Andy Hall. Photo: Teija Laakso / maailma.net
Act now! Defend worker rights defender on trial in Thailand
Andy Hall is a British migrant workers’ rights defender active in Thailand for many years – we’ve covered his work and the attacks on him before. On Tuesday 2 September, he goes on trial in Thailand, accused of criminal libel by the Natural Fruit Company, a pineapple producer whose abusive treatment of Burmese migrants Andy exposed in a 2012 report Cheap has a high price. He found child labour, withheld wages, confiscated passports and even violence. If he loses, he faces a seven-year jail sentence and a multi-million dollar fine.
You can take action to defend him by joining the LabourStart action aimed at the Thai government and employers (including Natural Fruit); by backing the Sumofus campaign to get global fruit company Dole to put pressure on the Natural Fruit Company; and by donating to Andy’s legal and campaign costs.
The TUC – like other union movements in Australia and the USA, and global union bodies like the ITUC and Global Union Federations, and around a hundred human rights NGOs – has been pressing the company, the Thai Pineapple Industry Association to which the company belongs (its CEO is President of the TPIA), and the Thai Government. The GUFs involved span the whole global supply chain that is based on such abuses of workers’ fundamental human rights: the IUF for food production, ITF for transport and UNI for retail.
The British Embassy in Thailand is sending an observer to the trial, as are several others, to demonstrate how important the principles involved are (the European Union is helping with Andy’s legal costs too). United Nordic, which supplies fruit from Thailand to supermarkets across Scandinavia, has also declared its concern about the case.
Andy has risked his liberty and his livelihood, but he has made clear that the real victims if the court case goes ahead and he loses will be the Thai and Burmese workers. Because this isn’t about him, it’s about the rights of workers in Thailand not to be exploited, and to be able to speak out against that exploitation. The TUC’s equivalent in Thailand, the State Enterprise Workers Relations Confederation (SERC) has come under enormous pressure to stop supporting Andy, but in response, they said:
“SERC insists to remain committed to the policy of the SERC executive committee concerning our fight to ensure rights for all workers, both Thai and migrants, with no exceptions including those relating to skin colour, status, ethnicity, language or culture. As a result, SERC will continue steadfastly to fight on to assist and support every person who fights to ensure rights protection or who fights for labour rights or human rights. SERC will adhere to this policy without discrimination and whether or not the person who fights for the rights of workers happens to be Mr. Andy Hall.”
Andy’s bravery and SERC’s resolute defence of him and of the most vulnerable workers in Thailand are an inspiration to us all. Defend Andy, defend workers in Thailand, defend the right to free speech and decent work.