Andy Hall leaves Thailand amid legal woes
After more than 11 years defending migrant workers’ rights, the advocate fled Bangkok against “insurmountable challenges” and continued legal campaigns waged by large companies seeking to discredit Hall’s work.
MIGRANT workers say they have lost a key advocate in the region, after British activist Andy Hall fled Thailand yesterday citing fears for his own safety.
Mr Hall said he was mired in mounting legal problems and facing harassment from companies that had been “irrational, vindictive and aggressive”.
U Sein Htay, chair of Myanmar’s Migrant Workers Rights Network, which Mr Hall worked with as an adviser, said the rights advocate’s departure is bound to have a profound impact.
“We are really concerned that migrant affairs will be set back,” he said, adding that Mr Hall had been an effective force in lobbying for change. Mr Hall had spent more than 11 years lobbying for migrant rights in the region, working especially with the Myanmar community.
Mr Hall’s legal cases have had a chilling effect among the community of rights activists in Thailand, with many seeing the penalties he faced as a barrier to continuing their work on bringing about international-standard labour conditions.
Ko Aung Gyi, a migrant worker in Mahachai, Thailand, and a witness in one of Mr Hall’s court cases, said migrant labourers will now face diminished rights. He echoed U Sein Htay’s statement, saying Mr Hall had been a key ally in the fight for proper working conditions.
“He [Andy] could try and make demands directly with the government. I am worried that the migrant workers will be prevented from pushing for their rights in future now,” he said.
On September 20, a Bangkok court found Mr Hall guilty on charges of criminal defamation brought by Natural Fruit Company, a pineapple wholesaler that supplies the European Union. Mr Hall was handed a suspended three-year jail term and fined 150,000 baht (US$4300).