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Thai defamation verdict a setback in anti-slavery fight, say activists

20 Sept 2016

A guilty verdict for a British activist in Thailand charged with defamation for alleging ill-treatment of migrant workers at a big fruit company sets an alarming precedent in the fight against labour exploitation, rights groups said on Tuesday.

A Thai court handed Andy Hall of the Migrant Worker Rights Network a three-year suspended prison sentence for criminally defaming Natural Fruit Company, a pineapple wholesaler that supplies the European Union, over a 2013 report he helped author for Finnwatch, a Finland-based watchdog group.

"This will clearly have a chilling effect on independent research on supply chains all over Thailand," Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said.

"The concern is that we will see copycat prosecutions from other companies anytime someone criticises them."

Thailand's harsh defamation laws have drawn criticism from rights groups concerned about curbs on freedom of speech in a country at the centre of scores of reports about labour rights violations and modern-day slavery in its food industries...

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