UK activist leaves Thailand after harassment for defending migrant workers

07 November 2016
UK activist leaves Thailand after harassment for defending migrant workers
(FILE) British migrant workers rights activist, Andy Hall (C) speaks to the media after his sentencing hearing at the Bangkok South Criminal Court in Bangkok, Thailand, 20 September 2016. Photo: Narong Sangnak/EPA

British labour rights activist Andy Hall on Monday left Thailand after facing harassment from companies he had denounced for abuses against migrant workers, prompting a series of lawsuits accusing him of defamation.
Hall announced his departure this morning on his Facebook account shortly before boarding a flight for Paris, attributing his departure to "insurmountable challenges with some companies and establishments" and "the increasingly negative developments".
"The situation in defending migrant worker rights for me and others who act as human rights defenders in similar situations has rapidly deteriorated in Thailand with significantly increased risks and aggressiveness evident," said Hall, though he indicated he would be willing to return to Thailand without specifying a return date.
In September, Hall received a suspended sentence of three years in prison and a more than $4000-fine over complaints filed by the multinational Natural Fruit Company.
The lawsuit was filed after Finnish human rights organization FinnWatch released a report detailing the conditions of workers in a pineapple factory that exports the canned fruit globally, including to European Union countries.
Based on data gathered by Hall, the document accused the company of employing hundreds of Burmese immigrants, some of whom were minors, confiscating their passports and paying them below the minimum wage.
Hall's departure from Thailand comes just days after the Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Natural Fruit Company in another lawsuit against remarks made by Hall in 2013 during an interview with Al Jazeera on the situation of migrant workers in Thailand.
After winning the case, Hall announced he would file a lawsuit against the multinational company, the police and the attorney general for "unlawful prosecution and perjury".
"My goal has always been to improve living and working conditions of millions of exploited migrant workers in Thailand and ensure these workers access fully labor rights and other rights they are entitled under Thai law," Hall said.