-change-or-the-non-finality-situation/country-list/