British human rights activist Andy Hall has challenged the British Embassy to provide the consular duties required of it – citing the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s own written commitments.
Claiming that Embassy help so far has entailed little more than being given a book on ‘What to do in prison’ Hall, who has taken on the Thai food giant National Fruit has put Ambassador Mark Kent on the line.
H.E. Mark Kent has promised to answer Andy Hall’s accusation in full. Thousands of Britons in Thailand are awaiting the answer in some anticipation. For the average Brits help, when they are in legal trouble, is the provision of a list of lawyers. ..and the Embassy, not surprisingly, refuses to take responsibility if the lawyer turns out to be dodgy, as they have done in the past.
In fact Hall, from Spalding, Lincs, who is being sued both criminally and for US$10 million in damages by Natural Fruit, claims he has been told he has no more rights than a suspected child sexual abuser.
“I would like to remind you that on my first visit to meet with Julian, he reminded me that ‘essentially you are no different to an accused paedophile who is claiming innocence. We don’t support cases unless there are signs of actions supported by thai government officials or others to undermine your opportunities for a fair trial.’ Julian then proceeded to give me a book on ‘What to do in jail’ and felt that was as was required for his duty.”
Andy Hall was part of a Finnwatch Team which published a scathing report on how the Natural Fruit Co., treated its workers in Prachuab Khiri Kan province. Natural Fruit is not suing Finnwatch, but Andy Hall, who stayed behind to continue his campaign to support Burmese labour right. He is now in Rangoon/Yangon/
The Embassy exchange is detailed below.
|H.E. Mark Kent|
Dear Mark Kent (Ambassador, BKK) and Julian (Vice Consul, BKK)
Cc: FCO, London
Cc: John Hayes, MP for South Holland and the Deepings
I would like to bring your attention to ‘Information for British Nationals in Thailand’ posted on your website
I skim read it through and found some interesting points. It seems that British Embassy in Thailand may be in violation of its code of conduct regarding my case:
– “(All employ consular officers, and) one of their jobs is to provide help and advice to any British National who gets into difficulty.”
– “Consular staff are there to support you and take an interest in your welfare.”
– “(we can) give you information about the local legal system and about prosecution, remand, bail and appeal procedures.“
– “(we can) approach the local authorities if you are not treated in line with internationally accepted standards.“
UK government’s new CSR Action plan says that “(UK Government plans to) instruct the UK’s Embassies and High Commissions to support human rights defenders working on issues related to business and human rights; and provide financial support, through the FCO Human Rights and Democracy Programme, to civil society organisations to ‘promote protection of human rights defenders who are actively engaged on issues relating to business and human rights’.”
See more at:
Both yourself and Julian raised with me that the British Embassy was ready and willing to ensure I get a fair trial and would immediately act on any potential injustice or unfairness in my case.
Could you therefore confirm for me what the UK Embassy is going to do to ensure government officials in Thailand (particularly police officers) are not seeking to undermine my basic right to justice and a fair trial. Other diplomats in Bangkok (but not my own embassy) have contacted me continuously, but the Embassy remains a silent actor either towards me or in general.
Also, can the embassy explain how it intends in relation to me and my decade of work in Thailand ‘to support human rights defenders working on business and human rights and to promote protection of human rights defenders who are actively engaged on issues relating to business and human rights.’
Below Finnwatch Video on Andy Hall and the Natural Fruit Company
I would like to remind you that on my first visit to meet with Julian, he reminded me that ‘essentially you are no different to an accused paedophile who is claiming innocence. We don’t support cases unless there are signs of actions supported by thai government officials or others to undermine your opportunities for a fair trial.’ Julian then proceeded to give me a book on ‘What to do in jail’ and felt that was as was required for his duty.
Finally, I inform you that I am currently discussing with lawyers and my support networks in UK regarding how the conduct of the Embassy in my case so far has been in compliance with the 1998 Human Rights Act as well as the Data Protection Act and Freedom of Information Act. I note that information that has been denied to my own family in UK through citing the Data Protection Act has since been shared with other colleagues.
I would welcome your response here to the above issues.
Regards, Andy Hall
From his Excellency Mark Kent
Thank you for your emails. We will send you a substantive reply to the points that you raise shortly.
(2) Southern Bangkok Criminal Court – defamation (max 2 years imprisonment per count/fine) – pending
(3) Bangna Police Station – defamation (max 2 years imprisonment per count/fine) – pending
(4) Nakhon Pathom Civil Court – defamation (damages claimed US$10 million or Thai Baht 300 million) – pending
FLYING SPORRAN COMMENT: I think it would piss me off too if I went to the Embassy for help and they told me they could afford me no more help than they would an accused child sexual abuser. That’s why I have never gone. But by God have I neeeded it sometimes!
I mean its probably close to the truth, but you do not want to hear it.
Better I suppose than ”Don’t worry you are not going to jail” – which is what some Thai official has said to just about every British prisoner in Thailand.