General Prayut Chan-o-cha
General Prayut Chan-o-cha
General Prayut Chan-o-cha

General Prayut Chan-o-cha
Prime Minister of Thailand
Royal Thai Government
Government House
Pitsanulok Road, Dusit
Bangkok 10300
Thailand

Your Excellency,

I am William Nicholas Gomes, Human rights defender and Freelance journalist.

I am ?writing to express our deep concern regarding the ongoing judicial and?other harassment of human rights defenders, including journalists and researchers who report on?human trafficking, or otherwise bring to light violations of labour and migrants’ rights, and the lack?of accountability for labour rights violations in Thailand.

A case in point is the upcoming final preliminary hearing on 20th July in a criminal defamation and?computer crimes case, brought by Natural Fruit against researcher Andy Hall. Natural Fruit filed the?charges following the publication of a Finnwatch report Cheap Has a High Price1, which exposed
serious human rights violations including forced labour, at the Natural Fruit pineapple processing?plant in Pranburi, Prachuap Khiri Khan province. The report findings were based on interviews with?the workers at the plant.

If the court, following Monday’s hearing, decides to indict him, Andy Hall will be arrested and?detained pending bail. He then faces a trial, and if found guilty and convicted, up to seven years?imprisonment.

This is just one of four criminal cases brought against Andy Hall following the publication of the?report. One case, on criminal defamation charges, was initially abandoned by the Prakanong Court.2?Thailand’s Attorney General has appealed to have the case reopened. A decision on the appeal is?expected in late 2015 or early 2016. The remaining two civil defamation cases are yet to be heard.

Since the publication of Cheap Has a High Price, violations of labour rights at the Natural Fruit?Pranburi plant have been partially confirmed by the Ministry of Labour’s own investigation. Also a?Natural Fruit employee, who gave testimony to the Bangkok Prakanong Court in September 2014,?told the court that he had been working at the Natural Fruit Pranburi plant for years without papers ?and receiving wages below the minimum wage, and that unlawful deductions were made from his?salary. He testified without hesitation that the factory hired dozens of children and commissions for
long hours of overtime that were not voluntary.

However, to date no one has been held responsible for the human rights violations at the Natural Fruit Pranburi plant. We are calling on the Thai goverment to, without further delay, bring to justice those responsible for human rights violations at the Natural Fruit Pranburi plant in a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial court of law.

Since the beginning of the first criminal case against Andy Hall, several international, independent?observers, including the UN Working Group on human rights and transnational companies and four?UN Special Rapporteurs, have expressed concern that the ongoing criminal cases against him are an?act of retaliation for his human rights work. As such, they may have a chilling effect on other?human rights defenders and civil society activists working in Thailand and elsewhere to expose?human rights violations perpetrated by non-State actors, including business enterprises.3

Therefore, it is of utmost importance that all court proceedings against Andy Hall meet the?international criteria for fairness. Unfortunately, the previous hearings have been marred with the?procecution’s failure to make full disclosure to the defence of all evidence available to them, Thai?authorities’ failure to provide critically important information to the defence when requested, and?witness intimidation among other issues.4

I am ?calling on the Thai government to guarantee that human rights defenders in Thailand,?including journalists and researchers, can carry out their legitimate human rights work without fearc?of harassment, reprisals, arbitrary detention, criminal charges and unfair trials.

This includes the abolition of the laws that allow for criminal responsibility and possible?deprivation of liberty in alleged defamation cases as we consider this a disproportionate punishment?and a violation of the right to freedom of expression. As such, criminal defamation charges against?Andy Hall should be immediately and unconditionally dropped.

Yours sincerely,

William Nicholas Gomes

Human Rights Defender & ?Freelance Journalist

Twitter @wnicholasgomes

Email: [email protected]

www.facebook.com/williamnicholasgomes


?

1. ?Finnwatch, 2013, Halvalla on hintansa (Cheap has a high price), available at
http://www.finnwatch.org/images/pdf/finnwatch_private_label_web_2_rev.pdf (in Finnish). An English language
executive summary of the report is available at http://www.finnwatch.org/images/cheap%20has%20a%20high
%20price_exec%20summary_final.pdf.

2. ?Finnwatch, 2014, Finnwatch researcher Andy Hall trial in Thailand: Charge is dismissed due to unlawful
interrogation process, available at http://www.finnwatch.org/en/news/216-finnwatch-researcher-andy-hall-trial-inthailand:-
charge-is-dismissed-due-to-unlawful-interrogation-process.

3. ?For more information please see http://burmacampaign.org.uk/media/public_-_AL_Thailand_26.04.13_4.2013.pdf

4, ?Fore more information please see http://www.ictur.org/Eng/Plunkett.html

5.https://www.fidh.org/International-Federation-for-Human-Rights/asia/thailand/thailand-must-end-harassment-of-researchers-and-human-rights

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.