The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has condemned the trial of a British human rights defender Andy Hall, which opened in Thailand yesterday, as a clear example of victimisation and cover up.
Andy Hall is facing criminal and civil cases of criminal defamation, which have been brought against him by Thailand’s Natural Fruit Company following his research into the company for the report Cheap Has a High Price, published by the Finnwatch NGO (www.finnwatch.org). The report exposed smuggling of migrant workers along with the use of child labour, forced overtime and violence against workers. The ITF has stated that Thailand itself is on trial over these abuses.
ITF president Paddy Crumlin commented: “This trial is indefensible and should be halted immediately. Thailand should be acting against the appalling treatment of workers and for freedom of opinion, not victimising one of the people who rightly brought this awful state of affairs to wider attention.”
ITF general secretary Steve Cotton today appealed directly to the Thai Pineapple to disassociate itself from the case brought by its member company against Andy Hall. He told the association:
“Mr Hall’s investigations into the fruit and fish industries in Thailand helped expose shocking abuses there to a worldwide audience. Therefore, this matter has now become of relevance to constituents across global food supply chains and international civil society at large.
“The ITF believes that the prosecution of Mr Hall is a misuse of the law to punish public interest whistleblowing.
“We urge you once again to use your good offices to persuade the Natural Fruit Company and its CEO to withdraw the charges and enter into constructive dialogue with Thai unions and workers’ rights defenders to address the serious allegations raised by Mr Hall.”
Andy Hall is detailing the case against him at the website http://andyjhall.wordpress.com, through which he can be contacted, as well as via the @atomicalandy twitter account. His case has attracted widespread support from across the trade union movement, including the IUF (International Union of Food, Agricultural and Hospitality Workers), which is partnered with the ITF in the Catcher to counter initiative, and a spectrum of trade unions, union organisations and NGOs (see here). A LabourStart appeal supporting him is at www.labourstartcampaigns.net/show_campaign.cgi?c=2467