Yesterday, Thai pineapple processing company Natural Fruit Co. Ltd. dropped a $9.6 million civil defamation lawsuit against British labor rights activist Andy Hall. In 2013, Hall alleged in a report that workers were exploited and abused at one of the firm’s factories. Natural Fruit dropped its lawsuit on the second day of what was to be a three-day trial, said Finnwatch, an NGO that published the report seven years ago.
Hall, who fled Thailand in 2016, on Wednesday welcomed the withdrawal of the lawsuit even as he faces another civil trial later this year on a separate defamation complaint.
“Some good news. Today Natural Fruit unilaterally withdrew its 300 million baht civil prosecution case against me at Nakhon Pathom Court,” Hall, who lived in Thailand for more than a decade, told BenarNews via a text message.
“But after years of ongoing judicial harassment that has taken a heavy toll on me, my family and my colleagues, this withdrawal of one case against me is not a victory,” Hall said. “My activism for over a decade in Thailand was intended only to promote and uphold the fundamental rights of millions of migrant workers in the country.”
Finnwatch’s executive director Sonja Finér praised the move, saying: “Today’s withdrawal of the civil defamation case filed by Natural Fruit against Andy Hall is the only logical course of action. The Supreme Court has already ruled that Hall was not guilty as charged on the same facts as this case. There is an urgent need for Thailand to reform its defamation laws and step up human rights protections.”
In 2012, Hall conducted a survey among workers at the Natural Fruit Co.’s plant in southern Thailand and alleged the company abused some of its 800 workers – mostly from Myanmar. Hall’s research was on behalf of Finnwatch for its 2013 report, “Cheap Has A High Price.”