British activist leaves Thailand, harassed for defending migrants

Bangkok, Nov 7 (IANS) A British labour rights activist 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.

Andy Hall announced his departure on Monday morning on his Facebook account, attributing it to “insurmountable challenges with some companies and establishments” and “the increasingly negative developments”, Efe news reported.

“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 $4,000-fine over complaints filed by the multinational Natural Fruit Company.

The lawsuit was filed after Finnish human rights organisation 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 him 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”.