British activist charged with criminal defamation in Thailand

Bangkok, Aug 24 (IANS) British rights activist Andy Hall was charged with criminal defamation in Thailand on Monday after he researched a report that alleged labour abuses at the Natural Fruit Company, a large Thai pineapple wholesaler that supplies the European Union (EU).

The Bangkok south criminal court decided earlier on Monday to indict the migrants’ rights researcher in a case that has been condemned as an attempt to gag the messenger rather than deal with labour rights in the south-east Asian nation, The Guardian reported.

Natural Fruit has filed four cases against Hall, 35, following the publication of the report he researched for the Finnish NGO Finnwatch, released in January 2013 and titled “Cheap Has a High Price”.

The report was based on information gathered through interviews with the workers of a Natural Fruit pineapple processing factory and exposed violence against employees, forced overtime, the use of underage labour and the confiscation of passports of Myanmar migrant workers.

Natural Fruit has denied all allegations.

Hall told the Guardian that while he respects the court’s decision, he is disappointed and will plead not guilty.

“It’s not my report. I didn’t disseminate it,” he said on the phone from the court.

On Monday, the court ordered Hall to appear on October 19 to make a plea. He will then face detention, official charging and can request bail.

“I will comply with all court orders,” Hall said, adding “I will plead not guilty.”

Hall has been living in Thailand for over a decade. He has worked in Myanmar and Thailand on migration policy issues.

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