Andy Hall leaves Thai­land amid le­gal woes

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - NYAN LYNN AUNG nyan­lin­aung@mm­times.com

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).

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