In a letter sent today to U.S. Ambassador-at-Large Luis CdeBaca of the U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, the Southern Shrimp Alliance expressed grave concern regarding the recently filed criminal defamation charges in Thailand against Andy Hall, a British citizen resident in Thailand.

According to published reports, Mr. Hall, a long-time advocate of humane treatment and acceptable working conditions for migrant laborers in Thailand, is currently the subject of a criminal case initiated by a private company, Natural Fruit Co. Ltd.  The charges stem from a publication (Finnwatch’s “Cheap Has A High Price”) based on Mr. Hall’s research regarding ongoing labor abuse in various export-oriented industrial sectors in Thailand.  Per news reports, the charges carry with them a threat of substantial time in prison (up to five years in prison on each count) and 300 million baht in civil damages.

In the letter to the State Department, the Southern Shrimp Alliance emphasized the remarkable advocacy of Mr. Hall and his team on behalf of migrant workers in Thailand.  In particular, the letter underscored the extensive work done by Mr. Hall and his team to fairly and carefully document labor abuse and human trafficking in the Thai seafood processing sector.  The history of these efforts demonstrate that Mr. Hall and his team have not endeavored to shut down the Thai industry or to eliminate access to migrant labor in Thailand, but instead have sought to secure for migrants a life free from exploitation and abuse in Thailand while pursuing economic opportunities not available in their home countries.

The Southern Shrimp Alliance’s letter states:

Because of Mr. Hall’s pro-Thailand advocacy, the Southern Shrimp Alliance is gravely troubled by the impact that a legal action potentially resulting in a severe prison sentence and a 300 million baht damage award will have on public reporting of continuing abuse of migrant labor, including human trafficking.  There can be no question that the criminal defamation suit was brought with the intent to silence an activist on issues of direct relevance to your office.

Regardless of differing views regarding the existence, prevalence, or continuation of abusive labor practices in Thai export-oriented industries, efforts to silence investigation, reporting, and discussion of the issue through intimidation must be condemned.  These criminal charges are inconsistent with public statements made by the Thai government regarding its proactive efforts to police abhorrent labor abuse.

Read the Southern Shrimp Alliance’s March 7th Letter to the U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons:

Read more about the charges brought against Andy Hall in a February 28th story from The Telegraph and a March 5th story from the Bangkok Post

Download an English-language summary of Finnwatch’s “Cheap Has A High Price” here: