Thu, Aug 25, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Protesters take Chen Chu to task

ANGER The Council of Labor Affairs chairwoman is now bearing the brunt of labor-group ire, but the premier may get flak for criticizing hiring practices

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

A Thai woman holds up a sign with the Chinese character for ''slave'' crossed out during a demonstration outside the Council of Labor Affairs in Taipei yesterday. She and other protesters were demanding that the council undertake a thorough review of its policy relating to imported workers.

PHOTO: CNA

Voicing anger against the alleged mistreatment of Thai laborers in Kaohsiung, labor groups yesterday scuffled with police in front of the Council of Labor Affairs' (CLA) headquarters as they demanded council Chairwoman Chen Chu (陳菊) be held to account for a riot on Sunday night.

Chanting "No slavery!" and "Down with exploitation," about 50 members of the Taiwan International Workers' Association, the Committee for Action for Labor Legislation and the Catholic Hope Workers' Center gathered outside the council's offices yesterday in a show of support for the Thai workers.

The groups were also protesting the Kaohsiung Rapid Transit Company's handling of the incident and what they called the Council of Labor Affairs' "indifference."

"We think the Thai workers' disturbance was totally legitimate because they have endured inhuman treatment and swallowed insults for so long. What they did was to revolt against abuse," said Wong Ying-dah (汪英達), policy director at the Chinese Federation of Labor.

"But the council turned a deaf ear to their misery and did nothing about the treatment they received, which may actually involve criminal behavior," Wong said.

Taiwan International Workers' Association chairwoman Chen Su-hsiang (陳素香) said that the council had been hesitant in dealing with disputes involving foreign laborers. It and other labor groups called on Chen Chu to provide an explanation for the incident and promise that she would undertake to address the various problems facing foreign workers.

"We regret that ever since the incident in which former New Party legislator Elmer Fung (馮滬祥) raped his Filipina housekeeper, Chen Chu never showed up when we asked to see her. She has never responded to us in concrete terms," she said.

Scuffles between the protesters and police broke out when the former attempted to fix placards on the door of the council's headquarters. Police pushed the protesters back and tore up the placards.

"All we do is put up our placards and see how they treat us. This is how they also treat the laborers!" Wang yelled.

Lek Yimprasert, coordinator of the Thai Labor Campaign, joined the protest and urged the authorities to treat unequal treatment of Thai workers seriously.

"Taiwanese employees always call Thai workers "buffalo," but all they are asking for is to be treated just like other human beings," Yimprasert said.

Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) yesterday visited Kaohsiung to pay her respects and apologize to Thai workers who had protested against what they called heavy-handed management techniques.

Lu, convener of the Presidential Office's Human Rights Advisory Committee, said the incident had tarnished Taiwan's human-rights record and damaged the nation's image.

"I greatly regret that this has occurred. I will not allow similar things to happen in the future. I hope all workers involved can return to [work as] normal. A comprehensive investigation will be carried out as soon as possible. We will continue to welcome foreign workers to help with construction in Taiwan," Lu said.

She said that since 2000, when the Democratic Progressive Party took power, several universal values including human rights had been prominent on its agenda. She said that protection of those values should not be selectively applied according to nationality, age or sex.

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