Thailand’s Bangkok South Criminal Court found [Finnwatch report] British labor rights activist Andy Hall guilty of criminal defamation and violating cyber crime laws on Tuesday. The charges came about after Hall published Cheap Has a High Price [report, PDF], a report on labor abuse in the fruit canning sector. The 2013 report focused on a Natural Fruit Company Ltd. [corporate website] factory and alleged poor working conditions, low wages and instances of child labor. Natural Fruit, which is a major supplier to the western world, denied the allegations made in Hall’s report and brought criminal charges against him. The court held that Hall had violated the Computer Crimes Act [unofficial translation] and issued a three-year suspended jail sentence. Sonja Vartiala, Executive Director of Finnwatch stated her opinion on the ruling:
Thailand’s laws that allow for criminal punishment and even imprisonment for defamation are in clear breach of Thailand’s international human rights obligations. Instead of allowing companies to take human rights defenders to criminal courts for alleged defamation, Thailand needs to thoroughly follow through on allegations of violations of migrant workers’ rights.
Hall will appeal the sentence.
Thailand has been home to significant human rights concerns for years, some of which stem from the nation’s court system. In particular, human rights groups worldwide have expressed growing concern over violations in Thailand since the military junta came to power in May 2014. Also in September the Thailand Supreme Court affirmed [JURIST report] a 20-year prison sentence given to protest leader Sondhi Limthongkul in 2012. Thai military officials in July charged [JURIST report] three human rights defenders with criminal defamation and violations of the Computer Crimes Act because of a report they published detailing acts of torture in Thailand. In April Human Rights Watch urged [JURIST report] Thailand to stop harassing and charging human right lawyers for defending victims of the government’s abuses, and to revoke military police powers.