British rights activist leaves Thailand due to 'risks'

Andy Hall had several legal cases filed against him by fruit conglomerate he accused of rights abuses

British rights activist leaves Thailand due to 'risks'

World Bulletin / News Desk

A British migrant rights activist has left Thailand following a spate of legal cases filed against him by a fruit processing company, saying the situation for human rights defenders in the junta-governed country has “rapidly deteriorated”.

Early Thursday, Thailand's Supreme Court threw out a defamation case filed by the Natural Fruit Company, which Hall had accused of committing widespread labor abuses in a 2013 research report.

Andy Hall, who spent 11 years defending the rights of migrant workers in Thailand, left the country early Monday morning “without a specified return date”.

The public statement came days after the Supreme Court threw out a defamation case filed by the Thailand’s largest fruit canning conglomerate which Hall had accused of committing widespread labor abuses in a 2013 research report.

On Sept. 20, Hall was handed a suspended jail sentence of three years in another criminal defamation case relating to his contribution to the same report commissioned by Finland-based NGO Finnwatch.

Lately, a chicken farm owner in Lopburi province also accused of abusing the rights of migrant workers threatened Hall with criminal prosecution after he supported Migrant Workers Rights Network -- a Thailand-based NGO that Hall is advising -- in its efforts to file charges against the owner.

“When taken together, this ongoing, costly and extensive litigation on migrant labour issues creates challenges that critically prevent in many ways enhancement of migrant workers’ rights in Thailand,” Hall said in a message sent from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport.

Hall, who has been a fixture in many of the cases against alleged labor rights abuses by Thai companies, recognized that some progress had been made in this field by Thai authorities.

“In some situations the Thai government cooperates and assists to promote enhancement of migrant rights workers,” said Hall.

“Credit should be given for this visible improvement,” he added.

The 2013 report, which led to several criminal cases being filed against Hall, detailed alleged rights abuses of Myanmar nationals at the Natural Fruit Company, including unpaid overtime, unsafe conditions and the confiscation of passports.

After Hall’s sentencing Sept. 20, the company’s chairman, Wirat Piyapornpaiboon, told reporters that the court “returned me my rights today”.

“I have fought for my honor and that of my country,” he said.

Hall said he contributed research for the report, but did not write the report or even analyze the data he provided to Finnwatch.

He also said that he would appeal the suspended jail sentence.

“The situation in defending migrant worker rights for me and others who act as human rights defenders in similar situations has rapidly deteriorated in Thailand with significantly increased risks and aggressiveness evident,” Hall said his statement Friday.

“As a result, I want to ensure time for existing tense situations of conflict to reduce as well as provide time and space for the many parties to these existing disputes to fully understand the importance of migrant rights.”

Last Mod: 07 Kasım 2016, 11:22
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