A Bangkok court has ordered a British labour activist to pay damages to a Finnish fruit company. The verdict has sabotaged attempts to expose human rights violations in Thailand, said a human rights organisation.
On 26 March 2018, the Phra Khanong Provincial Court in Bangkok, read its verdict on a civil damages claim against Andy Hall, filed by the pineapple company Natural Fruit Co Ltd, ordering Andy Hall to pay 10 million baht in damages to the company. Court also additionally order Hall to pay 10,000 baht for the plaintiff’s lawyer and the court fee including the interest of 7.5% from the date of filing this case until the amount is fully paid.
Hall’s lawyer told the media that he will appeal the case to the Supreme Court.
According to Finnwatch
, the case relates to an interview Hall gave to Al-Jazeera English in Myanmar in April 2013. The activist report alleged severe human rights violations in the Natural Fruit Company Ltd. factory in Prachuap Khiri Khan province in Southern Thailand. In response, the company pressed multiple criminal and civil charges against Hall.
“We are absolutely appalled by today’s ruling. It comes as a shock,” said Sonja Vartiala, executive director of Finnwatch. “This decision restricts freedom of expression and prevents exposing human rights violations. It is difficult to grasp.”
The Prakanong Court has already once dismissed this civil case citing its lack of jurisdiction to try the case legally. However, following an appeal by Natural Fruit, the Appeals Court in August 2017 ordered the Prakanong Court to accept jurisdiction and hear the case in full.
The hearing of witnesses for the reopened case concluded in February 2018. Both the prosecution and the defence however only re-submitted previous witness testimony. The case has been ongoing for five years within the Thai justice system.
“The Thai justice system continues to be used to swamp human rights defenders with endless court cases. It’s an effective way to prevent all public criticism towards companies,” said Vartiala.
Andy Hall greeted his supporters in front of the Bangkok’s Southern Criminal Court on 20 September 2016