Thailand: Govt. responds to UN experts concerns on labour, freedom of expression & cases of Andy Hall & others

On 16 November 2016, six special procedures of the UN Human Rights Council sent a joint communication to the Thai Government raising human rights concerns around the prosecution and sentencing of researcher and labour rights defender Andy Hall, and a more recent case involving 14 migrant workers who fled the Thammakaset 2 poultry farm due to reportedly oppressive labour conditions.

The six mandate holders are as follows: Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences, and Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children.

The communication, and the Thai Government’s responses are linked below.

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Article
21 February 2017

Joint communication from UN Human Rights Council special procedures to Thai Government

Author: Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences, and Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children

16 Nov 2016

...we would like to bring to the attention of your Excellency’s Government information we have received concerning the sentence issued against human rights defender Mr. Andy Hall for monitoring and reporting on the precarious working conditions of migrant workers in the food processing industry in Thailand, as well as Ms. Ye Ye and Mr. Su Yong, two migrant workers facing theft charges after seeking to provide proof for human rights violations at a poultry farm…

Concern is expressed that the sentence imposed on Mr. Hall is related to his legitimate and peaceful work as a human rights defender. The sentencing also represents criminalization of his legitimate right to freedom of expression and the gathering and dissemination of facts concerning serious human rights violations within Thailand’s fruit processing industry. Concern is also expressed at the use of criminal defamation laws against Mr. Hall under defamation charges for reporting on alleged human rights violations perpetrated by the Natural Fruit Company…Particular concerns are also expressed with regards to the right of a fair trial, the right to due process and the independence of the judiciary.

Further concern is expressed that the conviction and sentencing of Mr. Hall and his recent decision to leave the country because of security concerns may have a “chilling effect” on other human rights defenders and civil society activists working in Thailand and elsewhere to expose human rights violations perpetrated by non-State actors, including business enterprises...

Concern is also expressed with regards to the exploitation of migrant workers in the poultry industry. While we welcome some progress achieved in combating exploitation of migrant workers, such as reinforcing the labor inspection system, drafting legislation over labor agencies, introducing measures to prevent debt bondage and trafficking in human beings and creating stronger sanctions for labor abuse, we remain concerned over the continuation of abusive working conditions migrant workers face in the food processing industry…

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Article
19 January 2017

Response from the Permanent Mission of Thailand to the UN

Author: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Thailand

…The Thai Government is not a party concerned in the cases between Mr. Hall and Natural Fruit Company Limited and is not in a position to intervene in the on-going judicial process…

The remaining cases against Mr. Hall are still pending and in accordance with the principle of neutrality and transparency, each side is allowed the opportunity to use facts and evidences that it deems relevant. Observers are also permitted access to these legal proceedings…

…The aim of the[defamation] law is to protect the rights and reputations of the general public from being misused, abused, or exploited, while at the same time maintain peace, stability and public order in the fast moving digital era. The law does not seek to limit or curb an individual's right to expression…

With respect to Thammakaset 2 Poultry Farm, the investigation by authorised labour inspectors found some misconduct with respect to labour rights of the 14 migrant workers in the areas of minimum wage, overtime payment, payment for working on holidays and overtime payment for overtime work on holidays. However, there is no evidence of any detention and confinement facilities of the company, which would suggest possible use of forced labour…

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