Human rights campaigner formally detained in Thailand

Migrant rights activist Andy Hall was formally detained in a Thai court cell following a meeting with Bangkok prosecutors yesterday.

Migrant rights activist Andy Hall was formally detained in a Thai court cell following a meeting with Bangkok prosecutors yesterday.

British citizen Hall was there to learn the public prosecutor’s decision on whether the latest criminal charges filed against him by Natural Fruit Co. Ltd. would be ordered prosecuted.

The Prosecutor was acting on behalf of Thailand’s Attorney General, who is now prosecuting the case.

The Attorney General and then Prakanong Court accepted the Natural Fruit vs. Andy Hall case on charges of criminal defamation, read the charge to Hall formally and Hall then pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The Attorney General’s reasons for accepting the case were reportedly that Hall foresaw damage against the injured party would occur in Thailand when interviewed by Aljazeera, regarding the Finnwatch report on Natural Fruit and labor issues.

“Finnwatch is very disappointed about the court’s decision to accept the case. Such criminal charges are judicial harassment against a human rights defender,” said executive director Sonja Vartiala.

After pleading not guilty to the charge, Hall was then detained for two hours in a cell below the Prakanong courthouse with prisoners on their way to jail, but was then released on bail.

The Thai Frozen Foods Association (TFFA) and Thai Tuna Industry Association (TTIA) provided the bail as a symbol of support for Andy Hall’s work as a human rights defender and migration expert. Finnwatch also offered to pay the bail.

As a condition of bail, Hall’s passport was confiscated and he can’t leave Thailand to return home to Myanmar unless the court approves his departure, the case against him is considered and rejected or, if found guilty, until he has served his sentence.

Natural Fruit Co., a company based in Prachuap Khiri Khan Province of Thailand, began a series of civil and criminal prosecutions against Andy Hall in February 2013.

Charges relate to his role in conducting interviews with migrants from Myanmar working in the pineapple and tuna export industry to assist Finnwatch in compililing a report, Cheap Has a High Price.

This report, released in Jan 2013 and updated in Jan 2014, outlined particularly poor labour conditions in Natural Fruit’s factory, selling pineapple concentrate to Finnish supermarkets.

Legal action against Hall has raised international criticism. In addition to Finnwatch, numerous NGOs and global union federations have condemned the harassment. Five UN Special Rapporteurs have sought clarifications amidst concern Hall is being targeted for his work to promote migrant rights.