British Activist Andy Hall ‘Confident’ of Winning Court Cases

 | Mon 1 Sep 2014 21:30 ICT

CityNews – British human rights activist Andy Hall, who is being prosecuted after exposing labour abuses in Thailand’s tinned fruit industry, is due to stand trial in Bangkok tomorrow.

Andy Hall, pictured here with Burmese democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, has won praise for his work with migrants in the region.

Hall, who is based in the capital but previously lived in Chiang Mai for five years, told CityNews by telephone that he was confident of winning his case.

“I think I am internationally known as someone who fights for the rights of migrant workers, and I think the court should see that easily,” he said, adding that the charges against him were unjust and amounted to harassment.

Several civil and criminal cases have been brought against Hall by Thailand’s Natural Fruit Company following his research into its operations for a report titled Cheap Has a High Price, published by the NGO Finnwatch.

The report exposed the trafficking of migrant workers along with the use of child labour, forced overtime and violence against employees.

The case starting tomorrow relates to an interview Hall gave with Al Jazeera last year, in which he is alleged to have defamed Natural Fruit. It is scheduled to end on September 10.

A second trial, in which he faces more serious charges of defamation and breaching the Computer Crimes Act, is set to begin five days later. A civil defamation case has also been submitted by Natural Fruit.

Some of the charges carry a sentence of up to seven years in prison, and Hall could be ordered to pay about $9.5 million in damages if found guilty. The trial is scheduled to begin in September.

Hall is backed by human rights groups and international trade unions, and around 285,000 people have signed online petitions urging Natural Fruit to drop the cases against him.

He said Natural Fruit’s reaction to the Finnwatch report was “very silly” and would “have a negative impact on them, the industry and the country”.

Hall works as an independent consultant on migration issues, but previously worked at the Migrant Justice Programme and the MAP Foundation in Chiang Mai, researching the conditions faced by migrant workers throughout the region. More information on the legal cases against him is available on his website.