BANGKOK – A Thai court ordered British activist Andy Hall on Monday to pay compensation for defaming a local company that he accused of abusing immigrant workers’ rights.
A Bangkok district court ordered Hall to pay 10 million baht (about $321,578) in damages to the Natural Fruit company, said Finnish organization Finnwatch for which the activist worked.
“We are absolutely appalled by today’s ruling. It comes as a shock. This decision restricts freedom of expression and prevents exposing human rights violations,” said Finnwatch director Sonja Vartiala in a statement.
Natural Fruit had filed a lawsuit against Hall for a statement he made during an interview with Al-Jazeera network in April 2013.
The court dismissed the lawsuit in 2016 but reopened the case last year after the multinational filed an appeal.
Hall left Thailand in November 2016, two months after receiving a suspended sentence of three years in prison and a $4,000 fine for another complaint filed by the multinational.
The lawsuit was filed after Finnwatch published a report on the conditions of workers in a pineapple plantation, a fruit that the company exports to the European Union, among others.
The report, based on data provided by Hall, accused the company of employing hundreds of Burmese immigrants, including minors, whose passports were confiscated and who were paid less than the minimum wage.
“The Thai justice system continues to be used to swamp human rights defenders with endless court cases. It’s an effective way to prevent all public criticism of companies,” added Vartiala.