Andy Hall, a British activist who advocates for migrant rights in Thailand, said he had to leave the country on Monday following legal threats and harassment from companies.
“I hope my departure is only temporary, and I hope a greater understanding of the precarious situation of human rights defenders in Thailand becomes more visible through my leaving and is thus more seriously addressed,” Hall tells TIME from his self-imposed exile on Monday.
“The fight is like a marathon and not a sprint. There is a long way ahead, but I am confident I and my team always move forward further towards success.”
Hall has been campaigning for workers’ rights in Thailand for 11 years, and in September he was found guilty of defamation in relation to published research alleging serious abuses at factory owned by the Thai company Natural Fruit. The company supplies retailers in the E.U.
His trial has been ongoing for nearly four years, and while one case against him was dismissed, he has been handed a deferred sentence of three years and still faces two additional charges.
Other companies that Hall has reported on have said they also plan to pursue legal action against him. A chicken farmer whose business took a blow due to his reporting has threatened a similar suit and hired Natural Fruit’s lawyer, according to Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“The situation is not good right now,” TRF quoted Hall as saying. “It’s rapidly deteriorating. It doesn’t feel safe. There are people who are intent on wearing me down.”
“You’re at the whim of this corrupt, mafia system, and you can’t get out of it … I’ve done everything I’m legally obliged to do, and now is the time to step away and see if this will get better,” he said.