Ranked Tier 3 (the lowest tier) in the US Government’s 2015 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, Thailand has long faced criticism for its failure to curb labour and human rights issues in the country. On 21st January 2013, Finnwatch, a Helsinki-based watchdog, published a report Cheap Has A High Price which documented the poor migrant worker conditions in Natural Fruit Company Ltd. (henceforth Natural Fruit, a major player in the pineapple industry) and two companies in the tuna industry, Thai Union
Manufacturing and Unicord. Tuna and pineapple production is a key source of external revenue and these companies supply a number of international brands around the world. Both industries employ a significant number of workers from among the estimated two million Burmese who constitute over 80% of the 2.5 million migrant workforce in Thailand. Many of these workers do not have authorization to work, making them vulnerable to exploitation. Andy Hall, a 34-year-old human rights advocate for
migrant workers, actively contributed in preparing the publicly available research report.
In February 2013, Natural Fruit filed charges against Andy Hall in a Bangkok police station. There were a total of four charges, two criminal and two civil law suits. Legal action against Hall raised international criticism. International labour and human rights organisations like UN Special Rapporteur, BHRRC, IndustriALL, Greenpeace in addition to Finnwatch wrote a letter to the Thai Prime Minister against the prosecution of Andy Hall.
Hall also attracted support from some of the major Thai industry associations and served as a prime link between the private sector and CSOs. It was on the personal request of Andy Hall that, in June 2014,the Thai Tuna Industry Association (TTIA), one of the largest tuna exporters’ associations in the world, and Thai Frozen Food Association (TFFA), paid for Hall’s bail when he was first charged. They did this to
demonstrate support for the work of human rights activists who investigate worker rights abuses. TTIA, along with Finnwatch and Thai Union, agreed to provide a second round of bail in January 2016.
TTIA had known Hall for about four years and arrived at the decision to provide bail with unanimous consensus from all its member companies. TTIA’s president, Dr. Chanintr Chalisarapong, stated that all member companies within TTIA, whether large or small, abide by the ethical code of conduct followed by TTIA. If any member company breaches the code, TTIA reserves complete authority to terminate membership of such companies. They were also facing tremendous international pressure from media,international CSOs and their own customers which also moulded their decision to cooperate with Hall.