Thai court in­dicts pre­vi­ously ac­quit­ted Bri­tish rights ac­tivist

The China Post - - LIFE GUIDE POST -

A Thai court Mon­day in­dicted a Bri­tish la­bor rights ac­tivist in a case linked to a re­port he co-au­thored al­leg­ing se­vere la­bor abuses in Thai­land’s food in­dus­try, a key sup­plier to Western su­per­mar­kets.

Andy Hall, 34, had pre­vi­ously been ac­quit­ted by a court last year on a defama­tion charge pur­sued by Thai­land’s At­tor­ney Gen­eral.

But Nat­u­ral Fruit, the com­pany at the heart of the dis­pute, has filed a string of its own crim­i­nal and civil cases against Hall, the most se­ri­ous of which was ac­cepted Mon­day.

“We have learned that the South­ern Crim­i­nal Court has agreed to hear the case against Andy Hall for defama­tion and vi­o­la­tion of the Com­puter Crimes Act,” Hall’s de­fense lawyer Nakhon Chom­phuchat told AFP.

Hall has been or­dered to ap­pear in court on Oct. 19 for a plea hear­ing, Nakhon added, with the court ex­pected to de­cide to­day whether he gets bail.

The la­bor ac­tivist, who is based in Thai­land, faces up to seven years in jail if con­victed.

Both Thai­land’s crim­i­nal defama­tion and com­puter mis­use laws have been crit­i­cized by rights groups for their broad word­ing and the ease with which they can be used to sti­fle in­ves­tiga­tive work.

Hall co-au­thored a 2013 re­port cen­tered on work­ing con­di­tions at a Nat­u­ral Fruit fac­tory in south­ern Thai­land lev­el­ing ac­cu­sa­tions of forced and child la­bor, un­law­fully low wages and long hours.

Ti­tled “Cheap Has a High Price” and pub­lished by the Fin­nish civil rights group Fin­nwatch, the re­port re­dou­bled scru­tiny of Thai­land’s food in­dus­try which has faced years of al­le­ga­tions of mis­treat­ment of its mainly mi­grant la­bor force.

Nat­u­ral Fruit, a ma­jor sup­plier to the Euro­pean drink mar­ket, has de­nied the al­le­ga­tions in Hall’s re­port and launched a slew of court cases against the Bri­ton, in­clud­ing a civil case seek­ing US$10 mil­lion in dam­ages.

The com­pany was un­avail­able for com­ment Mon­day.

Thai­land’s At­tor­ney Gen­eral is also ap­peal­ing last year’s ac­quit­tal.

Hall stands by his re­search and has ac­cused the com­pany of try­ing to de­tract from the re­port’s damn­ing find­ings through le­gal ac­tion.

“I am con­fi­dent of be­ing cleared of all these ridicu­lous charges,” Hall told AFP af­ter the in­dict­ment, adding “this is plain and sim­ple ju­di­cial ha­rass­ment.”

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