Thai Supreme Court dismisses case against Andy Hall

The Thai Supreme Court has dismissed a criminal defamation charge against a well-known British labour rights advocate, who was sued by a Thai canned fruit company for voicing labour abuse.

On 4 November 2016, the Supreme Court dismissed a criminal defamation case against Andy Hall, BBC Thai reported.

Hall was sued by Natural Fruit Co. Ltd., a Thai canned fruit company based in the southern Prachuap Khiri Khan Province, over an interview he gave to Al-Jazeera about the poor working conditions of migrant workers employed by the company.

According to Nakhon Chomphuchat, Hall’s defence lawyer, the Supreme Court confirmed an Appeal Court’s verdict that Thai courts have no jurisdiction over the case since the interview was conducted in Myanmar.

Hall posted a statement on his Twitter account announcing that he is consulting with his lawyer to counter-sue the fruit company. He added that he will also file lawsuits against the Phra Khanong District’s public prosecutor as well as Bangna District Police, who processed the case against him, to accuse its officers of malfeasance in office.

In September, Bangkok’s Southern Criminal Court handed a three year suspended jail term to Hall in another case for offences under Article 14 of the 2007 Computer Crime Act. He was accused of defaming the same fruit company for interviews he conducted with Myanmar migrants working in the pineapple and tuna export industry used in the 2013 Finnwatch report, Cheap Has a High Price.

In the report, Hall stated that the migrant workers had their passports confiscated by Natural Fruit Co. Ltd. They were paid below the minimum wage and not paid when working overtime. In addition, the company also hired children below 15 years old to work in the factory.

Sonja Vartiala, Director of Finnwatch, told media at the time that she was shocked by the verdict, BBC Thai reported. She emphasised the report was published by Finnwatch and that Hall is only a scapegoat.

"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," BBC Thai quoted Sonja as saying.

Despite the Supreme Court ruling against Hall’s defamation charge, his suspended jail term under the Computer Crimes Act still stands. He currently faces two more civil defamation cases filed by the same company.

Andy Hall in front of Bangkok’s Southern Criminal Court on 20 September 2016

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