Thailand: Ongoing judicial harassment of Mr. Andy Hall, a migrant worker rights defender

23/05/2019
Urgent Appeal

New information
THA 003 / 0815 / OBS 067.5
Judicial harassment
Thailand
May 23, 2019

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Thailand.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the ongoing judicial harassment of Mr. Andy Hall [1], a migrant worker rights defender, following complaints brought by Thai pineapple processing company Natural Fruit for an interview he gave to Al-Jazeera about labour rights abuses.

According to the information received, on May 22, 2019, the Phra Khanong Court in Bangkok read a Court of Appeals’ verdict on Mr. Hall’s appeal against a 2018 10 million-Thai Baht (approximately 281,000 Euros) civil defamation fine. The Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s ruling, which was issued on March 26, 2018. Mr. Hall said he would appeal the decision to Thailand’s Supreme Court but added that he remained open to conciliation with Natural Fruit to seek to end the company’s litigation against him.

This case dates back to February 2013, when Natural Fruit filed complaints against Mr. Hall for his contribution to a report published by Finnish non-governmental organisation Finnwatch which alleged serious labour rights abuses by Natural Fruit and for an interview he gave to Al-Jazeera regarding the same report (see background information). A total of four criminal and civil lawsuits [2] have been filed by Natural Fruit company against Mr. Hall (see background information).

The Observatory firmly condemns the ongoing judicial harassment against Mr. Hall, as it clearly aims at sanctioning his legitimate human rights activities and calls upon the Thai authorities to put an end to all forms of harassment, including at the judicial level, against him.

Background information:

Since February 2013, the Thai pineapple processing company Natural Fruit has filed four criminal and civil lawsuits against Mr. Andy Hall for defamation and computer crimes in relation to Mr. Hall’s contribution to a report by the Finnish NGO Finnwatch that alleged serious labour rights abuses at the company’s factory in Prachuap Khiri Khan Province and in relation to an interview he gave to Al-Jazeera regarding the same report. Published in January 2013, the report, “Cheap has a high price: Responsibility problems relating to international private label products and food production in Thailand” [3], gathered worker interviews in order to document labour rights violations at the factory, including allegations of child labour, underpayment of wages, confiscation of migrant workers’ travel and work documents, and failure to provide legally mandated paid sick days, holidays, and leave.

On October 29, 2014, the Phra Khanong Provincial Court dismissed the criminal defamation case (Case 3) related to the Al-Jazeera interview [4], due to Mr. Hall’s unlawful interrogation process under Article 120 of the Criminal Procedure Code [5]. However, the Office of the Attorney General subsequently appealed the court’s dismissal of the case. On September 18, 2015, the Court of Appeals upheld the Phra Khanong Provincial Court’s dismissal of the case. In December 2015, Natural Fruit and the Attorney General were given permission by the Attorney General to appeal to the Supreme Court. In January 2016, the Attorney General and Natural Fruit submitted their appeals on the case to the Supreme Court. Mr. Hall’s legal team responded to the appeal, and on November 3, 2016, the Supreme Court dismissed the criminal defamation charges.

In September 2014, Natural Fruit also filed a 100 million-Thai baht (approximately 2.8 million Euros) civil defamation lawsuit against Mr. Hall, related to the Al-Jazeera interview (Case 4). The first hearing on this case took place on November 21, 2014, at the Phra Khanong Provincial Court. Mr. Hall submitted his defence, and further hearings followed in May/November 2015 and January/April 2016. This case was then also postponed pending a final decision in the appeal to the Supreme Court in the criminal defamation case related to the interview. In August 2017, following an appeal filed by Natural Fruit, the Court of Appeals ordered the Phra Khanong Court to accept jurisdiction and hear the case in full. The hearing of witnesses for the reopened case concluded in February 2018.

On January 18, 2016, the Bangkok South Criminal Court indicted Mr. Hall under Article 14(1) of the Computer Crimes Act and Article 328 (libel) of the Criminal Code (Case 1). Ahead of the indictment, on January 13, 2016, the Bangkok South Criminal Court confiscated Mr. Hall’s passport and issued a travel ban against him. The order was handed down following a temporary bail [6] request submission. Mr. Hall was prohibited from leaving Thailand until the court ruled on the case unless permission was granted (permission would have been granted on a case-by-case basis). On September 20, 2016, the Bangkok South Criminal Court revoked the order restricting Mr. Hall’s travel and returned his passport.

On September 20, 2016, the Bangkok South Criminal Court handed down a four-year sentence against Mr. Hall and a fine of 200,000 Thai Baht (about 5,160 Euros), on “criminal defamation” and “computer crimes” charges. The court reduced the sentence to three years, with a two-year suspended term and a fine of about 150,000 Thai Baht (3,870 Euros).

Natural Fruit filed a 300 million-Thai Baht (approximately 8.4 million Euros) civil defamation lawsuit against Mr. Hall following the publication of the Finnwatch report case (Case 2). Negotiations between the two parties failed on October 30, 2014, following which the Nakhon Pathom Court postponed consideration of this case until a verdict had been reached in the criminal defamation and computer crimes case.

On November 7, 2016, Mr. Hall left Thailand fearing for his safety amid legal threats and harassment from Natural Fruit company and another criminal complaint filed against him by the poultry company Thammakaset Co., Ltd. in connection with a separate case [7].

On March 26, 2018, the Phra Khanong Provincial Court in Bangkok ordered Mr. Hall to pay 10 million Thai Baht (approximately 281,000 Euros) in damages to the Thai pineapple processing company Natural Fruit. The Court also ordered Mr. Hall to pay 10,000 Thai Baht (approximately 281 Euros) for the plaintiff’s lawyer and the court fees, in addition to 7.5% interest from the date of filing this case. Mr. Hall appealed this decision on September 6, 2018.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Thailand asking them to:

i. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mr. Andy Hall, as well as all human rights defenders in Thailand;

ii. Ensure in all circumstances that human rights defenders in Thailand are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance or fear of reprisals;

iii. Guarantee in all circumstances the right to freedom of opinion and expression of all human rights defenders in Thailand;

iv. Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular with its Articles 1, and 12;

v. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Thailand.

Addresses:

Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, Prime Minister of Thailand, Fax: +66 (0) 2 282 5131
Mr. Don Pramudwinai, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand, Fax: +66 (0) 2 643 5320; Email: minister@mfa.go.th
Air Chief Marshal Prajin Juntong, Minister of Justice of Thailand, Fax: +66 (0) 2 953 0503
Pol Gen Chaktip Chaijinda, Commissioner-General of the Royal Thai Police, Fax: +66 (0) 2 251 5956 / +66 (0) 2 251 8702
Mr. Wat Tingsamit, Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand, Email: help@nhrc.or.th
H.E. Mr. Thani Thongphakdi, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Thailand to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: +41 22 715 10 00 / 10 02; Email: mission.thailand@ties.itu.int
Embassy of Thailand in Brussels, Belgium, Fax: +32 2 648 30 66; Email: thaibxl@pophost.eunet.be

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Thailand in your respective countries.

***

Paris-Geneva, May 23, 2019

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

 
To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
Tel and fax FIDH +33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
Tel and fax OMCT +41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / +41 22 809 49 29

[1] Andy Hall is a British national who lived in Thailand for 11 years before leaving the country in November 2016 because of judicial harassment. He is a researcher on migration issues in Southeast Asia and now lives in Nepal, where he continues his human rights work.
[2] The first case relates to criminal charges for the publication of the report (Case 1), the second for civil defamation for the publication of the report (Case 2), the third relates to criminal charges for the interview (Case 3) and the fourth for civil defamation for the interview (Case 4). See also Finnwatch “Q&A: Criminal and Civil Prosecutions - Natural Fruit vs. Andy Hall”, updated on May 22, 2019: https://finnwatch.org/images/pdf/NaturalFruitvsAndyHallQA_May2019_FINAL.pdf
[3] http://www.finnwatch.org/en/news/180-serious-human-rights-violations-behind-european-food-brands
[4] The case concerned an interview Andy Hall gave to Al-Jazeera in Myanmar.
[5] See the Observatory’s Joint Press Release, published on July 20, 2015, and Joint Open Letter, published on August 8, 2014.
[6] The bail was equivalent to 300,000 Thai Baht (approximately 7,740 Euros).
[7] See Observatory Urgent Appeal THA 005 / 1118 / OBS 137, published on November 27, 2018.

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