From the TUC

Thai trials that should never have happened

30 Oct 2014, By

Yesterday morning, I blogged about the fabulous news that the first case against Andy Hall had been thrown out in Thailand. That afternoon I collected Andy’s mum and dad, sister and two nieces from Kings Cross to go see the top diplomat at the Royal Thai Embassy in Kensington, where we met two great activists dressed as pineapples and a host more wearing pineapple spectacles, plastic pineapple balloons and – for the traditionalists – placards. All because the company that is harassing Andy through the courts, Natural Fruit, cans the fruit.

Inside, Des Hall told the Charge d’Affaires that his son loved Thailand, and simply wanted to ensure that migrant workers were able to lead decent lives. He and Pat, with Unite’s Gail Cartmail and the Burma Campaign’s Anna Roberts made our case to the diplomat that the trials Andy faces were doing immense reputational damage to Thailand and its industries. We handed over a letter signed by the leaders of thirty-three organisations worldwide (including the TUC and unions from Thailand, Finland and Australia among others) calling on the government to press Natural Fruit to drop the charges against Andy and engage with the criticisms of its labour practices that his research – confirmed by witnesses at his trial – uncovered.

The government says it has investigated the claims against Natural Fruit, such as child labour, withheld wages and passport confiscations. Inspectors did find a number of breaches of the labour law, and have instructed the company to put these right (without effect according to the workers). But they say they found no evidence of the most serious cases (it’s all too easy to hide child workers from inspectors keen to avoid embarrassment for a powerful business owner, as we explained to the diplomat.) Fellow campaigners visiting the Thai Embassy in the Netherlands were told that further investigations were under way, and that would certainly be a positive move.

But the best outcome would be for the Thai government to convince Natural Fruit to do what UK corporates in the Ethical Trading Initiative urged this summer, and so many Thai companies have already done (including those who helped put up Andy’s bail money, suggesting that claims he wants to destroy Thailand’s industry are not unanimously shared by employers) – abandon legal action to shut up the messenger, and address the endemic abuse of migrant and local workers’ rights.