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British activist braces for controversial defamation trial

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– Thailand news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

British activist braces for controversial defamation trial
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: A British activist will go on trial tomorrow in Bangkok for defamation, facing a possible jail term after his investigation into alleged labour abuses in the food industry.

Andy Hall faces civil and criminal lawsuits submitted by local fruit processor Natural Fruit, a major supplier to the European drink market, in response to accusations of forced and child labour, unlawfully low wages and long hours.

Hall, who made the allegations in a report last year for Finnish rights watchdog Finnwatch, is due in court on a defamation charge linked to an interview he gave to the Al Jazeera television network about the case.

If convicted in this first trial he could face one 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 this month.

Hall denounced the charges as “judicial harassment”, saying he wanted his case to raise awareness of the “widespread and systematic” exploitation of migrants in Thailand.

“This abuse extends to many export markets well beyond fishing, seafood and pineapples to poultry, fruit and veg, rubber and even more now retail, food and beverage and tourism,” he said in emailed comments.

Migrant workers, particularly from Myanmar and Cambodia, help keep major industries from seafood to construction afloat, but they often lack official work permits and are paid sub-minimum wages. The case against Hall, whose passport has been confiscated pending his trial, has triggered international concern.

Last Wednesday, United Nordic, an alliance of food companies from northern Europe, said the case could further damage the Thai food industry.

“We consider the right way to handle such criticism to be presenting facts and engaging in constructive dialogue with all parties involved,” its CEO Steinar Halvorsen said.

A Natural Fruit factory in the South was investigated for a Finnwatch report co-authored by Hall called “Cheap Has a High Price”, because it produced pineapple concentrate for Finnish supermarkets’ private label products, according to the watchdog. In a statement Finnwatch called on Thailand, the world’s largest pineapple producer, to change its approach “instead of issuing threats and exploiting workers”.

Natural Fruit is also seeking US$10 million (Bt327 million) through a civil suit.

Earlier this month, nearly 100 international and national labour and human rights groups and NGOs sent a joint letter to members of the Thai Pineapple Industry Association calling on them to urge an end to the lawsuits by its member Natural Fruit.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Daily Thai news on The Thaiger. All the latest information about Thailand, Monday to Friday on Thaiger News Today.

Thailand beaches may limit visitors until Covid-19 vaccine is available

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Travel agents push to end quarantine for tourists from countries at low risk for Covid-19

Caitlin Ashworth

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Travel agents push to end quarantine for tourists from countries at low risk for Covid-19 | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Qui Hotel

Travel agents are pushing to end the 14 day quarantine required for foreign tourists arriving from countries classified as a very low risk for spreading Covid-19, hoping the government will agree with the idea and start in December. The move could bring in at least 100,000 tourists per month, according to president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents, or ATTA, Vichit Prakobkoson.

The thought of 2 weeks in isolation before enjoying a vacation turns away a lot of potential tourists. Vichit says the idea of quarantine “repulses” them. But some tourists are still onboard with travelling to Thailand, even if that means spending 14 days in quarantine.

Around 120 to 150 tourists on the new Special Tourist Visa are set to arrive next week from China to Phuket after a 6 month ban on international tourists. The tourists are required to quarantine for 14 days at a state approved facility. The new visa allows a 90 stay and can be renewed twice, adding up to about 9 months.

Vichit says new measure won’t be enough to revive Thailand’s crippled tourism industry which took a hit when the country halted international travel to control the spread of the coronavirus. 1,200 foreign tourists are expected to arrive each month under the new Special Tourist Visa, but Vichit says the number of monthly tourists could increase to 100,000 each month if the quarantine is waived for people from countries consider low risk.

“The government should challenge and revoke the state quarantine, if possible, by this December for certain countries. If so, approximately 100,000 foreigners a month would travel to Thailand and might stay for 5 to 7 days.”

SOURCE: Pattaya News

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Opening borders could cause a second Covid-19 outbreak, epidemiologist says

Caitlin Ashworth

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Opening borders could cause a second Covid-19 outbreak, epidemiologist says | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Thai Post

Opening Thailand’s borders to foreign tourists may open a “Pandora’s box” of Covid-19 infections, according to leading epidemiologist on the Chulalongkorn University Faculty of Medicine Thira Woratanarat. After a 6 month ban on international tourists, the first group of travellers on the new Special Tourist Visa are set to fly from China to Phuket on October 8. Thira says the move puts the country at risk of a second coronavirus outbreak.

“If the country decides to take risks, everyone must rely on themselves because this is a war between virus and humans and people need to survive… The country will be a new endemic area if the government cannot contain the spread of the disease effectively. And even if there is a Covid-19 vaccine, it might be too late.”

The 120 to 150 tourists arriving next week on the Special Tourist Visa are required to quarantine at a state approved facility for 14 days. They are also required to be tested for Covid-19 before their flight and before being released from quarantine.

Thira has been vocal for months on his disapproval for opening the borders to foreign tourists and has stood firmly against proposals like so called “travel bubbles.” He says the coronavirus cases across globe have continued to raise and warns that people in Thailand should still abide by coronavirus prevention measures like wearing a mask.

“Many countries are still under the severe pandemic and have an infection rate 20 times that of Thailand’s, so Thailand will be at a risk of becoming a pandemic hotspot after the country is reopened.”

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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