Dear Prime Minister Prayut:

On this International Human Rights Day, we, the undersigned, write to you concerning the conviction of Andy Hall for criminal defamation and violations of the Computer Crime Act. Hall’s conviction was in relation to research he undertook by interviewing migrant workers and sending raw interview data to Finnwatch, which then analyzed the information and published it in the Finnwatch report Cheap Has a High Price. Finnwatch wrote and published the report online in January 2013 in Helsinki, Finland.

We are writing to you as an international coalition of civil society groups (human rights, labor, development and environmental organizations), national civil society groups, members of parliament, and corporations who seek to ensure that the rights of migrant workers and human rights defenders in Thailand are respected and protected in line with international law and standards. While we acknowledge the decision of the Bangkok South Criminal Court in this case, we remain deeply troubled about the potential of this judgment to seriously hinder the work of human rights advocates by preventing effective and confidential research and monitoring of supply chains, thereby putting migrant and other vulnerable workers at higher risk of debt bondage, forced labor and other abuse. Without basic rights like free association and collective bargaining, migrant workers in Thailand lack the means to effectively protect themselves from abuse and exploitation. This judgment could put them at even greater risk.

In June 2016, the U.S. government highlighted Thailand’s anti-trafficking efforts by upgrading it to Tier 2 Watch List in its annual Trafficking in Persons Report. The U.S. government noted, however, that the prosecution of Andy Hall “impeded a climate conducive to preventing trafficking, discovering and reporting trafficking crimes, identifying victims, and apprehending additional traffickers.” It is extremely worrying that a Thai court has acted to criminalize the actions of Hall in contributing to professional research on alleged grave human and labour rights abuses committed by a Thai corporation. This decision will undoubtedly create a chilling effect on independent supply chain research, which benefits migrant workers and their families, the environment, the Thai government and people, and the international companies that source their products from Thailand.

We have been consulting closely in the aftermath of this decision and conclude that international brands committed to ethical sourcing are now facing a serious dilemma prompted by the conviction of Andy Hall. An increasing number of international corporations see such research as contributing important value to their decisions around sourcing and production of products. Many of these corporations have made a commitment to their customers to source and produce ethically. Increasing transparency helps international corporations to identify human rights risks and support Thai companies in efforts to improve. Any nation that hinders or obstructs supply chain research may be putting business and investment from those companies at risk.

It is important to note that during Hall’s trial, some of Thailand’s leading seafood companies and associations, as well as a leading European retailer, attested to the benefit of Hall’s research. Unfortunately, the Court’s decision sends a signal to international brands and retailers that the current environment in Thailand may not be conducive to ensuring ethical sourcing and may also embolden further prosecution of human rights defenders who report allegedly illegal practices at companies that harm human rights.

As a step toward assuring civil society, governments, and the private sector that Thailand is genuinely committed to protecting the rights of migrant workers, Thailand should decriminalize defamation and amend the Computer Crime Act to bring it into line with Thailand’s international human rights obligations. The present use of the Computer Crime Act in tandem with prosecution of human rights defenders for criminal defamation undermines the rights to freedom of expression and information of independent researchers, journalists, and human rights defenders, in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Thailand is a party. We also urge Thailand to actively and effectively implement the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders to ensure that human rights defenders have a safe and enabling environment in which to carry out research, education and advocacy. Furthermore, we encourage the Royal Thai Government to ratify International Labour Organization (ILO) Core Labor Conventions, particularly Conventions No. 87 (Freedom of Association) and No. 98 (Collective Bargaining), which would empower migrant workers to protect themselves from employer abuses.

The work of Andy Hall and other human rights defenders on supply chains is essential to improving the lives of migrant workers in Thailand and their families in Southeast Asia. It also benefits all consumers of Thai products exported overseas who want to be assured that the products they buy from Thailand are produced in a manner that respects human rights. This work should be commended, not criminalized, by the Thai government.

We urge Thailand to act now to ensure that human rights defenders and migrant workers in Thailand are fully protected by:

  1. Repealing the provisions in the Penal Code criminalizing defamation;  
  2. Amending the Computer Crime Act to bring it into compliance with international human rights law regarding freedom of expression;
  3. Actively and effectively implementing the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders; and
  4. Ratifying and implementing ILO Core Labor Conventions, particularly No. 87 and No. 98.

Sincerely,

1. American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations

Cathy Feingold, Director of International Affairs

2. Amnesty International

3. Anti-Slavery International

Aidan McQuade, Director

4. Attac Finland

Omar El-Begawy, President

5. Australia Asia Worker Links

Pier Moro, Secretary

6. Australian Council of Trade Unions

Ged Kearney, President

7. Axfood

Åsa Domeij, Head of Environmental & Social Affairs

8. Axfoundation

Carolina Sachs, Secretary General

9. Building and Woodworkers International

Ambet Yuson, General Secretary

10. Burma Campaign UK

Mark Farmaner, Director

11. Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

Bobbie Sta. Maria, Senior Researcher & Representative for Southeast Asia

12. California Institute for Rural Studies

Gail Wadsworth, Executive Director

13. Center for Alliance of Labor and Human Rights – CENTRAL

Tola Moeun, Executive Director

14. Child Labor Coalition

Reid Maki, Coordinator

15. Civil Rights Defenders

Robert Hård, Executive Director

16. Coalition of Immokalee Workers

17. Comite de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agricolas (CATA)

Jessica Culley

General Coordinator

18. Concordia

Matthew Swift, Co-Founder & CEO

19. Consumers’ Union of Finland

Juha Beurling, Secretary General

20. Coop Sweden

Louise König, Sustainability Manager

21. Dalit Solidarity Network Finland

Minna Havunen, Chair

22. Electronics Watch

Björn Claeson, Director

23. Environmental Justice Foundation

Steve Trent, Executive Director

24. Ethical Trading Initiative

Peter McAllister, Executive Director

25. Dame Glenis Willmott

MEP, Leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party

26. Jude Kirton-Darling

MEP, European Parliament

27. Heidi Hautala

MEP, European Parliament

28. Sirpa Pietikäinen

MEP, European Parliament

29. Liisa Jaakonsaari

MEP, European Parliament

30. Merja Kyllönen

MEP, European Parliament

31. Miapetra Kumpula-Natri

MEP, European Parliament

32. Nils Torvalds

MEP, European Parliament

33. Pirkko Ruohonen-Lerner

MEP, European Parliament

34. EuroPoultry

Mikael Kristensen, Owner

35. Fair Action

Ulrika Urey, Director

36. Fair World Project

Kerstin Lindgren, Campaign Director

37. Fairfood International

Sander de Jong, Managing Director

38. Farmworker Association of Florida

Antonio Tovar

39. Finn Church Aid

Jouni Hemberg, Executive Director

40. Finnish Food Workers’ Union SEL

Veli-Matti Kuntonen, Union Chairperson

41. Finnish League for Human Rights

Kaari Mattila, Secretary General

42. Finnish Metalworkers´ Union

Riku Aalto, President

43. Finnwatch

Sonja Vartiala, Executive Director

44. FishWise

Tobias Aguirre, Executive Director

45. Food Chain Workers Alliance

Joann Lo, Co-Director

46. Fortify Rights

Amy Smith, Executive Director

47. Freedom Fund

Audrey Guichon, Senior Program Officer

48. Frontline Defenders

Andrew Anderson, Executive Director

49. Giant Eagle

Richard Castle, Director of Seafood

50. Global Witness

Ben Leather, Campaigner

51. Green America

Todd Larsen, Executive Co-Director for Consumer & Corporate Engagement

52. Greenpeace Southeast Asia

Yeb Sano, Executive Director

53. Hazards Magazine

Rory O'Neill, Editor

54. Human Rights at Sea

David Hammond, CEO

55. Human Rights Now

Kazuko Ito, Secretary General

56. Human Rights Watch

Brad Adams, Asia Director

57. Humanity United Action

Ame Sagiv, Investments Manager

58. Hy-Vee Food Stores Inc.

Greg Frampton, V.P. Meat and Seafood Operations

59. Industrial Union TEAM

Heli Puura, President

60. IndustriALL Global Union

Valter Sanches, General Secretary

61. International Federation of Journalists

Anthony Bellanger, General Secretary

62. International Labor Rights Forum

Judy Gearhart, Executive Director

63. International Solidarity Foundation

Miia Nuikka, Executive Director

64. International Trade Union Confederation

Sharan Burrow, General Secretary

65. International Transport Workers’ Federation

Stephen Cotton, General Secretary

66. International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations (IUF)

Ron Oswald, General Secretary

67. Irish Congress of Trade Unions

Patricia King, General Secreatry

68. Kepa

Timo Lappalainen, Executive Director

69. KISA - Action for Equality, Support, Antiracism

Doros Polykarpou, Executive Director

70. Labor Safe Screen and Sustainability Incubator

Katrina Nakamura, Founder

71. Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada

Gail Davidson, Executive Director

72. Laundry Workers Center

73. Martin&Servera

AnnaLena Norrman, Chief Sustainability & Quality Officer

74. Migrant Workers Rights Network

Sein Htay, President

75. Multicultural Center Prague

Marek Canek, Executive Director

76. National Consumers League

Sally Greenberg, Executive Director

77. National Guestworkers Alliance

Jacob Horwitz, Lead Organizer

78. Norvida

Calle Ramvall, Quality and Environmental Director

79. NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights

Sarah Labowitz and Michael Posner, Co-directors

80. Olof Palme International Center

Jens Orback, Secretary General

81. Pioneer Valley Workers Center

Gabriella della Croce, Development Coordinator & Community Organizer

82. Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants

Michele LeVoy, Director

83. Pro Ethical Trade Finland

Anna Ylä-Anttila, Acting Executive Director

84. Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC)

Fekkak Mamdouh, Co-Director

85. S Group

Lea Rankinen, Senior Vice President Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility

86. Service Union United PAM

Ann Selin, President

87. Slave Free Seas

Craig Tuck, Founder and Director

88. Social Accountability International (SAI)

Jane Hwang, President & CEO

89. Stop The Traffik Australia

Carolyn and Fuzz Kitto, Co-Directors

90. Svensk Cater

Lars Carlsson, CEO

91. Swedwatch

Alice Blondel, Director

92. Teamsters Joint Council 7

Doug Bloch, Political Director

93. Tehy – The Union of Health and Social Care Professionals in Finland

Rauno Vesivalo, President       

94. Tenaganita

Glorene A Das, Executive Director

95. The Finnish NGDO Platform to the EU Kehys

Rilli Lappalainen, Secretary General

96. The Swedish Foundation for Human Rights

Jenny Jansson Pearce, Secretary General

97. The Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors JHL

Päivi Niemi-Laine, President

98. Trade Union Pro

Jorma Malinen, President

99. Trade Union Solidarity Centre of Finland SASK

Janne Ronkainen, Executive Director

100. Trades Union Congress

Frances O’Grady, General Secretary

101. Transient Workers Count Too

John Gee, Chair, Research Sub-Committee

102. Tuko Logistics

Pirjo Heiskanen, Quality Assurance Manager

103. UNI Global Union

Philip Jennings, General Secretary

104. Unil

Julie Haugli Aarnæs, Manager Sustainable Sourcing

105. Union to Union

Kristina Henschen, General Secretary

106. Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of Victoria and Tasmania

Mark Zirnsak, Justice & International Mission

107. Verité

Shawn MacDonald, CEO

108. Walk Free

Joanna Ewart-James, Director

109. Wegmans Food Markets

Carl P. Salamone, V.P. Seafood Sustainability

110. Worker Justice Center of New York

Lewis Papenfuse, Executive Director