Activist Andy Hall leaves Thailand
British rights activist Andy Hall who is being sued by several companies for defamation left Thailand early Monday, saying he feared for his safety amidst legal problems and growing harassment from companies that have been "irrational, vindictive and aggressive".
Mr Hall, who had four criminal and civil courts lawsuits brought against him following a report he helped release accusing companies of labour and human rights violations in the pineapple processing industry in Thailand, breathed a sigh of relief last week after the Supreme Court rejected the attorney-general and Natural Fruit Co Ltd's appeal in a criminal defamation case.
Mr Hall said in his statement it was getting harder for him to do his job here.
He said the situation in defending migrant worker rights has rapidly deteriorated in Thailand, where hostility toward human rights defenders has grown.
"I have now finally decided to leave Thailand today [Monday] as planned, and with confidence that for now, this is the right decision for me and for MWRN," he said, referring to the Migrant Worker Rights Network in which he is an international affairs adviser.
He reportedly left Thailand aboard a flight for Paris.
Mr Hall said over the past 11 years, he has been a dedicated human rights defender and activist, with the aim of improving the living and working conditions of millions of exploited migrants in Thailand and to ensure they have full access to labour rights.
However, in the end, the challenges he has encountered with companies and institutions have been insurmountable.
In Sept 20, the Bangkok South Criminal Court sentenced Mr Hall to three years in prison and fined him 150,000 baht for defamation and computer crimes.
The contentious report, "Cheap Has a High Price", was published by the Finnish civil rights group Finnwatch.
The fine was paid to the Court by Thai Union Group, the Thai Tuna Industry Association and Finnwatch. Andy Hall was later released from temporary detention, his passport returned and restrictions on his freedom of movement removed.
The surprise guilty verdict drew stern criticism from around the world including the UN, the ILO, the European Parliament and European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom.