Tue, Aug 25, 2015 - Page 6 News List

British labor activist faces new trial in Thailand for report

AFP, BANGKOK

A Thai court yesterday indicted a British labor rights activist in a case linked to a report he coauthored alleging severe labor abuses in Thailand’s food industry, a key supplier to Western supermarkets.

Andy Hall, 34, was acquitted by a court last year on a defamation charge pursued by Thailand’s attorney general, but Natural Fruit, the company at the heart of the dispute, has filed a string of its own criminal and civil cases against Hall, the most serious of which was accepted yesterday.

“We have learnt that the Southern Criminal Court has agreed to hear the case against Andy Hall for defamation and violation of the Computer Crimes Act,” Hall’s defense lawyer Nakhon Chomphuchat said.

Hall has been ordered to appear in court on Oct. 19 for a plea hearing, Nakhon added, with the court expected to decide today whether he gets bail.

The activist, who is based in Thailand, faces up to seven years in jail if convicted.

Hall coauthored a 2013 report that centered on working conditions at a Natural Fruit factory in southern Thailand, leveling accusations of forced and child labor, unlawfully low wages and long hours.

Titled Cheap Has a High Price and published by the Finnish civil rights group Finnwatch, the report redoubled scrutiny of Thailand’s food industry which has faced years of allegations of mistreatment of its mainly migrant labor force.

Natural Fruit, a major supplier to the European drink market, has denied the allegations in Hall’s report and launched a slew of court cases against the Briton, including a civil case seeking US$10 million in damages.

The company was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Thailand’s attorney general is also appealing last year’s acquittal.

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