COMMENTCases of criminal libel and libel under the Computer Crime Act brought against a British researcher who helped expose mistreatment of Burmese migrant workers will be decided at the Criminal Court in Bangkok tomorrow.
Andy Hall faces up to seven years in prison as a result of the action by the Natural Fruit Company aided by the Thai authorities, including police.
Whatever the result it will be a victory for nobody. Whatever the result the case will still be an indictment of Thailand’s abysmal treatment of foreign labour.
If the judges convict Andy Hall, of the Migrant Workers Rights Network, he is expected to appeal, thus prolonging an already ridiculous prosecution. And if he is convicted it will be another blow to Thailand’s credibility and its claimed record of having cleaned up its act in the area of human rights abuses of foreign labour.
If Andy Hall is acquitted, he will have to start other cases just to recover his costs - and by no means is there a guarantee that the defence will be awarded them.
But in the meantime Natural Fruit will appeal - and in what fails to pass as a justice system this will just go on and on and on.
Of course it will be a moral victory, but in the court of world opinion, Andy Hall had won the day Natural Fruit began its intimidating tactics against workers in the aftermath of the Finnwatch Report ‘Cheap Has a High Price’, which he helped compile.
He has already been sued in a case in which Natural Fruit complained he libelled them In an interview given to al Jazeera television outside Thailand. He won that case, but the case should never have been accepted.
In the trial to be decided tomorrow there were complaints that one of the migrant witnesses was intimidated in the toilets in the court house by Natural Fruit’s boss Wirat Piyaipornpaiboon.
I am surprised the defence team managed to find migrant workers who had the balls to stick by and give evidence. But it did – and I take my hat off to the migrant workers.
These trials smell of nothing more than privileged Thai society protecting an honourable reputation which quite frankly it does not have. That’s why I call it a ‘Thai spite’ case.
Of course Wirat would not dare take Natural Fruit libel cases out against Finnwatch the actual author of the report in any other country would he?
And they are suing Andy Hall for US$10 million if they win, or not it seems.
If a Thai court were to award that – well that would be about 173 times the amount of money offered to a British man, who was crippled, whose eldest daughter was crippled and whose youngest daughter was gored to death during one of Thailand’s elephant shows for tourists.
“I just don’t have the power to award more,” the judge told gobsmacked western journalists at the time.
He could have added: 'To foreigners or plebs.'