As the horrors of human slavery and trafficking in Thailand are exposed worldwide, the Spalding man who has worked tirelessly in the country on behalf of migrant workers this week faces court for defamation.
Tomorrow, migrant rights activist Andy Hall faces four charges lodged against him by the Natural Fruit Co Ltd and could face 28 years in jail and have to pay $10 million in damages if they are proved.
His father, Desmond, is urging everyone in the UK to support Mr Hall’s fight against Thai companies that supply UK supermarkets with “cheap food at a high price”, after his son was left “high and dry” by the British Home Office at a previous hearing, when he was detained in a prison and had his passport confiscated.
Desmond said: “We are worried, naturally, but things seem to be moving in the UK now and Andy is confident justice will be done. But he wants everyone to think about how the cheap food they buy in supermarkets, such as tuna and prawns, is sourced.
“People need to know that fishermen were probably kept on boats without pay, beaten and thrown overboard and others work in factories where the heat is unbearable.
“If people stop buying the food, that will put pressure on companies to pay a minimum wage and improve conditions.”
Zaw Zaw, a 26-year-old man from Burma, was deceived into slavery on a fishing boat, where he spent three months before he escaped.
He said: “Three men tried to escape. Two drowned as they couldn’t swim. The other was caught when he got to shore. They brought him back to the boat – his face swollen. They called us all on deck and the Thai captain said this is what happens if you try to escape. The man was tortured with electric shocks and then shot in front of us all and thrown overboard.”
The hearing is taking place only days after a Washington decision to downgrade Thailand in its annual human trafficking review. Investigations by Mr Hall have contributed to these developments. He said the downgrade was necessary to force Thai businesses, as well as international buyers, to put measures in place to address trafficking and slavery.
Last week the matter was raised in the UK parliament in the debate on Burma, MP John Hayes has spoken with Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs William Hague and the Home Office has promised support.
Desmond said: “Andy has already been told there should be a statue of him in Thailand for his work. Even with what he is facing he is working hard.”