Wed, Jul 23, 2003 - Page 4 News List

Police promise to enforce betel-nut farm crackdown

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Chiayi District Prosecutors' Office yesterday asked local police to begin their investigation into farmers who stopped and threatened a prosecutor and police officers when they were cracking down on illegally planted betel-nut trees in Tapu Township.

"Prosecutor-General Ling Po-chih (凌博志) has requested that I ensure the order is carried out," said Chief Prosecutor Lo Chien-hsun (羅建勛).

"When our investigation is completed, we will indict these farmers with interfering with public officials while they are carrying out their duties," Lo said.

The incident took place on Monday, when Chiayi Prosecutor Chen Chao-ting (陳昭廷) led a team of police officers and officials from the Taiwan Forestry Bureau (林務局) to crack down on illegally planted betel-nut trees on the farm which belonged to the bureau in Tapu Township.

Around 6pm on Monday, when Chen and officials finished their work and were ready to leave, they discovered that the road, which is also the only entrance and exit to the farm area, was blocked by hundreds of farmers with their compact pick-up trucks.

Chen contacted Ling in the office and Ling immediately ordered more police officers to help. The standoff lasted for hours before police were able to bring the situation under control. Chen as well as other officials finally left the farm around 9:40pm on Monday night.

According to the prosecutors' office, these farmers requested a deadline in August for removing these betel-nut trees from the public farm but officials refused to compromise.

"[The farmers] asked me to give them a few weeks before we remove all the illegally planted betel-nut trees because it is now betel-nut season. Otherwise, they will do whatever it takes to stop us," said Chen.

"I will not compromise," Chen said.

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