Withdraw all Lawsuits and Ensure Independent Investigation on the Conditions of Workers in Natural Fruit!
The Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA) is in solidarity with partner British human rights activist Andy Hall as he faces a criminal defamation lawsuit filed by Natural Fruit, a pineapple processing factory, in Thailand.
Mr. Hall has been an advocate of migrants’ rights in Thailand for almost a decade and recently exposed through evidence-based and reliable research the human rights abuses committed by Natural Fruit to its employees in its Pranburi plant in Prachuapkirikhan Province of Thailand.
Andy Hall made significant contributions to a report published by Finnwatch in January 2013. The report entitled, Cheap has a High Price: Responsibility Problems Relating to International Private Label Products and Food Production in Thailand, delves in to the extensive and systematic worker rights violations of Natural Fruit, occurring as of November 2012, that included excessive hours and mandatory overtime with little to no rest periods; physical and psychological mistreatment; provision of false information prior to employment; illegally low wages; withholding of passports; unauthorized salary deductions; exposure to harmful chemicals without adequate protective equipment; under or non-compensation for workplace injuries or deaths and employment of child labor.
In November and December 2012, Finnwatch and Mr. Hall requested for interviews and feedback from Natural Fruit on their initial and concerning research findings both directly and using other indirect means to contact the factories management. In December 2012 the researchers then also sent a serious letter of allegation regarding Natural Fruit to Thai authorities and various international agencies and foreign government but did not receive any responses to their correspondence prior finally to publication of their report in January 2013.
As a result of this research, Natural Fruit recently filed a criminal defamation case against Andy Hall for “broadcasting false information” under the Criminal Code and Computer Crime Act of Thailand. The lawsuit’s charges can result in a two year maximum prison term. An additional case was also filed by Natural Fruit claiming 300 million baht (US$10 million) in damages from Mr Hall. . An initial trial date has been set for 10 April 2013.
MFA has received information that despite some improvements at Natural Fruit following the release of Finnwatch’s report, the conditions for workers at this factory, as in many pineapple processing factories in Thailand, remains poor and of serious concern.
MFA is a regional network of migrants rights organizations, migrants rights advocates, trade unions, faith based organizations and individuals working for the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers. As a regional network working on migrants rights MFA calls urgently for the following:
- The Thai government as well as international concerned stakeholders should take all means at their disposal to ensure Natural Fruit withdraws immediately all lawsuits filed against Mr Hall
- The Thai government and all customers of Natural Fruit should ensure independent investigations and audits, alongside the researchers and concerned stakeholders, of the existing working conditions of workers in Natural Fruit.
In an environment where an activist exposes the exploitation of migrant workers, it is urgent that their action be supported by actions of due diligence and justice on behalf of all of those concerned.