On 29 October 2014, as part of the International Day of Action for Andy Hall, Fairfood gathered outside the Thai Embassy in The Hague to send the message that defending human rights is not a crime, and that Andy Hall, and other activists, should have their freedom of speech respected.
The first of four verdicts came in for Andy yesterday. He has been acquitted of the first charges of criminal defamation, because the initial police interrogation was deemed unlawful. Of course, this is a great outcome for him. Everyone has the right to a fair trial, and it is only just to throw out a case when procedure has not been followed correctly. However, Andy is in court again today, where he faces a civil case for criminal damage, and then in November he faces further, more serious criminal charges of defamation and misuse of computers.
So, today is a good day, but it is bittersweet, because of these other unjust charges looming.
At the Thai Embassy, a delegation from Fairfood was invited to present its case to the Charge D’Affaires, Mrs Sirilak Niyom, while other Andy Hall supporters stood outside with balloons and banners to raise awareness of our action. Fairfood presented the embassy with a letter signed by 33 international NGOs asking that the serious abuses Andy found as part of his work be investigated, and that the Thai Government introduces new labour rights legislation to reinforce the current, inadequate legislation. We also presented a pineapple upside-down cake to the Embassy, baked with fair trade products, which was symbolic of both the fact that it is Andy’s birthday tomorrow and that there is an imbalance of power between the Thai pineapple industry, and those people who seek to defend the rights of its workers.
Mrs Niyom was keen to show the Thai Government’s commitment to free speech. She listened to our arguments, and said that in fact Andy, and other delegates of NGOs have been instrumental in helping to develop Thai legislation, especially regarding workers’ rights. She also mentioned that the Thai authorities have started investigating the allegations that Andy made to them as a result of his research.
Whilst it really encouraging to hear that the Thai Government is taking these allegations seriously, we will have to await the outcome of all of the trials to see whether this is a real commitment, or whether this interest will last as long as the candles on a birthday cake.
The PDF of the NGO letter, including the full list of signatories, can be downloaded here: