Human rights defender found guilty in Thai court


Human rights defender Andy Hall was sentenced by a Thai court today to pay 10 million baht ($321,000) in damages to a company that filed a civil defamation suit after he helped expose alleged human rights violations at its factory.

The Monday ruling against Andy Hall was the latest development involving four defamation suits filed by pineapple canning company Natural Fruit, which employed migrant Myanmar workers who claimed the company had abused them and broke labor regulations.

Hall’s legal troubles stem from a 2013 report he researched for the Finnish consumer organization Finnwatch that alleged labor abuses at Natural Fruit’s facilities. They also concern an interview that he gave to Al-Jazeera on the subject, which was the focus of Monday’s ruling. Natural Fruit claimed that the report Hall helped research and his interview comments both hurt their business.

Read the whole article in AP/NY Times here.

– We are totally upset about today’s decision. It’s like a shock. The judgment limits freedom of expression and prevents reporting of human rights violations, says Sonja Vartiala, CEO of Finnwatch.

Axfoundation is involved in a project in Thailand with the purpose to strengthen migrant worker’s rights. The project involves ten Nordic companies, including Axfood and Martin & Servera.

– The verdict against Andy Hall, and several other court cases involving Hall and migrant workers who have reported abuse at Thai factories, show how serious the situation is in Thailand. We will continue our work and mobilize buying companies to take a stand, says Viveka Risberg, Program Director for Social Sustainability at Axfoundation.

More about our work in Thailand here.