A British researcher and activist who worked for the Finnish NGO Finnwatch in Thailand has been fined and handed a four-year suspended prison sentence for his report on human rights abuses in the country's fruit-processing industry. Andy Hall was handed a four-year suspended sentence on charges of criminal defamation and computer crimes linked to his 2013 report 'Cheap Has a High Price'.
The report alleged abuse of workers at Natural Fruit, a major factory that processes pineapple juice sold widely in Finland and other EU countries.
Hall will be jailed if he is found guilty of another crime within the next two years. The Bangkok South Criminal Court also fined him 150,000 baht, or about 3,850 euros. Hall plans to appeal the decision.
The civil society organisation Finnwatch described the sentencing as 'shocking'.
"The report was authored and published by Finnwatch; we take full responsibility for it," said its executive director Sonja Vartiala in a statement. "Andy has been made a scapegoat in order to stifle other voices that speak out legitimately in support of migrant worker rights," she added.
"This is a sad day for freedom of expression in Thailand. We fear that many other human rights defenders and victims of company abuse will be scared to silence by this ruling," said Vartiala.
Natural Fruit has filed four lawsuits against Hall, who has a law degree from University College London, has worked as a migrant rights expert, university teacher and trade union advisor in Thailand since 2007.