Plus the perils of Embassy requests

Human Rights Activist Andy Hall said today that we would rather go to jail in Thailand than give in to the pressure of rich Thai companies with cash to throw around.

After appearing at Bangna Police station Bangkok late Saturday to face more charges brought under the Criminal Libel Act and Computer Crime Act he said: “They are applying to the court to issue a warrant of arrest. I am not going to pay bail. They can lock me up first.”
Hall on al jazeera

A furious Hall, who was part of a Finnwatch Team, which made a scathing report on the Natural Fruit Co., owners of pineapple farms and production lines in Prachupa Khiri Kan, also directed part of his wrath on the British Embassy.

“It was the British Embassy who called me up to say they had documents. They told me Bangna Police wanted me to report to them. I asked them what was in the documents. They said they could not tell me.  
“Who is the British Embassy working for – Britain or the Royal Thai Police? Are they a Thai police messenger service?”

“The Vice Consul
said the only time I met him I was ‘in no different position to an accused
phaedophile and the embassy won’t intervene unless I cannot get a fair trial.”

Natural Fruit ‘good governance,
responsible for customer,
employee and socal.

Andy Hall, from Spalding, Lincs, who currently spends most of his time in Burma, went along to Bangna Police station, and, as is normally the case, regretted it.

“I spent three hours there. They wanted me to sign a statement which was tantamount to a confession.

“All the while the officer on the case was on the phone to many people. 
“The latest charge I believe is connected to the programme on al jazeera.”
“As far as I am concerned this was not a private case between two individuals. This was the Government coming down against a Human Rights Activist.”
There were several members on the Finnwatch Team but only Andy Hall remained behind in the region.

It appears he was picked on by Natural Fruit because he helped publicise the Finwatch Report which was scathing about Natural Fruit’s treatment of its Burmese labour – the majority of its work force.

What the Embassy said below, according to Andy Hall.  Mr. Hall says he is raising the question of Embassy support or lack of it with the FCO in London and British MPs.

First he penned this message to a Consular Official and copied it widely through the FCO

I would like to remind you, as already alerted via email,
that I was almost tricked into signing a false confession on Saturday partly
due to and stemming from my presence at Bangna Police Station that resulted
from your actions/emails and refusing to share information, and the embassy
consular services continue to fail to impress me. Other consular officials I
have spoken to today have expressed surprise at the continuing lack of support
(actually no formal or informal support offered) by consular staff.”
Then followed his account of what transpired. The FCO does not comment on consular cases.

Mr. Andy Hall was notified on 27th Sep by the Vice Consul at the British Embassy in Bangkok as follows: ‘I wanted to advise you that we received a copy of an official notification from Bang Na police station (Bangkok) regarding “Broadcasting False Statements in the Public Media” charges being brought against you, which were recently reported in the press. I would advise you, as we would for all British Nationals involved in legal proceedings to seek an update from your lawyer in Thailand. They will be able to update and advise you on the status of your case and if there are any potential implications in entering Thailand. Please note that we are unable to provide you with any legal advice on this matter. However, if you do not yet have a lawyer engaged, the British Embassy maintains annually a list of English speaking lawyers and translators/interpreters in Thailand for your information. Please read the notice and information carefully.’

Above the al jazeera documentary

The Embassy consular team responded to requests for further information in a series of emails: ‘Permission to send you a copy of the documentation shared by the police to the British Embassy can only be given by the issuing authority, which in this case has not been provided. It is for this reason that I suggested that your lawyer liaise directly with the police so that they can seek clarification of your status… Providing any further information regarding the police notification the Embassy received must be requested directly to the police officer dealing with the matter. The decision to forward a copy of the notification to your lawyer also rests with him.’ The Vice Consul continued:’I cannot speculate why the owner of the document sent the British Embassy a copy of the notification. What I can confirm is that we did not request it. I reiterate my advice that your lawyer liaise with the police directly who are in a position to provide you with the information you seek.’

Above the Finnwatch video – at least a Brit Euro-MP was interested

The cases against Andy Hall

(1) Southern Bangkok Criminal Court – computer crimes act (max 5 years imprisonment per count/fine) – pending
(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


Hall would be on a hiding to nothing if he actually decided to fight the cases, now totalling 3 and for which Natural Fruit are seeking US$10 million compensation. Although the workers spoke to the researchers in confidence and evidently ‘truthfully’,  to identify them would inevitably mean they would lose their jobs and probably worse.

Thus he would be walking into trials against a pre-determined winner.

 In Thailand libel can be made a criminal charge. It is not in most western countries. As a result the libel laws are widely abused.

Caution for British citizens:  If the British Embassy rings you up and suggests you report to a Thai police station without telling you specifically why – don’t go.  They do not even ring up British criminals to suggest they turn themselves in. More’s the pity. It would be a great service.

What a bummer!

Martin Scripps learned butchery in prison and
expertly carved up his victims after killing them

Many years ago the British Drugs Liaison Officer at the British Embassy asked me to do a favour for his counterpart at the Canadian Embassy.

The Canadian officer was being transferred to Singapore and wanted to impress the local authorities.

Scripps on an elephant north of Chiang Mai

Now I had just interviewed a serial killer ‘John Martin Scripps’ in Taneh Merah Prison, Singapore, close by Changi, and he had confessed to me a Singapore murder.

I agreed and met with a couple of Singapore officials at the Canadian Embassy only to find out that they were less interested in the confession than wanting to charge me with deceiving government officers, in gaining access to Scripps.

‘Ok here’s my statement but lets off to the Amari for a drink’, I said, and wrote a quick one out on the way and voiced it into my tape recorder over the first pint which I made them pay.

I had actually gained access with a member of Scripps’ family. I did not say who I was as I was not asked.

But I did hand over my passport which at the time clearly stated in a back page that I was an accredited journalist in Thailand.

(The story on Scripps incidentally I did for the News of the World which I had walked out on in 1986 during the Wapping Strike. If you want to read about those days go here.)

The author in Mexico City – he followed Scripps ‘body trail’ around the world

The Government newspaper the ‘Straits Times’ ran with a story about a British journalist being wanted for questioning and after a year or so they forgot about it. I have been to Singapore many times since, but what a bummer!

13 thoughts on “DID BRITISH EMBASSY STITCH UP ITS OWN CITIZEN? The Natural Fruit Case Continues

  1. Having read the emails: Why does the British embassy have to be so impersonal and officious in its communications with one of its own citizens? Couldn't they simply have arranged a confidential meeting with Andy Hall and given him some expert and proper legal advice and assistance instead of leaving him to his own devices at the hands of the Bangna police. Have they (the British embassy) no idea of the very sensitive and political nature of this particular case? Obviously not. Idiots.

    1. Mark " Superman " Kent is a career bureaucrat and this plum post of his is simply just another springboard to greater glory. His predecessor, Asif Ahmad, was parachuted in as an emergency replacement for that dreadful parody of an ambassador, Quinton " I'm open to offers " Quayle who left his department in the lurch without warning for a job with the Chang brewery. Ahmad's brief tenure was marked by a refreshing change in culture in that he often raised issues with the Thai in uncompromising terms and demanded explanations where his colleagues often demurred in favour of their limp wristed ambivalence so typical of spineless, self serving toadies unwilling to jeopardise their well earned sinecures and a reputation for a " safe pair of hands " that only the gutless regard as important – it was to his credit but then the posting was quite ad hoc and doubtless he had some freedom in the role unburdened by any long term obligation to suck up to the Thai..
      Kent therefore as a matter of policy will do nothing to upset the even tenor of his life here particularly when no financial interest of GB plc is concerned, the driving force of any Foreign Office apparatchik and one which possibly even outweighs their own personal agenda.
      No surprise that poor Andy Hall is being left to hang, swinging in the breeze. Chap is in Dodge and there ain't no sheriff likely to ride to his rescue, least of all from that pusillanimous crew cloistered in their rather nice billet at considerable tax-payers' expense. Ghastly bunch, really, and only good for getting a round in if one could get them to dig into those deep pockets of theirs. If the British embassy were to have a coat of arms it would surely be a chocolate teapot crossed with a glass hammer over a supine, clapped out, mangey lion with the motto of " deus ex machina " emblazoned thereon.

    2. Gerry, you've been far too kind in your synopsis…but saying that overall a fair assessment of current UK Consulate representations for an UK ex-pat living in Thailand or anywhere abroad for that matter.

      If I may…Re Asif Ahmad….

      He brought up the major bone of contention between British pensioner ex-pats and the British government – the freezing of their state pensions, particularly as there are countries where the British pensioner does get the indexed pension, as opposed to Thailand.

      Appearing as an ‘excuse’ he said that Ministers are not going to give overseas Britons priority over what they see as more pressing needs at home.

      Interviewer Sue K: What’s the biggest achievement during your time as the UK Ambassador here?

      H.E. Asif Ahmad: One of them is, the single biggest investment last year in the UK from anywhere in the world was from Thailand. Sahavirya Steel invested in the Teesside Redcar steel plant. That deal itself will save 1,500 jobs, and it means the UK will export 1 billion pounds worth of steel into Thailand each year. That will wipe out the trade deficit we have so our total trade from 5 billion a year ago will go up to 6 billion. That is massive.

      You're right, GB PLC rules forever!

  2. "Who is the British Embassy working for – Britain or the Royal Thai Police? Are they a Thai police messenger service?”

    a) Their own interests and b) Apparently.

    Yet another story of overpaid, useless, two faced Civil Servants failing a British Citizen, one thing they're consistently good at!

    They're quick to quote from Wireless Road…"we cannot involve ourselves in any other countries legal matters" well it appears after reading this story they do if and when it suits them.

    Quite simply…without doubt yet another example of a career ladder move by some slimy civil servant based at Wireless Road, Tally Ho Cocktails all round you useless stuck up twats!

  3. Most countries are now living under corporatocracy, where there is a social and economic class of rulers, defined by their involvement in the ownership and management of large corporations. Thai politics is run by clans who share the same faith of money and profit at all costs. Talking to these people about human rights, civil liberties, democracy and fair elections is like talking to a tiger about a vegan lifestyle. Not only do these people not care, they will kill anybody who tries to obstruct their plunder and abuse. A living wage, health care and paid holidays all cut into profit so don't hold your breath waiting for them in Thailand. Waiting for our Governments to help is like watching two thick planks warp in the sun. They are too busy pandering to the latest politically correct fad like gay marriage to help a citizen in distress. Other than the usual ladder climbing, ass covering and office back-stabbing, they are basically useless.

    1. Spot on. You have a way with words and convincing a tiger to turn vegan would certainly be easier than getting through to these people. I appreciate the embassies and consulates are controlled from London but they really do need to be staffed by better people.

      Matt Owens Rees

  4. Without seeing the full correspondence and what data/documents the Embassy is holding it does seem that the Embassy may have breached Andy Hall’s human rights on several counts under the Human Rights Act.
    I am sure that Andy Hall’s legal team will be considering a raft of requests under the Data Protect Act and Freedom of Information as to what data (including both internal and external emails) the Embassy holds and what actions were taken by Embassy staff concerning Andy Hall and why. Some questions that pop to mind are: Why was the Embassy contacted, How many such notifications do the Embassy get in a year Why did the Embassy act, Did the Embassy receive their information in Thai or English and or did the Embassy translate from Thai to English ie an official translation. Why could the Embassy not provide an English summary. If the Embassy did not know why they had been contacted why did they act. Was the Embassy aware of why the police wished Andy Hall to report to them. Was the Embassy aware of whether Andy Hall was in Thailand or outside of Thailand. Very Importantly Was the Embassy aware that at the police station Andy Hall would be asked to sign a Thai document, with no official translation, and a possible “confession”, without being arrested or charged with any offence. Who in the Embassy did the Vice Consul consult. Was the Ambassador informed. Was this done under Home Office authority/rules or FCO authority/rules or both or neither.
    I trust the Embassy has CCTV in their shredding room.

  5. The Embassy states it cannot interfere in another country’s legal system. Mr Hague in his Speech: Looking After our Own, stated The British Governments Duty to its citizens did not stop at Dover and by example and implication this means that an Embassy must stand up for a British citizens rights where applicable. In the UK a British Citizen or a Thai Citizen visiting the UK has such rights. Specifically: anyone charged with a criminal offence has the right to be informed in a language which he/she understands and in detail, of the nature and cause of the accusation against him/her. Now if that did not happen to Andy Hall then the Embassy should be taking this matter up with the Thai Authorities. It is not interfering in the legal system as such BUT merely protecting a British citizen lawfully going about his business under a British Passport and further and equally: the Embassy is merely requesting reciprocity as to how a Thai citizen would be treated in the UK.
    I hope Mr Andy Hall can forcefully make such points to whomsoever he contacts in the UK.

  6. I am glad to hear that Andy has made it back to Burma. What surprised me was his apparent guilelessness in this matter. Why did he come back to Thailand for a health check up knowing what was hovering over his head? There are plenty of other countries he could have gone to.

    A closer reading of the message to him from the embassy undermines my former thought that they lured him to report to the police. All they seemed to suggest was for him to use a lawyer to liaise with the police. I have no brief for the embassy, having had issues with them in the past, but in the interests of fairness I think I must give them the benefit of the doubt here.

    There is a famous piece by longtime nonviolent activist George Lakey entitled "Get militant, but get back up." It appears that Andy could have prepared himself better before entering the police station. All credit to him, though, for saying he was prepared to go to jail rather than pay the fine.

    Andy must know he has a lot of support and whatever happens to him will not go unnoticed. In closing I would counsel him, as a friend, to beware of a certain amount of hubris that appears to be creeping into his WordPress website.

  7. I know this doesn't fit into the sensationalistic narrative that is implied by the headline, but has it occurred to anyone that Mr. Hall is simply seeking publicity? I don't mean this in the sense that he is looking for personal aggrandizement or gain, just that he is using the media to bring attention to his cause. His rather forceful statements regarding his willingness to jail rather than bail are not rational and seem constructed merely to grab attention.

    If you read the correspondence attributed to the Embassy representative there's no set up. It's simply information, not deception. In fact Mr. Hall is advised to have a consultation with his lawyer to determine any negative consequences of entering Thailand. He is in no way encouraged to go to the police station alone or at all. In fact he is told to have his Thai lawyer act as a liaison with the police to sort our what they are requesting.

    I think what many people here are missing is that bureaucratic organizations tend not to want to exercise a lot of discretionary authority. They have rules and procedures in place to prevent sensitive information from being disseminated (not always effective, I readily concede) and while it may be nice to think they are there for each citizen individually they have to weigh the collective results for all citizens and the national interest. Mr. Hall is doing admirable work, no doubt. But he is handling this his own way and in one that could put him at great personal risk. I wouldn't blame some embassy official for setting him up when that's not the case. It really draws away from the fundamental issue which is workers rights and human rights.

    PS. if there is information that's not disclosed here where the Embassy cooked up some story (Mr. Hall, come to the police station to collect your inheritance from your great aunt Eunice who passed away) then I'll stand corrected. But based on the facts as presented here this isn't a set-up, it's an activist working to get headlines. Give him the right headline and don't muddy the water please.

    1. There's much in what you say. But headlines sell newspapers and get views on the internet. It was ever thus. Think of the News Of the World's antics over the years. They exposed lots of frauds which would never have seen the light of day but were not always honest in their methods.

    2. Stitch up? I posed a rhetorical question really. Of course I do not believe the Embassy was in the process of a deliberate stitch-up. But there are times when British citizens can benefit from Embassy actions and here nothing seemed to be forthcoming. Britain does not want to upset either Thailand or Burma. Peace in our time.

  8. Andrew – you're wrong when you state that libel/defamation aren't criminal in most Western countries. In fact libel/defamation is criminal in most of Europe and in Australia and Canada. However those laws are also circumscribed by rights guaranteeing freedom of expression. Quite clearly in Thailand there is a lack of rule of law and the libel/defamation laws are being used to curtail freedom of speech – the draconian lese majeste laws would be the ultimate expression of this. http://www.article19.org/defamation/map.html

    Andrew Spooner

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