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Andy Hall leaves, ‘fears for his safety’

BANGKOK: Prominent British rights activist Andy Hall left Thailand early today (Nov 7), saying he feared for his safety amidst legal problems and growing harassment from companies that have been “irrational, vindictive and aggressive”.

crime, corruption, immigration, Myanmar, politics,

Monday 7 November 2016, 09:10AM


Andy Hall won an acquittal from the Supreme Court on one charge of defamation last week, but says he can no longer deal with the ‘corrupt mafia system’ in Thailand. Photo: Bangkok Post file photo
Andy Hall won an acquittal from the Supreme Court on one charge of defamation last week, but says he can no longer deal with the ‘corrupt mafia system’ in Thailand. Photo: Bangkok Post file photo

Mr Hall, who has worked on the rights of migrant workers in Thailand for 11 years, has recently faced defamation lawsuits by companies he has accused of labour violations.

“The situation is not good right now,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone yesterday (Nov 6) before his flight, speaking from Mahachai, a town near Bangkok and the centre of Thailand’s seafood processing industry.

“It’s rapidly deteriorating. It doesn’t feel safe. There are people who are intent on wearing me down. I’ve worked with so many companies in Thailand, and it’s rare to have a company that is so irrational and so vindictive. It’s enough to wear anyone down.”

In September, Mr Hall was handed a suspended three-year jail term and fined B150,000 ($4,300) for criminally defaming Natural Fruit Company, a pineapple wholesaler that supplies the European Union.

Rights groups called the verdict an alarming precedent in the fight against labour exploitation.

Emboldened by the ruling, a chicken farmer who lost his EU contracts and had to shut down his 1.6 million-chicken operation after Mr Hall exposed alleged labour violations on one of his three farms, said he planned to pursue his own defamation case and has hired the Natural Fruit lawyer.

Supported by Mr Hall, the chicken farm workers had sued the farmer in September, alleging forced overtime, unlawful salary deductions, confiscation of their passports and limited freedom of movement. They demanded $1.3 million in compensation and civil damages.

The chicken farmer countered with defamation lawsuits against 14 of the migrant workers, Mr Hall said, adding that he didn’t know if suits had been filed against him or the non-governmental organisation he co-founded, the Migrant Worker Rights Network.

Thailand, one of the world’s key food exporters, employs an estimated 3 million migrant workers, mostly from Myanmar. Many migrants face labour violations, such as unpaid wages, confiscated travel documents and limited freedom of movement.

Mr Hall’s legal problems began after he conducted research for Helsinki-based Finnwatch for a 2013 report called “Cheap has a high price”. A company in the report, Natural Fruit, filed four defamation cases against Mr Hall.

One case related to an interview Mr Hall gave to Al Jazeera in Myanmar in 2013 about the legal fallout of the Finnwatch report. A court in Bangkok dismissed the charges, but Thailand’s attorney general and Natural Fruit appealed.

The Supreme Court on Thursday (Nov 3) rejected that appeal. The verdict had originally been scheduled to be read on Nov 25, but Mr Hall said he requested the court to move the date forward because of his increasingly precarious situation.

Zurich Bread

“It’s time for the good companies, the good actors, to speak to these people. I work with a lot of good companies ... I fear for my safety because of the unstable situation. I don’t want to be here another three weeks,” he said.

“My work is not productive at the moment. It’s like walking on broken glass. I don’t feel secure to be working here. Why would you want to put yourself in this situation where you’re just being worn down and stuck in the court system?”

Because of the cases, Mr Hall has had his travel restricted since June 2014 and his passport confiscated by two different courts. He was unable to live outside Thailand and had to ask the court’s permission each time he left the country.. “You’re at the whim of this corrupt, mafia system, and you can’t get out of it ... I’ve done everything I’m legally obliged to do, and now is the time to step away and see if this will get better.”

He said once the chicken farmer filed criminal defamation charges against him, he would be subjected to travel restrictions again – another reason to leave now.

“The reason I’m leaving is they said in court they’re going to file a new criminal case against me, because it comes with all the restrictions – I’m not willing to be subjected to that criminal process again, and I’m also leaving because of the security issues.”

Meanwhile, he said there had been a clear impact on civil society and freedom of speech, as many watchdogs and activists have warned.

“No one dares to say anything about anyone doing anything wrong in Thailand. They just say it’s ‘a factory’, or ‘a company’ in Thailand,” he said.

“I want to come back, but it’s a matter of do I have enough support and encouragement to come back? Now I feel very uncomfortable,” he said.

Mr Hall left on a Paris-bound flight that departed from Bangkok shortly after midnight today. He has not specified a return date.

Read original story here.

Story by Thomas Reuteurs Foundation

 

 

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Kurt | 07 November 2016 - 13:07:10

The thai feudal 'influentials' are really hard headed an living under century old stones.
It is good that the EU contracts of that chicken farmer were cancelled. even it was just a small market player.
These chicken farm workers were inhumane treated and sued the chicken farmer. Hope the thai court set a 'international human right' example with this case.
The EU cares about that.

And as denied by joe12 (his reaction on 5 NOV: "The EU would not be concerned about who they bought their goods from as long they were cheap"), we see now that the EU does care, even when it concerns a small chicken market player.

It is a black day for Thailand that Mr Hall has to leave Thailand, fearing for his safety.

We may look forward to EU ruling that Natural Fruit products will be blocked in exporting to EU.
We read again today that for Natural Fruit supplies the EU market. Several times already that joe12 wrote here that the EU market was not important to Natural Fruit. Well it is, lets hope it was. And blocks now import of Natural Fruit products.
Chicken, Fishery, Fruit, anything more on the thai market what labor wise stinks?

Mr Hall is a hero. Realizing what he for years has gone through the thai whim of this corrupt mafia system, as he said, well, there are people who got a Nobel Prize for making music. Perhaps a Nobel Prize for Mr Hall, for his stand against misuse of labor by thai employers?

The law is the law  ( joe12), why is the Red bull heir road killer allowed to keep all these years  his passport and leave Thailand all the time when his case comes up in court? Blocking/ignoring the law and justice?
And why a hero like mr Hall immediately is grounded in Thailand because of a law suite by criminal thai companies, he didn't kill anyone.

The law is the law?  
No, not in Thailand as joe12 can see, but still stands for.

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