As an organisation that for 20 years has documented and raised awareness of human rights abuses in tropical fruit production, Banana Link is shocked at conviction in Thailand of Andy Hall for criminal defamation.
British labour rights activist Andy Hall has been sentenced to a three year suspended jail term and a fine after being found guilty of defaming a Thai pineapple wholesaler that supplies the European Union.
The suspended sentence means he is unlikely to serve any time in jail but the ruling in Bangkok sets a frightening precedent for activists and NGOs working on labour rights issues in the fruit industry, or other industries, in Thailand.
The report that landed Andy in the Thai court - Cheap Has a High Price – was published by Finnish NGO, Finnwatch in 2013, and outlined allegations of serious human rights violations at the Natural Fruit Company Ltd's pineapple processing plant in Prachuap Khiri Khan province in Thailand. Finnwatch have released a statement condemning the court ruling.
Banana Link International Co-ordinator, Alistair Smith, has added his voice, saying, “We at Banana Link have done work like Andy was doing on many occasions and are well aware that the first reaction of many companies where violations are flagrant, is to go into denial mode. But to take the step of going to court is not only an essentially violent response, but one which is likely to undermine the company's reputation for good. It is hoped that more responsible Thai industry peers will be able to bring Natural Fruit to its senses and see that dialogue around how to eradicate abuses is the easiest way forward."
The UK Government’s Ethical Trading Initiative, of which Banana Link is a member, has also issued a statement expressing serious concern and indicating they would be raising the matter with the Thai government, among others.
You can add your voice in support of Andy by signing the International Labour Rights Forum petition to send a message to the Thai government to stand in solidarity with Andy Hall and the workers who spoke out against exploitation at Natural Fruit.