In Asia, journalists and human rights activists often find themselves on the wrong end of a criminal prosecution. For example, Thai activist Somyot Prueksakasemsuk has recently been sentenced to 11 years in prison and in another case with a closer link to Australia, there has been the jailing of another Thai man, Ekachai Hongkangwan, for selling an ABC Foreign Correspondent documentary. Both were charged under lèse-majesté laws (insulting the monarch).
But in this particular case, the government is using the criminal law to protect local business – not just itself – against its critics. The Thai government is not alone in this. The businesses concerned most often are large and well-connected with strategic international interests. The logic goes something like this: “if you damage the reputation of this large business you will tarnish the reputation of us the host nation".
At the extreme, this can lead to a charge of treason against an individual, even if the criticism exposes some significant wrong doing by the company involved. This was the situation for Stanley Adams, who found himself charged with espionage and treason by the Swiss federation in 1984 for blowing the whistle on illegal anti-competitive conduct by his former employer Hoffman-La Roche. (Fiona Haines, Crime and business: a cautionary tale in the Asian century, The Conversation, April 10, 2013. )
In its statement the International Trade Union Confederation ITUC demands renouncing legal actions against Andy Hall, respect for freedom of speech in Thailand and protection of human rights defenders.
Service sector trade organisation UNI Global Union and construction and wood workers' international federation BWI campaign on behalf of Andy Hall and collect names for a petition to be sent to Natural Fruit and Thai industry groups.
Food, farm and hotel workers' global union UIF demands that companies that have bought raw materials from Natural Fruit assume responsibility over its human rights violations.
Thai State Enterprises Worker's Relation Confederation SERC has asked for support for Andy Hall from ITUC and the International Labour Organisation ILO. SERC has also published its own statement in which it demands Natural Fruit to drop legal actions against Andy Hall.
Human rights organisation Front Line Defenders considers the legal actions as an attack against human rights defenders and freedom of speech.
Migrant Forum Asia demands an investigation on Natural Fruit’s actions and renounces the legal actions.
Members of the European parliament Satu Hassi and Barbara Lochbihler have submitted a written question to the European Commission on the human rights situation in Thailand’s export industries and the legal actions against Andy Hall.
MEP Sari Essayah has submitted a written question to the European Commission on the human rights situation in Thailand’s export industries and the legal actions against Andy Hall.
Thai Food Processing Association, an industry organisation, considers Finnwatch's report important and commits to improving migrant workers' position in Thailand's export industries. (Finnwatch, Wide international support for Andy Hall, April 9, 2013).
That does not mean that in the face of reports, such as that made by Finnwatch, an enterprise is without options. But rather than attack the messenger, the enterprise ought to engage with the report itself--something that will not disappear however much the enterprise seeks to invoke law to destroy outside monitors. Such enterprises ought to meet such reports directly. It might vigorously defend their practices--a tactic enhanced through the cultivation of transparent operations at the production level (and something encouraged through the Guiding Principles of Business and Human Rights). (Cf. Transparency International, Transparency in corporate reporting: Assessing the world's largest companies, 10 July 2012). Alternatively, enterprises might choose to use such reports as a form of complaint that ought to be investigated, and where verified, re mediated. Transnational enterprises can use these complaints as an opportunity to work with their supply chain partners to enhance business operation, and with governments to enhance coordinated action to ensure compliance with local law.