BANGKOK (20 September 2016) – The UN Human Rights Office for South-East Asia (OHCHR)is concerned by the Bangkok Criminal Court’s decision on Tuesday to sentence labour rights activist Mr. Andy Hall to three years imprisonment, suspended for two years.
Mr. Hall was sued by the Thai Company Natural Fruit on criminal defamation and Computer Crimes Act charges in relation to a 2013 Finnwatch report titled “Cheap has a High Price” which alleged serious human rights and labour rights violations of migrant workers.
“Just a day after world leaders committed to a landmark UN declaration to ‘strengthen the positive contributions made by migrants to economic and social development in their host countries’, this court decision is very disturbing,” said Laurent Meillan, OHCHR’s Acting Regional Representative. “Instead of prosecuting Mr. Hall, it would have been more appropriate to conduct an independent and thorough investigation into the serious allegations raised in the Finnwatch report.”
Migrant workers have been subjected to various forms of abuse throughout the South-East Asia Region. Within ASEAN, only Indonesia and the Philippines are party to the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. “As we see a rise in mobility across the region, we need a stronger commitment from Governments to protect migrant workers,” said Meillan.
The Regional Office said it was concerned by the increasing number of legal cases brought against human rights defenders in Thailand, including Mr. Somchai Homalaor, Ms. Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, Ms. Anchana Heemmina and Ms. Sirikan Charoensiri. This year alone 10 human rights defenders, including eight women, have been charged with criminal offences for reporting human rights violations.
“Human Rights Defenders advance the cause of human rights and speak with great courage for the most marginalized. The Government of Thailand must protect them and promote their vital role in democracy, development and governance,” said Meillan.
The Regional Office urges the Thai Government to drop charges against all human rights defenders in accordance with its obligations under international human rights law.