World Bulletin / News Desk
A Thai criminal court found a British migrant rights activist guilty of defaming a fruit conglomerate and handed him a three-year suspended sentence Tuesday.
The Bangkok South Criminal Court found Andy Hall guilty of defaming Natural Fruit Company in a 2013 research report on the work conditions of Myanmar migrant workers in a fruit processing factory owned by the firm, Thailand’s largest in the sector.
According to the court, Hall had not conducted a thorough investigation and did not give the company ample time to reply to the allegations.
It originally sentenced Hall to four years in prison but reduced the term to three years suspended because of his previous record of "public good".
"This verdict will send shockwaves around the international community," Hall told reporters after the hearing. "This is a sad day for freedom of expression in Thailand."
Wirat Piyapornpaiboon, the chairman of Natural Fruit, told reporters that the court "returned me my rights today".
"I have fought for my honor and that of my country," he said.
The report, commissioned by Finland-based watchdog Finnwatch and published in 2013, detailed alleged rights abuses at Natural Fruit Company including unpaid overtime, unsafe conditions and the confiscation of passports.