Sat, Aug 27, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Presidential Office backs riot inquiry

LABOR SCANDAL The president is mouthing his support for a probe that could prove embarrassing for a number of politicians on both sides of the fence

BY CHIU YU-TZU, JIMMY CHUANG AND JEWEL HUANG  /  STAFF REPORTERS

A Thai laborer working on the Taipei MRT system rests in his dormitory yesterday.

PHOTO: CHU PEI-HSIUNG, TAIPEI TIMES

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) yesterday expressed support for the investigation under way into last Sunday's riot in Kaohsiung by aggrieved Thai laborers.

Presidential Office spokesperson Chen Wen-tsung (陳文宗) said Chen and Lu expected that the probe into the matter would be comprehensive. He said that the incident had had a negative impact on public safety and the nation's image.

Lu said some Taiwanese love to "do it easy" and "hate working hard," and that this was why Taiwan needed to look overseas for labor.

But she also paid tribute to the small army of foreign laborers that man the nation's construction sites and other workplaces.

"We have to appreciate people who contribute to Taiwan no matter what their nationality. We have to see workers from other countries as our brothers and sisters rather than just as foreigners," she said.

Lu said some Taiwanese discriminated against foreign workers and that these wrong ideas had to be adjusted.

Presidential Office officials said the office would not interfere with the investigation into the riot.

Meanwhile, a delegation from Thailand's legislature arrived in Taipei yesterday to gather information on the riot as well as to offer moral support to Thai workers.

During their four-day visit, the delegation will meet officials from the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) to discuss labor issues.

In Hsinchu County, Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) yesterday said that former Presidential Office deputy secretary-general Chen Che-nan (陳哲男), the father of acting Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁), was not involved in possibly corrupt conduct in relation to the hiring of the workers.

"It is not difficult to find out whether or not I am telling the truth," Hsieh said during a press conference in Sanwan Township (三灣) yesterday.

Hsieh's remarks were referring to an allegation that Chen Che-nan took advantage of his position as a senior Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) figure to meddle in the hiring of Thai workers for Kaohsiung City's MRT project.

"China Steel Corp (CSC) is the firm that won the bid for the construction of the whole Kaohsiung MRT. But this company has nothing to do with Chen Che-nan," Hsieh said. "If he was really meddling in the matter, the company wouldn't have won the bid, would it?"

"Also, don't forget that then-CSC president Wang Chung-yu (王鍾渝) is now a Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmaker. If there was any reason for a scandal, how is it that the KMT was so quiet?" he asked.

"Officials from Kaohsiung City's Labor Bureau and the MRT Bureau visited them [the Thai workers] to learn if they needed anything. Things were in good shape then," Hsieh said. "However, it is my understanding that the employer did not expand the facilities that were needed, despite hiring another 900 Thai workers in May."

DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) yesterday gave his support for the Cabinet and the Presidential Office's position, saying that political and electoral considerations should be put aside and that prosecutions should quickly follow if an investigation found collusion between the Kaohsiung City Government and the labor broker for the Thai workers.

Su also rebutted speculation that the scandal was being fueled by DPP factionalism ahead of the Kaohsiung mayoral election.

"The DPP's tradition is that we always thoroughly and courageously scrutinize the mistakes we make and find out why they happened," Su said. "We know that people look to the DPP to remain a reformer [party] and we will correct all the mistakes in response to public expectations."

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