Court Dismisses Charge Against British Human Rights Activist Andy Hall

 | Wed 29 Oct 2014 23:30 ICT

CityNews – British human rights activist Andy Hall, who is being prosecuted after exposing labour abuses in Thailand’s tinned fruit industry, was celebrating today after a court dismissed a defamation charge in the first of four cases against him.
Andy Hall, pictured here with Burmese democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, has won praise for his work with migrants in the region. 

The Prakanong Court in Bangkok ruled that the prosecution was unlawful because the police acted alone and not in partnership with the attorney-general, as required for alleged crimes committed outside the country. The case related to an interview Hall gave to Al Jazeera in Myanmar last year.

Hall, who turns 35 tomorrow, is being sued by the 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.

“I always felt confident that I would win my case,” Hall told CityNews. “I don’t feel I did anything wrong. I feel it’s my duty to protect migrant workers and I never had any doubt.”

Natural fruit has announced that it will appeal against the verdict, says Hall, adding that the legal action could take years.

This case was the first of four filed against Hall by Natural Fruit. The second, a US$10 million (32.5 million baht) civil defamation case, begins tomorrow.

Hall works as a consultant for the Migrant Workers Rights Network, and previously worked at the Migrant Justice Programme and the MAP Foundation in Chiang Mai, researching the conditions faced by migrant workers throughout the region.

The court’s decision was welcomed by human rights workers.

“This results marks one case down, and three more to go for Andy Hall.  Even though the court’s dismissal of the case was for a technicality connected to investigative procedure, it’s gratifying nonetheless to see one of these harassment suits thrown out,” said Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch. “In reality, none of these cases should have been considered for prosecution at all and the Thai government should be condemned for wasting tax-payer dollars in this effort on behalf of a rights abusing private company.”