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Procedure : 2016/2912(RSP)
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Texts tabled :

RC-B8-1068/2016

Debates :

OJ 06/10/2016 - 79
CRE 06/10/2016 - 3.3

Votes :

PV 06/10/2016 - 5.3

Texts adopted :

P8_TA(2016)0380

Debates
Thursday, 6 October 2016 - Strasbourg Revised edition

3.3. Thailand, notably the case of Andy Hall
Video of the speeches
PV
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  Presidente. – L'ordine del giorno reca la discussione su sette proposte di risoluzione sulla Thailandia, segnatamente il caso di Andy Hall.

 
  
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  Ignazio Corrao, author. – Mr President, in October 2015 we highlighted the difficult political situation in Thailand, where a military junta took power after the coup of May 2014. At present there is no way to foresee a full transition back to a civilian government. On the contrary, the Thai military junta has adopted arbitrary and even more restrictive measures to disrupt the lives of everyone opposing the regime. Arrests and intimidation are frequent in order to control the population and reduce or eliminate citizens’ freedom of expression. Among them, Andy Hall, who has always been a defender of workers’ rights and a committed activist, has been falsely accused of defamation and now faces a three-year prison sentence. We ask for immediate withdrawal of this allegation, and stress the regime should change its attitude to its citizens and to fundamental freedoms. For these reasons, we think it is essential for the Commission and the European External Action Service to take action on the issue.

 
  
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  Jeroen Lenaers, author. – Mr President, this debate and this resolution are the result of our commitment and our friendship with the Thai people and it is because of this commitment and friendship that we share some of our concerns here today: concerns about the labour rights for migrants in Thailand, concerns about the disproportionate use of criminal defamation laws, and concerns about the climate and the legal framework in which human rights defenders like Andy Hall have to do their work to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. But it is not only about concerns today; it is also about acknowledging the steps that the Thai Government has taken in recent times and about encouraging Thailand to continue and to accelerate those developments. Yesterday, many of us had the opportunity to meet with Andy Hall. He is here in Parliament today, so let us also take this opportunity to welcome him here and from this Chamber applaud his determination and his passion to bring about real change in people’s lives. Workers have rights. Whether they are migrants or not, they have the right to safety and dignity at work. Andy Hall has the right to protect and to defend them, and we have a duty to help and support them.

 
  
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  Pier Antonio Panzeri, Autore. – Signor Presidente, onorevoli colleghi, Andy Hall è uno dei molti attivisti ad avere esposto le violazioni dei diritti umani e dei diritti del lavoro subite quotidianamente dai lavoratori migranti in Thailandia. L'attività di segnalazione di Andy Hall e di altri difensori dei diritti è stata perseguita come reato di diffamazione e questo rappresenta un restringimento dello spazio di libertà e della libertà di espressione a disposizione della società civile.

Secondo noi, il governo di Bangkok deve prendere coscienza che denunciare gli abusi e le cattive pratiche delle aziende non inficerà la reputazione o l'accesso del paese al mercato globale dei prodotti, anzi contribuirà a migliorare la qualità del mondo del lavoro a beneficio dei lavoratori di ogni nazionalità. Mi auguro che la Thailandia porti avanti i progressi in tema di protezione dei diritti del lavoro e in particolare che prosegua con l'implementazione del memorandum per la cooperazione con i paesi vicini in materia di impiego di lavoratori stranieri, un sistema di regolamentazione ancora troppo poco utilizzato. Ci auguriamo che vi siano risposte positive a questa nostra risoluzione da parte delle autorità thailandesi.

 
  
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  Lola Sánchez Caldentey, autora. – Señor Presidente, el caso de Andy Hall parece una broma. ¿Cómo es posible que un defensor de los derechos de los trabajadores, ciudadano de la Unión Europea, fuese condenado a tres años de prisión condicional y a una importante multa solamente por haber colaborado en un informe de una oenegé donde exponía las violaciones de derechos humanos en la planta tailandesa Natural Fruit Company? Señores, esto es una vergüenza. Como lo es también la situación de los derechos humanos en Tailandia.

En este sentido, Human Rights Watch señala que los derechos humanos y los derechos laborales de los trabajadores migrantes, especialmente procedentes de Myanmar, Camboya y Laos, son vulnerados impunemente de forma regular y permitida.

La Unión Europea necesita fomentar sistemas vinculantes para asegurar el respeto por las empresas de los derechos humanos. Un paso imprescindible para ello es apoyar la creación de un tratado vinculante sobre transnacionales y derechos humanos en el seno de las Naciones Unidas. El año pasado nuestro representante intentó bloquear el proceso: yo estaba allí y lo vi. Esperamos que este año no se repita. Mientras tanto, ustedes lo que pueden hacer es apoyar nuestras enmiendas a esta resolución.

 
  
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  Dita Charanzová, author. – Mr President, Madam Commissioner, reporting human rights violations is not a crime. Andy Hall has been unjustly punished by Thailand for reporting violations by Thailand of its own laws and international commitments. People should not be punished for bringing injustices to light. This verdict sends an alarming message to all defenders of rights in Thailand. The Thai Government has taken measures to improve working conditions. It should confirm this commitment by pardoning Andy Hall and amending the laws under which he was convicted, including the Computer Crime Act, to make clear that these laws should not be abused to suppress individuals’ fundamental rights.

 
  
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  Heidi Hautala, author. – Mr President, it is very unusual that a person whom an urgent resolution of the European Parliament concerns can be present, as many of them have disappeared or have been imprisoned. Today, however, this is not so. Mr Andy Hall is present and has been in Parliament as my guest, meeting many colleagues and other EU actors. He was deemed guilty of criminal defamation under Article 328 of the Thai Criminal Code and crimes under Article 14(1) of the Computer Crimes Act. The charges were brought against him by Natural Food Company Limited, a Thai pineapple producer, because of a report called ‘Cheap has a high price’, which was published by a Finnish NGO, Finnwatch. Mr Hall had done research for the report which revealed serious violations of workers’ rights in Natural Food’s operations. The report’s aim was to investigate possible problems in Finnish retail companies’ supply chains and these violations were found. To respect the court’s decision does not mean that we should agree with it. Today the European Parliament will show that we disagree with the Bangkok criminal court.

I have been following Andy Hall’s case for several years now and I will continue to express my support for him, among many other colleagues who are deeply touched by what happened to him. Instead of being prosecuted and convicted, Andy Hall should be given an award for his work as a human rights defender. The use of criminal defamation laws, carrying penalties of imprisonment against human rights defenders, constitutes a violation of Thailand’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which it is a state party.

Thailand has recently made some progress in the work against labour exploitation. It has, for example, ratified ILO Convention 187 on Promotional Framework for Occupational Safety and Health. Still, Thailand should abolish the crime of defamation and it needs to revise the Computer Crime Act, which is very broadly worded. I am very concerned about what implications Mr Hall’s sentence will have on people and organisations working to improve the human rights situation in Thailand. The court decision is a clear step back on freedom of expression that might lead to further silencing of human rights defenders in Thailand.

Corporate social responsibility is the cornerstone for improving the human rights situation all over the world. Transparency and responsible business conduct is today’s thinking. Companies should be thankful for research and civil society that looks at their supply chains and this is exactly what the Finnish retail company S Group did by looking into the findings and remedying its supply chains.

 
  
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  Charles Tannock, author. – Mr President, since the military coup in Thailand of 2014, we have all been waiting for the promised return to democracy. We are told that following the introduction of the new constitution, democratic elections will go ahead next year, but we must question the degree of democracy on offer, in spite of the so-called democratic mandate required by the outcome of the referendum. An upper house entirely appointed by the military junta with powers to dissolve the government and appoint the prime minister is enough for me to question the democratic credentials of the new settlement for Thailand.

As for the case of my compatriot, Andy Hall, it is extremely concerning that the author of a report into migrant labour rights should end up with a criminal conviction and a three—year prison term. Regardless of the underlying intent, this case will act as a deterrent to whistleblowers and human rights activists. So I am pleased that our resolution today calls for the Thai authorities to decriminalise defamation laws, and I believe that this will go a long way to proving their commitment to improving working conditions for migrant labourers and supporting the efforts of those that seek to uncover such abuses.

 
  
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  Eduard Kukan, on behalf of the PPE Group. – Mr President, the work of human right defenders faces many challenges in the countries of South-East Asia. It is important, therefore, that the EU stand behind them, especially in cases when they come under attack and harassment from governments or local authorities, such as the case with Andy Hall in Thailand. Our delegation should be ready to provide them with the necessary help and assistance.

The problem of migrant workers in Thailand is well known in the region. It is important that the countries have a framework for the protection of migrant workers in place. Thailand is one of the most developed countries in the region and I hope it will remain open for workers from other countries. It should, however, respect their rights as required by international conventions. At the same time, I also appeal to the Thai Government to lift restrictions on civil rights, support democratisation of the country and protect human rights organisation and human rights defenders to work unrestricted.

 
  
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  David Martin, on behalf of the S&D Group. – Mr President, the court verdict against Andy Hall is not, in reality, about offences that he committed. This was a verdict against freedom of expression and human rights defenders in general. The danger of it is that it will embolden other companies to file suits against activists and workers, and indeed this is already the case in relation to 14 chicken farmers in Thailand.

It is clear, as other colleagues have said, that there are significant loopholes in the defamation and cybercrime laws in Thailand. It is these that have allowed the Natural Fruit Company to bring this unjust case against Mr Hall. Whilst we recognise that companies do have the right to sue on legitimate grounds of defamation, imprisonment is never an appropriate sentence in such cases. We encourage all governments to ensure their penal code contains effective guards against efforts aimed at silencing human rights activists and, in my last few seconds, I want to join Heidi Hautala in praising the S Group in Finland for their responsible approach to the supply chain and the actions that they have taken.

 
  
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  Merja Kyllönen, GUE/NGL-ryhmän puolesta. – Arvoisa puhemies, työntekijöiden aseman parantaminen, ympäristönsuojelu, ihmisoikeudet ja demokratia ovat meille kaikille varmasti tärkeitä arvoja. EU:n on puolustettava aina, kaikissa tilanteissa niitä rohkeita ihmisiä, jotka uskaltavat panna itsensä likoon näiden arvojen puolesta.

 

Yhtä tärkeää on, että EU toimii johdonmukaisesti näiden arvojen puolesta myös ulko- ja kauppapolitiikassa. Jos taloudellisten etujen takia suljemme silmämme ihmisten hädältä, ei meillä ole uskottavuutta toimiessamme ja tuomitessamme yksittäisiä uutiskynnyksen ylittäviä tapahtumia. Andy Hallin kohtelu ja hänen paljastuksensa kertovat paljon enemmän thaimaalaisesta yhteiskunnasta ja globaalista taloudesta, kuin se pinta, jonka me eurooppalaiset usein lomamatkoillamme näemme.

 

Euroopan on edellytettävä Thaimaalta ja muiltakin kumppaneilta oikeusvaltion ja demokratian vahvistamista. Ihmisten on saatava näyttää mielipiteensä vapaasti ilman pelkoa seurauksista, olivat he sitten EU-kansalaisia, vierastyöläisiä tai ay-aktiiveja omassa maassaan.

 
  
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  Seán Kelly (PPE). – Mr President, the fact that Andy Hall is here, and I welcome him and commend him on his courage, is I suppose indicative that this is a rather unusual resolution. Most of the people we have resolutions about are locked up and tortured, etc., but at the same time, the issue is very important because, as has been said, it is not really about Andy Hall at all, it is about the broader implications of his case and the attempt to discourage people from defending human rights when they are abused, and from defending the rights of migrant workers.

So I think we have to put extra pressure on the Thai authorities to amend the Computer Crimes Act and also the law on defamation. This is not right or proper and, because of our relationship with Thailand, the EEAS here should be in a position to put greater pressure on them to ensure that there is fair play for everybody, especially migrant workers, and also to ensure the conviction of Andy Hall is overturned.

 
  
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  Richard Howitt (S&D). – Mr President, on behalf of Andy’s constituency MEP, Glenis Willmott, who has championed his case, and on behalf of Andy himself, who told us this yesterday, this debate and resolution is not about Andy personally. It is about an attempt to cover up abuses, low wages and child labour in the production of fruit juice that we go to Carrefour, to Morrison’s, and to other supermarkets to buy and to drink.

To Thailand I say: do not criminalise those who uncover the abuses, criminalise those who perpetrate them. To Commissioner Malmstrom I say: you and I went together to the Dutch Presidency Conference on global supply chains. As CSR rapporteur I say: the Commission and Parliament together have championed the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. EU trade policy is supposed to support core labour standards and decent work. Commissioner, in your reply tell us what these words mean in Andy's case. What action have you taken and will you take so that the responsibility of European companies is fully upheld in the policies we say we follow and so that we are not as complicit as anyone in Thailand for the abuses that Andy has uncovered?

 
  
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  Marc Tarabella (S&D). – Monsieur le Président, la condamnation d'Andy Hall, défenseur des droits humains, et plus particulièrement ici du droit des travailleurs migrants, est un signal catastrophique pour tous les partisans des droits de l'homme en Thaïlande.

En effet, alors qu'il était déjà difficile pour ces derniers de faire leur travail correctement, ce jugement poussera les victimes d'abus à hésiter avant de se confier sur les conditions de travail et de vie en Thaïlande.

Au lieu de respecter l'obligation qui lui incombe de protéger les militants des droits de l'homme, la Thaïlande s'est laissé embarquer dans un procès qui n'était là que pour asseoir la toute-puissance d'entreprises qui souhaitent étouffer les informations relatives à leurs abus à l'égard des travailleurs.

Malheureusement, le cas de M. Hall n'est pas le seul, et nombreux sont les défenseurs des droits humains à être poursuivis pour diffamation.

Il est grand temps que la Thaïlande comprenne qu'il faut se pencher sur son système judiciaire et cesse d'empêcher les défenseurs des droits humains de faire leur travail.

 
  
 

Procedura "catch-the-eye"

 
  
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  Νότης Μαριάς ( ECR). – Κύριε Πρόεδρε, στις 20 Σεπτεμβρίου 2016, ποινικό δικαστήριο της Bangkok έκρινε τον Andy Hall ένοχο για δήθεν συκοφαντική δυσφήμιση, επιβάλλοντας του ποινή φυλάκισης τεσσάρων ετών. Ο Andy Hall αγωνίζεται τα τελευταία δέκα χρόνια για την προστασία των ανθρωπίνων δικαιωμάτων στη Νοτιοανατολική Ασία και έχει πάρει μέρος στις έρευνες για την κακομεταχείριση των μεταναστών εργαζομένων στην Ταϊλάνδη, προσκομίζοντας στοιχεία για την παραβίαση βασικών δικαιωμάτων κατά τη διάρκεια της εργασίας τους, καθώς και για την έλλειψη προστασίας από την εργατική νομοθεσία της χώρας.

Η περίπτωση ωστόσο του Andy Hall δεν είναι μοναδική στην Ταϊλάνδη. Αντίθετα, παρατηρείται αύξηση των δικαστικών διώξεων σε βάρος υπερασπιστών των ανθρωπίνων δικαιωμάτων στη χώρα. Σύμφωνα με το Γραφείο Ανθρωπίνων Δικαιωμάτων του ΟΗΕ, φέτος έχουν ήδη διωχθεί ποινικά δέκα άτομα στη χώρα διότι κατήγγειλαν περιστατικά παραβίασης δικαιωμάτων. Είναι επομένως αναγκαίο να αποκατασταθεί άμεσα η δημοκρατία στην Ταϊλάνδη και να προστατευθούν τα ανθρώπινα δικαιώματα και ιδίως τα δικαιώματα των εργαζομένων. Οι αρχές της Ταϊλάνδης οφείλουν επιτέλους να πάψουν να ασκούν ποινικές διώξεις εναντίον υπερασπιστών των ανθρωπίνων δικαιωμάτων όπως και σε αυτήν εναντίον του Andy Hall.

 
  
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  Nicola Caputo (S&D). – Signor Presidente, onorevoli colleghi, non si può che esprimere preoccupazione per la condanna a quattro anni di reclusione per diffamazione e reati informatici comminata il 20 settembre scorso a Bangkok a Andy Hall, cittadino britannico, attivista per i diritti dei migranti, che tre anni fa aveva denunciato lo sfruttamento della manodopera nell'industria della lavorazione della frutta, in buona parte destinata all'esportazione verso l'Europa. Hall aveva denunciato, per conto di una ONG, l'uso di lavoro forzato minorile, salari inferiori a quelli legali e orari fuori norma in una fabbrica del colosso thailandese National Fruit.

L'Unione europea deve esprimere la sua condanna per un provvedimento che ancora una volta colpisce chi denuncia il lavoro anche minorile della manodopera impegnata da queste grandi multinazionali. Bisogna con forza chiedere la revisione del processo a carico di Andy Hall e allo stesso tempo interrogarci sulla qualità etica dei prodotti che entrano nel nostro mercato. I consumatori devono essere informati sulla qualità dei prodotti, ma anche sulle garanzie primarie offerte ad ogni lavoratore impiegato per la produzione. Bisogna evitare insomma che prodotti fabbricati da minori siano introdotti nel nostro mercato.

 
  
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  Stanislav Polčák (PPE). – Pane předsedající, pokud někdo zveřejní nespravedlnost, pokud žádá o prošetření porušování práva a je na základě jistého „kaučukového“ zákona vlastně odsuzován, tak to nepochybně svědčí o charakteru takového režimu.

Já jsem přesvědčen, že Thajsko nemůžeme označit za demokratický stát, je mi to líto, je to krásná země, nicméně moc má v ní nyní armáda a tato armáda ji uplatňuje způsobem, který skutečně se příčí základním požadavkům, jež na demokracii klademe. Z tohoto důvodu bych byl velmi rád, kdyby samozřejmě jak paní komisařka, tak Komise vždycky velmi jasně zvažovaly, jaký druh pomoci takovému státu poskytnou, aby se skutečně dostal potřebným a aby neposiloval pouze režim.

 
  
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  Liisa Jaakonsaari (S&D). – Arvoisa puhemies, tässä surullisessa asiassa on onneksi monta hyvää puolta. Kansalaisjärjestöjen toimintatapa on hieno. Nyt ei puhuta yleisellä tasolla vaan on otettu yritys kohteeksi. Kaiken lisäksi tämä yritys eli suomalainen S-ketju on korjannut jo käytäntöjään.

Minusta meidän keskustelumme yksi tarkoitus on vaikuttaa suoraan komissioon. Komissaari Malmström, voisitte vähän kovistella esimerkiksi kansainvälistä työjärjestöä ILOa siitä, että otettaisiin enemmän työntekijöiden oikeuksia huomioon. Meidän on myös tuettava kansalaisjärjestöjä tässä arkisessa käytännön työssä työntekijöiden oikeuksien puolustamiseksi ja niiden oikeuksien puolustamiseksi, joita todella vähän puolustetaan eli vierastyöläisten. Andy Hall ansaitsee todellakin palkinnon eikä rangaistuksia.

 
  
 

(Fine della procedura "catch-the-eye")

 
  
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  Cecilia Malmström, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, a Thai court has sentenced the British social rights campaigner, Andy Hall, to a three—year suspended prison sentence. Mr Hall is present with us today and I welcome his presence.

The case was brought against him by a Thai food processing company for his contribution to a report by the European NGO, Finnwatch, which alleged serious labour rights abuses by the company concerned. This verdict sends shivers through Thailand’s already nervous human rights and social rights community. Criminal defamation laws are often used improperly by various actors to silence analysis and debate. Mr Hall’s reaction, that he was grateful for the international attention the case has brought to migrant rights in Thailand, testifies to his character in a way that the verdict does not because this is, of course, a much bigger question than one person. It is not my role to criticise a court, but let me mention what the ILO country director said, and I quote, ‘Labour rights abuses suffered by migrants in Thailand have been well documented in various ILO reports. The treatment alleged in the Finnwatch report is not unique to any one employer or industry’.

This verdict casts a deep shadow over the real progress in Thailand in recent months regarding labour conditions. Let me mention, for instance, the prohibition of child labour in the seafood sector, the reinforcement of the labour inspection, the new legislation for labour agencies, measures to prevent debt bondage and trafficking in human beings, more deterrent sanctions schemes on labour abuses and the decision to ratify several ILO conventions. This would, of course, not have been possible without political will and dedicated Thai officials, without our dialogue with them, and without the cooperation of the ILO. The EU has several projects in Thailand, together with the ILO, on the issue of migrant workers and labour conditions. The progress made is good and we expect it to continue. We hope that the abuses and the type of abuses which Mr Hall has documented will soon no longer be found in Thai factories.

Respecting human rights is important, but it is also good business. Companies in Thailand and everywhere in the world who want to send to the EU need to understand that European consumers demand products free of labour abuse. I say to them that they should not underestimate the fundamental decency of the European consumer during her or his daily shopping. Do not underestimate the EU’s – and the increasingly global –determination in ensuring decent work in global supply chains and more transparency. This is indeed an issue we are working on with companies to see if we can formulate a more coherent corporate social responsibility strategy that we are working on within the Commission. Mr Hall, Finnwatch, Thai workers, migrant workers in Thailand and Thai officials working on labour rights all deserve our continued support and the closest possible cooperation to accelerate the process which is still so necessary.

 
  
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  Presidente. – La discussione è chiusa.

La votazione si svolgerà al termine della discussione.

(La seduta, sospesa alle 11.35, è ripresa alle 12.00)

 
  
  

VORSITZ: ALEXANDER GRAF LAMBSDORFF
Vizepräsident

 
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