By: Katherine Hewitt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BANGKOK, Thailand – A court decision in a Bangkok on March 26th found a human rights activist guilty of defamation.

Andy Hall, a labor rights activist, was doing research on working conditions in Natural Fruit Co., Ltd., a pineapple tinning company in Thailand. His 2013 report described cases of extortion of migrant worker labor, labor trafficking, child labor, and violence. His research was in collaboration with the Finish NGO, Finnwatch. Following the publication of his research, Hall sat down with Al Jazeera for an interview. As a result, National Fruit filed a complaint under article 420 of the Civil and Commercial Code for defamation.

Andy hall talking to press outside Thai courthouse in 2016. Photo courtesy of Sakchai Lalit.

This is just one of four cases Natural Fruit Co., Ltd. has brought forward against Hall. In 2013, the court dismissed the case as a result of lack of jurisdiction as Al Jazeera had interviewed Hall while he was in Myanmar, not Thailand. Natural Fruit Co., Ltd. appealed, and the case was accepted in August 2017. On March 26th, the court found Hall guilty and subjected him to pay $312,500 USD (10 million Thai baht) as well as lawyer and court fees to Natural Fruit Co., Ltd. Hall plans to appeal this court decision.

In 2016, Hall was also found guilty of criminal defamation and computer crimes against Natural Fruit Co., Ltd. He was sentenced to 4 years in jail and a $6,250 USD (200,00 baht) fee. He appealed this case. His appeals trial is set for next month on April 24, 2018.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) believes that these cases against Hall will discourage further research into labor rights in Thailand.  A HRW researcher said of the situation, “The Thai government should not look the other way while companies use the courts to undermine corporate accountability for labor rights abuses. If the Thai government is really against labor exploitation, it should promote changes in the law that would prevent abusive libel cases.”

The Thai government said last year that they remain committed to the UN values of human rights and that they have implemented statutes to protect laborers.

 For more information, please see:  

Human Rights Watch – Thailand: Verdict Threatens Labor Abuse Reporting – 28 March 2018

Al Jazeera – HRW condemns libel verdict against rights worker Andy Hall – 28 March 2018

Andy Hall’s Blog – Washington Post/AP 26th March 2018: Thai court finds British labor activist defamed fruit firm – 27 March 2018

Author: Katherine Hewitt

Katherine Hewitt is a first year Masters of Arts in International Affairs candidate in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. She is pursuing a concentration in Peace, Security, and Conflict. Her interests lie in ethnic conflicts, particularly in the Post-Soviet Sphere. She expects to graduate in December 2018.