Court finds British activist guilty of defamation
A Thai court found a British labor activist guilty Tuesday of defaming a fruit canning company, and gave him a suspended prison sentence in a case that has raised serious concerns among human rights workers and free speech advocates.
The Bangkok South Criminal Court found Andy Hall guilty of criminal defamation against Natural Fruit Company Ltd. in connection with a 2013 report he researched for the Finnish consumer organization Finnwatch that alleged labor abuses at the company’s facilities.
The case has underlined complaints by critics that Thailand’s punitive criminal defamation laws can be used to silence whistle-blowers and social critics. The law carried a maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment.
Hall has been active for several years in Thailand in labor rights advocacy, especially involving migrant workers, who lack protections both in practice and under the law.
He was also found guilty of violating the Computer Crimes Act because the information was posted on the internet.
Hall was given a suspended sentence of three years with a probationary period of two years, and a fine of 150,000 baht ($4,300). He said he will appeal the ruling. He was allowed to go free after his fine was paid.