Andy Hall. Photo: Teija Laakso / maailma.net
Migrant rights defender back in Thai court
British-born migrant rights activist Andy Hall was back in Southern Bangkok Criminal Court this Thursday (18 May) for just 45 minutes as the most serious of his trials over the last three years began. Andy, who has so far been convicted of nothing, was in court to hear the start of a trial for criminal defamation and computer crimes charges, which carry a maximum combined penalty of seven years imprisonment in addition to potential fines if he’s found guilty. The Thai Government claims that it’s nothing to do with them but a matter for Andy and his business accuser to settle, and the UK government – although the Embassy in Thailand sent one of several diplomatic observers to the trial – says it cannot interfere in local judicial matters.
With solidarity actions being run by anti-slavery organisation Walk Free and globally-respected freedom of speech campaign PEN international, Andy has also received the support of his family’s local MEP – Glenis Willmott – and TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady, who said:
“The continuing prosecution of Andy Hall, without effective protest from the British government, makes a mockery of the British and Thai governments’ claims to support human rights in global supply chains. This baseless judicial harassment of a human rights defender is continuing only to discourage others from standing up for justice in Thailand’s exploitative workplaces. It should be stopped now, or it will leave a permanent stain on the reputation of Thailand’s businesses.”
Frances’ and Glenis’ remarks were covered in the local papers that cover Andy’s parents’ home in Lincolnshire – the Spalding Guardian and the Lincolnshire Echo – and the Daily Telegraph also covered his case, but without mentioning the TUC. The European Parliament magazine covered the pressure that Socialist & Democrat MEPs, among others, have put on the EU External Action Service to defend Andy.
This criminal case is the most serious of all four cases brought by a Prachuap Khiri Khan province based pineapple processing company Natural Fruit Company Ltd. against Andy. The charges were brought following publication of a Finnwatch report Cheap Has a High Price in January 2013. The first three days of this criminal trial (the next date in court will be next Thursday 26 May) will hear prosecution witnesses with far more defence witnesses being heard over eight days in June and July. It is not expected to end before September, unless we can persuade the Thai authorities to drop the charges.