Andy Hall leaves Thailand after 'fearing for physical safety'
British human rights defender Andy Hall has said his recent departure from Thailand where he is facing a series of criminal defamation lawsuits was because he feared for his physical safety.
Hall has been fighting legal battles in Thailand for more than three years, following allegations he made about human rights abuses at pineapple processor Natural Fruit Company.
In September he was found guilty of defamation in one of the cases and was given a suspended three-year prison sentence.
Following the ruling, a chicken exporter whose operation was shut down by the authorities after Hall exposed alleged labor violations on one of his three farms said he planned to pursue his own defamation case and has hired the Natural Fruit lawyer.
Earlier this week Hall left Thailand for France, and told the BBC in a recent video interview he feared for his safety in the Asian country.
"I wasn’t willing to face another set of criminal prosecutions like I have for many years in the past," he said.
"We had information that these were coming and we also had information that there were certain risks relating to physical safety, so I decided that the time had come that it wasn’t productive to do my work in the existing climate in Thailand."
He said that some companies seemed to be 'vindictive, almost like Mafia individuals' and 'could not accept' his research. He also believes the situation is deteriorating in Thailand.
"My work has always been to try to separate the good from the bad. I have a lot of projects with our organization, the Migrant Worker Rights Network, with very good companies, with leading exporters...but sometimes we can’t just stay quiet in the face of really serious abuses," he said.
"That’s just the normal role of a human rights defender, and this kind of stuff shouldn’t’ be criminalized, and you certainly shouldn’t have your liberty jeopardized by doing that, particularly your physical safety...and that’s something that the Thai Government needs to do more to address."
He said he would like to go back to Thailand 'as soon as possible', but would not do so until he felt safe.
"I was very happy to be invited to the government house last week to meet with a very senior official from the Deputy Prime Minister’s office, and he assured me that this will be sorted out," he said.
"But I’m not willing to be put in a position again where my passport is confiscated, where I can’t travel, where my life becomes at the whim of a system which I don’t particularly trust.
"I hope that the government will sort this out and I hope that the good business and the good exporters will see the light, and they will put pressure on the government to prevent this kind of thing happening."
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