BANGKOK (AFP) – A Thai court dismissed a defamation charge against a British activist Wednesday in a case linked to a report he co-authored alleging severe labour abuses in Thailand’s food industry, a key supplier to Western supermarkets.
Andy Hall, 34, had faced up to a year in jail if convicted of defamation – a criminal offence in Thailand – after Thai fruit processing giant Natural Fruit made the complaint against him.
Hall’s report investigating working conditions at a Natural Fruit factory in southern Thailand levelled accusations of forced and child labour, unlawfully low wages and long hours.
It also redoubled scrutiny of Thailand’s food industry which has in recent months faced a series of allegations of mistreatment of its mainly migrant labour force.
A judge at the Bangkok court said the police probe, which stemmed from an interview with television network al-Jazeera, was flawed since it did not involve a Thai state prosecutor from the start.
Delivering her ruling, the judge described the investigation as “unlawful” and said “the plaintiff has no legal right to file a complaint… so the court dismisses the case”.
Natural Fruit, a major supplier to the European drink market, has denied the allegations in Hall’s report and said it will appeal the ruling.
“The court did not rule on the accusations made by Andy Hall… we will appeal,” Somsak Torugsa, a lawyer for Natural Fruit, told reporters outside court.