Yesterday Nakhon Pathom civil court accepted a new 300 million Baht ($10m) civil defamation prosecution against migrant rights specialist Andy Hall filed by pineapple company Natural Fruit in 2013. Today (Tue 14th July) Thailand’s Supreme Court also adjourned ruling on Hall’s request to appeal his conviction in another civil defamation case brought against him by Natural Fruit.
Despite the Supreme Court’s recent dismissal of a criminal case against Andy Hall concerning his role in researching a Finnwatch report, Cheap Has a High Price, Nakhon Pathom civil court accepted yesterday (13th July) a 300 million Baht ($10m) civil defamation prosecution against Hall filed by Natural Fruit back in 2013. Nakhon Pathom Court had previously postponed consideration of the case until a final verdict in the criminal defamation and computer crimes case was reached. Hall will stand trial in this new case on 27–29 October 2020.
– The Supreme Court has already established that the allegations in the Finnwatch report were well-founded and in the public interest. It would be absurd to order Andy Hall to pay damages for speaking about the very same findings, said Sonja Finér, the executive director of Finnwatch.
In the other civil defamation case a decision on leave of appeal was today adjourned by Thailand’s Supreme Court also. This additional case relates to an interview Andy Hall gave to Al-Jazeera in Myanmar in 2013. During the interview, Hall talked about activism and his interviews with Natural Fruit’s abused migrant workers in Thailand for the Finnwatch report, Cheap Has a High Price. He also talked to Al-Jazeera about his personal reactions to a series of criminal prosecutions brought against him by the company that followed this research.
Although at first instance this civil case was dismissed on the basis of jurisdiction, Prakanong Court then convicted Hall and ordered him to pay 10 million baht in damages to Natural Fruit Co. Ltd. In May 2019, an Appeals Court upheld Hall’s conviction. The Supreme Court has set no date for its ruling on Hall’s request to appeal and today only read an order stating it wouldn’t consider Hall’s dismissal on criminal cases during this appeal as it was an unrelated case.
– The cases brought against Andy Hall send a clear message: anyone who speaks up against human rights abuse in Thailand is at risk of judicial harassment. At the same time, the EU has expressed its willingness to restart free trade agreement negotiations with Thailand. The EU must make labour rights reform and decriminalization of defamation a precondition for entering into such an agreement. Anything less would contradict the EU’s own values, Finér continued.
The various prosecutions Natural Fruit Co Ltd has brought against Andy Hall have been widely criticised by the UN, the ILO, the European Parliament, civil society organisations and trade unions. Andy Hall left Thailand in 2016, making clear his intention not to return unless judicial harassment against him ceases. He continues to work on migrant worker’s rights across South East Asia. Today Hall has issued the following statement from Kathmandu, Nepal:
“Whilst I continue to respect Thailand’s laws and judicial systems, I am disappointed by the continued use of these laws and systems to harass me. 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. My work was never intended to damage the reputation or legitimate business interests of Thai companies, nor has it been malicious. I remain open to reconciliation to put an end once and for all to this continued and irrational cycle of litigation against me and my colleagues.”
For more information see Q&A: Criminal and Civil Prosecutions – Natural Fruit vs. Andy Hall, last updated on 14th of July 2020.