To Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha:
We are writing to request your assistance in ending the abusive use of Thailand’s criminal defamation law and Computer Crimes Act to silence migrant labor rights defender Andy Hall. The Royal Government of Thailand should respect freedom of speech and make sure that human rights defenders can continue their work free from judicial harassment.
The charges Natural Fruit brought against Mr. Hall are a clear effort to silence workers and their advocates rather than address the disturbing treatment of workers. In the case of Natural Fruit, that treatment included: high costs for labor recruitment, illegal salary deductions, child labor, payment below the legal minimum wage, confiscation of migrant workers’ passports and work permits, and physical violence.
The conditions documented by Mr. Hall and reported in Cheap Has A High Price were based on well-documented worker interviews, and the report was released to benefit workers at the factory by drawing attention to issues so that they could be fixed. At Mr. Hall’s trial, Natural Fruit workers confirmed that the information reported was accurate. Additionally, Mr. Hall was just one of many contributors for the report, and a Finnish NGO called Finnwatch was solely responsible for the final report and its publication. Mr. Hall and FinnWatch, reached out to Natural Fruit multiple times to give comments to the research and resolve the issue, but rather than fix the problems in its factories, Natural Fruit began its legal harassment of Mr. Hall.
Mr. Hall’s case has made news around the globe, been referred to as, “an international and national disgrace.” Hundreds of thousands of people from around the world have sent messages to Natural Fruit and others urging for the charges to be dismissed. Mr. Hall’s case was also referenced in the 2014 U.S. State Department’s Trafficking in Persons report, and its continuation only reinforces global concerns about the treatment of migrant workers and their advocates in your country.
The best way to bring an end to this negative publicity is to ensure that Andy Hall is released from all charges stemming from his human rights work and to work with labor rights activists to address the underlying issues that leave migrant workers vulnerable to unscrupulous employers. We urge you to take all possible steps to ensure that:
1. Freedom of speech is protected for human rights defenders and they are able to continue their work free from judicial harassment;
2. A full investigation by competent and independent labor investigators of unfair and/or illegal labor practices documented at Natural Fruit Company Ltd. and the NatGroup is conducted;
3. Fair remediation of all violations identified by investigations is provided; and
4. In consultation with workers and their advocates, effective measures to prevent future violations of workers in the pineapple industry are rapidly introduced.
We hope that the government of the Kingdom of Thailand will protect the right to freedom of speech and not curtail legitimate research that documents when companies mistreat workers and violate labor laws. Moreover, we wish to see Thailand promote workers’ rights by ensuring that companies are well-regulated to provide safe and healthy working conditions for their workers in both factories and fields.
As one of the prime leaders and founding states of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), we call on your leadership, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, to uphold basic principles of human rights.
We look forward to your response.
[Please download PDF for full list of signatories]