http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/05 ... -starts-o/British activist faces jail threat in Thailand as trial starts over worker abuse research .
By Philip Sherwell, Bangkok
19 May 2016 • 2:03pm
A leading British human rights activist has gone on trial in Bangkok on charges that carry up to seven years in jail for exposing allegations of labour abuses at a Thai company.
Andy Hall has been pursued through the Thai courts relentlessly since early 2013 in a series of cases brought by Natural Fruit Company, a pineapple juice business that supplied European and US markets.
Mr Hall, a Thai speaker who has lived in the kingdom for 11 years, is one of the country’s most prominent campaigners for the rights of migrant workers in the seafood and agricultural industries.
As he went into court on Wednesday, the 37-year-old told The Telegraph: “I’m very disappointed this case has been allowed to reach trial. It reflects badly on Thailand that I’m being pursued through the courts for just conducting research, though I also remain confident that I will be cleared.”...
His legal troubles follow his work as a freelance research for Finnwatch, a Finnish campaign group, investigating working conditions for migrant workers in Thailand.
The report, Cheap Has a High Price, published in 2012, disclosed allegations of abusive conditions, illegally low pay and discrimination made by Burmese labourers at the Natural Fruit canning facility.
The company denies the allegations and lodged defamation cases within weeks. ..
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British activist found guilty in Thailand over report alleging labour abuses
British labour rights activist Andy Hall has been sentenced to three years suspended jail time and a fine after being found guilty of defaming a Thai pineapple wholesaler that supplies the European Union.
Hall’s suspended sentence means he is unlikely to serve any time in jail but the ruling in Bangkok will set a precedent for Thai firms accused of worker’s rights issues being able to go after activists with defamation cases, a criminal charge in Thailand.
The trial related to the publication of a report Hall researched for the Finnish NGO Finnwatch, released in January 2013 and titled Cheap Has a High Price. It made claims of violence against employees, forced overtime, and confiscation of passports of Burmese migrants.
“We are shocked by today’s verdict. The report was authored and published by Finnwatch; we take full responsibility for it. Andy has been made a scapegoat in order to stifle other voices that speak out legitimately in support of migrant worker rights,” said Sonja Vartiala, executive director of Finnwatch.
“This is a sad day for freedom of expression in Thailand. We fear that many other human rights defenders and victims of company abuse will be scared to silence by this ruling,” added Vartiala.
Hall said on Twitter that he will appeal against the sentence.
While Hall worked as a consultant for Finnwatch, his defence team argued that he did not author or publish the report.
Bangkok’s south criminal court ordered Hall to pay a 150,000 baht (£3,330) fine, as part of a sentencing that ended hearings stretching over almost four years. The charges brought against him carried maximum penalties of up to seven years imprisonment.
In addition to the two criminal cases, Natural Fruit has also filed two civil claims for damages against Hall totalling 400m baht (close to £9m)...
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/ ... our-abuses
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