A British migrant rights activist who helped write a report denouncing working conditions in the Thai food industry has gone on trial in Bangkok accused of defamation.
Andy Hall, 34, faces a series of criminal and civil lawsuits filed against him by Natural Fruit Co. Ltd, one of Thailand’s largest pineapple processors.
“This is about persecution. It’s a political case to try to silence me and to get me to leave the country,” Hall told reporters outside court.
“That is the intention behind the case. And I’m someone who is revealing things that the government and the industry don’t want them to reveal.”
Migrant workers turned out to support Hall whose 2013 report for the Finnish watchdog, Finnwatch, alleged ill-treatment including low pay and the confiscation of passports at a factory owned by Natural Fruit.
A major supplier of fruit drinks to the European market, it denies the accusations.
Thailand’s economy depends heavily on foreign migrant labourers, many from Myanmar, who face exploitation according to many critics.
Several European companies, trade unions and NGOs have called for the charges to be dropped against Hall who could face up to seven years in prison.
His trial comes after Thailand was downgraded in June to the lowest “Tier 3” status in the US State Department’s 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report for not fully complying with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.