The European Parliament is expected to debate and vote on a resolution today (Oct. 6) relating to Thailand’s human rights situation and the case of Andy Hall, who was recently convicted of defamation for his research into alleged human rights abuses at pineapple processor Natural Fruit Company.
Now that Hall has been found guilty of defamation, which is considered a criminal offense in Thailand, he faces a suspended three-year prison sentence that he will have to serve if he commits a crime within a two-year period.
The decision was made even though NGO Finnwatch accepted full responsibility for the report that published Hall's findings, 'Cheap Has a High Price'.
The charges against Hall were brought by Natural Fruit owner Wirat Piyapornpaiboon, a former politician and president of the Thai Pineapple Industry Association (TPIA).
In a release, MEP Heidi Hautala (Greens/EFA) said she was concerned about the case's consequences for exposing human rights breaches in the future.
"Andy Hall should have been awarded for revealing the workers’ abuses," Hautala said.
"This court decision can lead to further silencing of human rights defenders in Thailand."
She said Thailand had recently made some progress in the fight against labor exploitation, for example by ratifying the ILO convention 187 on the promotional framework for occupational safety and health.
"Still, Thailand should abolish the crime of defamation and to revise the computer crime act which currently contains disproportionate prison sentences for such violation," Hautala said.
Hautala hoped Andy Hall's case would push the European Commission to pay more attention to the human rights situation in partner countries when trade policies are negotiated. She argued corporate social responsibility and its common rules are a cornerstone for improving human rights situations in many countries.
"Transparency and responsible business conduct is today's thinking. Companies should be thankful for researchers and civil society organisations looking into workers' rights and environmental responsibility in supply chains," she said.
"Consumers have the right to know the origin of the products and the truth about the production conditions.
"By defending Andy Hall, taking the report findings seriously and supporting Andy all the way through the process, the Finnish retail company S-group has done what all companies should do. I hope others will follow their example."
Hall is currently visiting Strasbourg by invitation of Hautala.