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Global Unions Urge Thailand to Stop Persecution of Rights Activist

Friday, April 5, 2013
PHUKET: The influential International Trade Union Confederation has warned Thailand that a fruit maker's court action against a British activist and researcher is ''an attempt to silence human rights defenders.''

Intervention by the union group has the potential to escalate the Thai dispute to international levels and trigger boycotts or importation restrictions on Thai products.

In a strongly worded letter to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow urges Thai authorities to ''drop the two criminal charges against Andy Hall, as they incriminate legitimate and peaceful himan rights work.''

The letter lifts the dispute to one of national importance in Thailand and will draw the attention of world's largest retailers to the Thai brands involved.

The intervention in the case by the ITUC, which represents more than 174 million workers in 156 countries including Thailand, will also spark broader international media coverage of the attempt to silence and punish Mr Hall.

The 33-year-old labor campaigner says any court appearance he is forced to make will spotlight Natural Fruit, the company taking proceedings against him, and other Thai food exporting companies.

Mr Hall has become prominent in defending the rights of Burmese and Cambodian workers to proper wages and conditions in all industries throughout Thailand.

The Natural Fruit Company has taken action against Mr Hall that could see him jailed for up to two years and fined 300 million baht. The trial could begin as soon as next Wednesday.

The ITUC letter to PM Yingluck concludes: ''We hereby express our serious concern with the lawsuit filed against Andy Hall as the charges are based solely on legitimate human rights work . . .

''These legal actions are an attempt to silence human rights defenders in Thailand who, peacefully and legitimately, exercise their right to freedom of opinion and expression, in order to defend and promote human rights.

''We therefore urge the Thai authorities to:

''1. Drop the two criminal charges against Andy Hall, as they incriminate legitimate and peaceful human rights work;

''2. Ensure that the right to freedom of opinion and expression, as guaranteed under international law and as stated, inter alia, in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Thailand is a state party since october 29, 1996, is duly respected;

''3. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Thailand are able to carry out legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free from any restrictions, including judicial harassment.''

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Great news.

Now expect a senior Thai official to step in and declare " ITUC is not my father!"

It's about time that Thailand will be forced to adhere to the international treaties it has signed.

As a sovereign nation it can of course opt out from such agreements but it would have devastating consequences for international trade.

Considering that over 60% of Thailand GDP comes from exports, it's about as crucial as it can be to the future of Thailand.

I'm very interested to see how the Government responds to this.

PS. How do you "make" fruit ? I assume it's a canning company with contract farmers ?

Posted by Stephen on April 5, 2013 10:47

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Yes it's a pineapple canning factory in South Thailand.I am not going to name them.
But there are few large factories being named and shamed as well

Posted by richie on April 5, 2013 12:12

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Brilliant !

Hope Khun Yingluck sees sense.

(300 million baht fine !?!)

Posted by James on April 5, 2013 13:31

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Is there any way we can support Andy Hall, perhaps an online petition. Let Thailand know that people from virtually every country that buys Thai products want him released from these charges and if not will publish his story in their country.

Posted by How Much Can You Pay on April 5, 2013 13:36

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In fact the two other companis investigated with the same type of method, interviews with workers, accepted the findings and even in some cases clarified that these companies would rectify what was wrong. How can such a method be a criminal act?
This Natural Fruit company did not accept to talk to the researcher in spite of that even the Bangkok office of ILO intervened, which ensures the professionalism of the research.
In fact this is CSR performance research goes on everywhere and is professionally done. Such studies are usually requested by investors or/and businesses that import from other countries. Many agencies like the big international auditing firms and smaller ones like Finnwatch carry out such check on the CSR performance of companies to determine if the investors shall pull out of an abusive company or if companies shall stop buying from a particular producer. I wonder if the lawyer by declaring a loss of 300 million baht did not make the HR rights activists quite astonished, if not to say happy. Was Natural Fruit punished right away! What was the reaction by the stock exchanges to such news? Did it believe the lawyer?
Let me finish in the name of investors through pension funds, I suggest the company stops the criminal court case before it does more harm to my pension fund. Even the United Nations Programme for Responsible Investment, UNPRI, demands its members with total assets of about 15 trillion US$ to report annually on how they ensure that the companies they invest in adhere to the UN Human Rights declarations. It seems to be high time that thai business people understand that.
Job

Posted by Anonymous on April 5, 2013 13:41

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This is a great country in many ways but it's really high time for it to enter the 21st century, in all the aspects of human rights.

Posted by OJ on April 5, 2013 14:01

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There is no freedom of speech or self expression in Thailand. Mr Hall should know that he will not win against a corrupt system for which there is no justice for foreigners. As for boycotting produce from Thailand, no chance. The west in particular Europe and it's economy is on it's knees and they need cheep imports to keep the wheel turning. My advice for Mr Hall is to go home and chant your human rights to somebody who is willing to listen.

Posted by reader on April 5, 2013 14:33

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Three cheers for the ITUC, it is a disgrace, that International Governments, can not take the same actions, I hope this is only the start of future actions.

Posted by Phuket_IOC on April 5, 2013 15:38

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Why don't we all blockade the streets in the name of (insert reason here) and that should fix it!

On a serious note, Andy Hall, I salute you and if there is something we all can do as How Much Can You Pay states, I am right there

Posted by Tbs on April 5, 2013 22:00


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