Briton Andy Hall in Thai court on defamation charge after speaking out over ‘human rights abuses’ against migrant workers

Researcher has accused fruit growers over child labour and migrant workers

chief reporter

When Andy Hall highlights the issue of abuse suffered by migrant workers in Thailand, it will not be in his role as a respected human rights researcher. Instead, the Briton will find himself in the dock of a Thai court accused of criminal defamation and facing a hefty jail sentence.

The first of three cases being brought against Mr Hall by Natural Fruit, one of Thailand’s largest pineapple processors, is due to begin in Bangkok, based on his research chronicling the alleged maltreatment of staff including confiscation of passports and the use of child labour. The trial is going ahead despite an international outcry at the prosecution and calls from across the world for the charges to be dropped.

If found guilty, the Lincolnshire-born campaigner faces up to eight years’ imprisonment under a draconian criminal defamation law drawn up in 2006, which opponents say is being used to intimidate journalists and activists critical of the Thai regime, now run by a military junta. Natural Fruit is also claiming up to $10m (£6m) in civil damages against the Briton. Mr Hall, whose UK passport has been confiscated by Thai authorities, told The Independent yesterday that the charges against him amounted to “harassment” and were a deliberate attempt to frustrate his efforts to expose human rights abuses suffered by millions of foreign workers.

About 100 campaign groups, including Britain’s Ethical Trading Initiative, whose members include major supermarkets such as Tesco and Marks & Spencer, have called for the cases to be discontinued. Two online petitions decrying the prosecution had last night reached more than 300,000 signatures.

But Thai prosecutors, who authorised the criminal charges sought by Natural Fruit, have insisted the cases will go ahead. Thailand is the world’s largest pineapple grower, but the industry is reliant on large numbers of migrants, many of them illegal, from neighbouring Laos, Cambodia and Burma. Research by Mr Hall for a Finnish NGO exposed allegedly appalling conditions suffered by workers in a factory run by Natural Fruit, which is owned by the elder brother of a former labour minister in the Thai government.

Mr Hall, 34, an Oxford graduate who has worked in Thailand and Burma since 2005, said he believed he would be ultimately cleared of the charges against him and wanted to use the case to highlight what he said is the systematic abuse of migrant labour in Thailand.

About 2.5 million migrant workers are estimated to be in Thailand, supplying labour to physically-demanding industries such as fishing and construction. About 80 per cent of them originate from Burma.

Natural Fruit initially declined to respond to the claims but later filed four separate criminal and civil cases against Mr Hall. It has since denied all the allegations against it.

The Thai government has defended the right of the company to pursue Mr Hall through its courts.

Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
peopleThreats follows actress' speech on feminism and equality at the UN
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
Life and Style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
Life and Style
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Manager (retail, upgrades, rollouts)

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Project...

Technical Project Manager - Software and Infrastructure - Government Experience

£400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Central Lon...

Secondary teachers needed for supply roles in Sudbury

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Supply teachers requi...

Head of Technology

Negotiable: Randstad Education Reading: Head of Technology needed for a Outsta...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits