Criminal Court accepts another case against migrant worker activist Andy Hall

The Thai criminal court has accepted another defamation case against Andy hall, a well-known advocate for migrant worker rights, who is accused of defaming a canned fruit company.

On Monday morning, 24 July 2015, Bangkok’s Southern Criminal Court accepted a criminal defamation case against Andy Hall, a well-known human rights defender who advocates migrant worker rights, who is also accused of offenses under Article 14 of the 2007 Computer Crime Act.

The plaintiff in the case is Natural Fruit Co. Ltd., a Thai canned fruit company based in southern Prachuap Khiri Khan Province, who accused Hall of offences related to his role in conducting interviews with Myanmar migrants working in the pineapple and tuna export industry to be used in a Finnwatch report, Cheap Has a High Price.

The report, published in 2013, outlined particularly poor labour conditions in Natural Fruit's factories, which sell pineapple concentrate to Finnish supermarkets.

According to the report, Hall stated that the migrant workers had their passports confiscated by Natural Fruit Co. Ltd. They were paid below the minimum wage and not paid for working overtime. In addition, the company also hired children below 15 years old to work in the factory.

The court will hold a deposition hearing on the case on 19 October 2015.

The accused told Prachatai that he did not take part in writing the report, but was only responsible for giving information derived from interviews which he conducted with migrant workers.

Andy Hall, a human rights defender, in front of Bangkok’s Southern Criminal Court

Hall added that the company has the right to press charges against him, but said that it should not be a criminal case because it violates freedom of expression, which is a fundamental human right.  

Representatives of the European Union, the UK, Finland, the Netherlands, and Denmark came to observe whether the court would take up the case.

Last year, on 29 October 2014, Phra Khanong Provincial Court, Bangkok, dismissed the first criminal libel case against Hall where he was accused of defaming the Natural Fruit Company by stating in an interview with Al Jazeera that Myanmar migrant workers in the company’s factories were abused and poorly treated.

Phra Khanong Provincial Court ruled that since the interview was conducted in Myanmar, a member of the public prosecution service needed to join the investigation process from the beginning. Because the investigation was conducted solely by the police, the court then ruled that the prosecutor did not have the authority to file the case due to incorrect procedure.

Natural Fruit Co. Ltd. has filed the following four charges against Hall:

  • Criminal defamation for accusing the company of abusing its migrant workers’ rights and using child labour in an interview with Al Jazeera. The case was filed at Bangkok’s Phra Khanong Provincial Court. (Dismissed)
  • Criminal defamation breaching Article 14 (1) of the 2007 Computer Crime Act by propagating false information against the company. The case was filed at Southern Bangkok Criminal Court. 
  • Civil defamation causing financial damage to the company. The case was filed at Nakhon Pathom Civil Court. The company has claimed 300 million baht (about 10 million USD) in damages from Hall. 
  • Criminal defamation filed at Bang Na Police Station.  

The legal actions against Hall have raised international criticism. Finnwatch, numerous NGOs, and global union federations have condemned the harassment. UN Special Rapporteurs have sought clarifications amid concerns that Hall is being targeted for his work to promote migrant rights.