Labor activist Andy Hall says he is “feeling confident” as he awaits the verdict of a criminal trial brought against him by Thailand’s Natural Fruit company, although concerns have been raised about the safety of migrant workers testifying in Hall’s defense
By Casey Hynes Sep 18, 2014 1:52PM UTC
Labor activist Andy Hall says he is “feeling confident” as he awaits the verdict of a criminal trial brought against him by Thailand’s Natural Fruit company, although concerns have been raised about the safety of migrant workers testifying in Hall’s defense. The first of several trials, this one concerning criminal charges related to an interview Hall gave to Aljazeera, concluded Sept. 10. The Prakanong Court will deliver the final verdict in that trial on Oct. 29. Hall faces a year in jail if convicted.
Witness safety was a concern of Hall’s, and of humanitarian workers internationally, before the trials even began. Due to potentially tenuous financial and legal statuses, migrant workers in Thailand are often quite vulnerable to exploitation.
Natural Fruit went after Hall when he publicly announced findings from research on migrant worker conditions in Natural Fruit’s factory. Hall conducted the research on behalf of Finnwatch, a Finnish NGO. The research was published in a report titled “Cheap has a high price,” exposing worker abuses by some Thai food suppliers that work with Western grocery stores.
Hall was not the only researcher on the project, but Natural Fruit targeted him because he discussed the findings publicly at a press conference in Bangkok. Natural Fruit was one of three companies named, but was the only one not to respond to allegations of poor working conditions and migrant worker abuse. The company has refused to back down despite calls from international labor and human rights organizations, as well as a European food distribution coalition. The company even hinted it would be willing to bring further legal suits in a letter responding to activists who demanded that the organization’s president, who is also the head of Natural Fruit, be removed from his position.
A computer crimes and and criminal defamation trial set to begin Sept. 15 was postponed until Nov. 17. The court okayed the delay in the case because a hearings summons was not delivered to Hall with sufficient time to respond before a hearing began, according to Hall’s blog.
The first hearing in a third case, this one involving a $10 million USD civil defamation suit, will be held Oct. 30. The first hearing in a civil defamation case regarding the Aljazeera interview has not yet been scheduled.