Thailand: Human rights activist ready to face jail on return to Thailand

Consumers in Spalding have the power to change the plight of migrant workers in Thailand who “work at gunpoint” to bring cheap food to our tables.

That is the message from human rights activist Andy Hall, who is visiting his home town while renewing his visa.

Speaking to the Free Press at his parents’ house in Malvern Avenue, Mr Hall said there was no question of him staying in this country and not returning to Thailand, even though when he arrives back he could be thrown into jail.

He said: “It’s a daunting thought, but I will be in touch with my lawyers to see if a warrant has been issued.

“But I must go back because there is still work to do. I have to carry on.”

Last week, we reported how Mr Hall is setting up a legal defence fund to help fight civil and criminal charges lodged against him by the Natural Fruit Company Ltd.

Mr Hall – who has worked with Burmese Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and organised her visit to Mahachai where 250,000 of her country’s migrant workers live – is facing two years in prison and a multi-million pound fine, after co-authoring a report that slammed the National Fruit Company Ltd for its alleged use of child labour in one of its factories.

He has been critical of lack of support from the British Embassy and says only now has the Ambassador in Thailand taken up his case after police at Bangna Police Station “nearly tricked” him into confessing the allegations he made about working conditions at the fruit company were untrue.

Tomorrow he is going to London to meet with officials at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Last month, the British government became the first country to launch an action plan on business and human rights.

Mr Hall said: “The Government has pledged to protect human rights and I am disappointed I have had no support until now.

“I will be meeting ministers to tell them about the situation I am now facing.”

On arriving home, he said he was not surprised to find the origin of crab sticks on the shelves of a Spalding supermarket was Thailand.

He said: “People think Thailand is a paradise destination but under the surface it’s very nasty. Migrant workers come to Thailand to flee poverty and war, only to be held at gunpoint, not allowed to go out and shot if they protest.

“I’m not saying don’t buy Thai food, but ask supermarkets how it gets on the shelves.

“If there is a risk exports could be affected, the Thai government will listen. Consumers in Spalding have the power to change things.”