This week in Thailand, the civil and criminal lawsuits brought by the Natural Fruit Co. Ltd., one of the country’s largest pineapple processors, against Andy Hall began. These lawsuits carry the threat of both substantial time in prison and massive financial damages for the long-time advocate of humane treatment and acceptable working conditions for migrant laborers in Thailand.
Over the last several years, the Southern Shrimp Alliance has worked with numerous non-governmental, academic, media, and industry organizations in joint efforts to identify and stop abuse of migrant labor in Thailand. Although problems remain, greater attention to the issue and increased public scrutiny have culminated in an often open and frank dialogue about the underlying causes of abuse as well as the identification of positive steps forward.
According to published reports, both human rights groups and business groups in Thailand have called for the Natural Fruit Company’s lawsuit to be withdrawn. Indeed, when Mr. Hall was charged and detained by Thai authorities in June of this year, the Thai Tuna Industry Association and Thai Frozen Foods Association – an organization representing Thai shrimp exporters – reportedly paid Mr. Hall’s bail while expressing support for his efforts.
Nevertheless, despite remarkable support from all corners of the globe and all parts of the political spectrum, the prosecution of Mr. Hall has now formally begun. However the suit is resolved, the prospect of future prosecutions will continue to hang over Mr. Hall and other human rights activists in Thailand. An article published earlier today in the Bangkok Post included the following ominous warning from Virat Piyapornpaiboon (the owner of the Natural Fruit Company):
“We don’t have a media network like he does. So if he posts any defamatory remarks again, perhaps more lawsuits will be filed.”
Thailand is a world away. Still, what has transpired in Thailand over the last fifteen years has impacted every shrimping family in America. As this trial proceeds and the implied threat to activists in Thailand grows, there may be a way for shrimpers here to have an impact in Thailand – this one for the good. If you enjoy pineapples, the next time you are at the grocery store consider passing on purchasing those coming from Thailand. And, if you do, make a mental note of what it would have cost and consider making a contribution in that same amount to support Mr. Hall’s legal defense or the good work of other activists and organizations seeking to eliminate abusive practices from the shrimp supply chain.
Read more about the Southern Shrimp Alliance’s March 7th Letter to the U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat
Trafficking in Persons regarding Mr. Hall: http://www.shrimpalliance.com/ssa-condemns-criminal-defamation-case-filed-against-prominent-labor-activist-in-thailand/
Read the September 3rd story from the Bangkok Post: http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/local/430172/andy-hall-defamation-trial-begins
The SumOfUs campaign page for Mr. Hall may be found here: https://action.sumofus.org/a/andy-hall/
Download an English-language summary of Finnwatch’s “Cheap Has A High Price” here: http://prachatai.com/english/sites/default/files/Finnwatch%20final%20report%20summary%20%28English%29.pdf