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The father of a Lincolnshire man fighting for his freedom in Thailand has joined a growing global chorus to set him free.
Andy Hall, 34, made allegations about Thailand’s canned fruit industry.
He is facing a defamation case, six years’ imprisonment and being forced to pay $10 million in damages from lawsuits brought by Thai pineapple company Natural tory run by National Fruit employed Burmese children as young as 14, failed to pay the Thai minimum wage, confiscated travel documents and enforced 20-hour days.
Natural Fruit’s owner, Wirat Piyanpornpaiboon, who is also president of the Thai Pineapple Industry Association, is suing Mr Hall for defamation following an interview he gave to the Al Jazeera television network about the case.
The first case was due to get under way this week, but he is also facing other charges of computer crime – which carry stiffer penalties.
Trade unions, labour groups and the United Nations (UN) have already called for the charges to be dropped and his family are hoping common sense will prevail.
His father Desmond, 66, said: “All he has ever tried to do is help the migrant workers of Thailand and Burma. He has tried to get them better working conditions and has done it for no financial reward.
“The family are very close, but it has affected us and we worry. We know he has done nothing wrong.
“But he is in a Thai country. They have been downgraded to a Tier Three country by the US. That is as bad as Korea and Cuba.
“He’s worked for the Burmese government and the UN. He is not a liar. We are very simple people and we are concerned. We just hope the court see the truth.
“But the biggest worry is whether it is going to be a true trial. I often tell him ‘Andrew you can’t change the world,’ but he will still have a go. I am very proud of him, as I am all my children. We would just like to see this case over.”
Desmond, wife Pat and daughter Joanne will keep in constant touch with supporters over in Thailand while the court case is ongoing. Andy is originally from Spalding and the rest of his family is Spalding-based. They have been overwhelmed by the world- wide support for their son.
But they are more than critical when it comes to the support of the British Government.
They have spoken to their local MP John Hayes, but Mr Hall senior remains appalled at the way his son’s court summons was treated.
“It was disgusting,” he said. “When Andy was summoned, the lawyers sent it to the British Government who simply stuck it in a brown envelope and passed it on to us. Andy hadn’t lived with us for a decade so we sent it back.”
He says there was no British Government representative at the first court hearing.
If convicted in the first trial he could face a year in prison. More serious charges under the computer crime act — which carries up to seven years in jail for each count — are due to be heard later in September.
A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesman said: “We are aware of Mr Hall’s case and have been providing him with consular assistance. We are also working with other diplomatic missions and international organisations in Thailand to ensure that the Thai authorities are fully aware of the extent of international concern regarding this case, which we expect to proceed in accordance with Thai law and international human rights standards.
“The UK supports the right of activists to carry out their work and voice their opinion in order to promote human rights, including labour rights, peacefully.
“We continue to raise the issue of labour rights in general with the Thai authorities. We attach great importance to the respect of human rights, including labour rights and standards, and we work together with our European Union and international colleagues in this area.”