An open letter to Thai Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha condemns the conviction of labor activist Andy Hall. The letter was published on December 10, the International Human Rights Day, and gathered 110 signatures.
The background is the harsh sentence of four years imprisonment in labor activist Andy Hall, who has reviewed the food industry in Thailand and revealed the systematic use of Burmese migrant workers. Hall was sentenced to four years in prison for defamation and computer crimes in September 2016. The verdict was transferred soon to probation and eventually the entire case was dismissed by Thailand’s highest court. However, Andy Hall was forced to leave Thailand in early November for safety reasons, as he once again threatened by libel prosecutions because of his research and ommitment to the rights of migrant workers in Thailand, this time in a case involving the poultry industry.
Migrant workers from Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos risk to be used in the food industry in Thailand due to corruption, discrimination, weakly implemented legislation and low awareness. This affects food buying companies with value chains in Thailand who share responsibility for human rights breaches in the chain according to the UN Guiding Principles. In the autumn of 2016 Axfoundation invited to two industry meetings in cooperation with the Swedish Trade Federation to discuss possible joint undertakings. Andy Hall was a guest at the meeting in September, just days after the conviction. He presented his work at the organization Migrant Workers Rights Network (MWRN).
The verdict against Hall led to protests among international organizations and policy makers in the EU. MEPs have condemned the “harrassment” of Andy Hall in a EU Parliament Resolution the 6th October 2016.
The open letter published the 10th December, addressed to Prime Minister of Thailand, was drafted by Human Rights Watch and was signed by a number of Swedish actors, except Axfoundation the companies Axfood, Martin & Servera, Coop, Norvida and Swedish Cater. In addition, a number of Swedish civil organizations. In total, signatures came from 60 civil society organizations, 28 from trade unions, 13 from the private sector and nine MEPs.
Previous reports of the Thai fishing industry have revealed slavery and child labor. The EU has put severe pressure on Thailand by issuing “yellow card” and Thailand have taken action. New laws have been introduced in the summer of 2016 that can better take advantage of migrants’ rights. Axfoundation continue to follow the issue and advance initiatives that can contribute to improvements.