Thu, Sep 08, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Huapan boss, wife under arrest

RIOT FALLOUT The head of the company managing Thai laborers working for the Kaohsiung MRT bureau is suspected of receiving kickbacks from various companies

BY RICH CHANG  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Kaohsiung District Court yesterday ordered the arrest of the general manager of Huapan Co and his wife on suspicion of taking kickbacks from construction companies and for supplying Thai workers to build the Kaohsiung MRT.

"Prosecutors applied to detain the general manager of Huapan Co, Yen Shih-hua (嚴世華), and his wife Wang Tsai-pi (王彩碧), and the court has agreed to detain them," Kaohsiung Prosecutor's Office spokesman Chung Chung-hsiao (鍾忠孝) said yesterday.

"Yen Shih-hua and his wife are suspected to have taken more than NT$5 million (US$158,700) in kickbacks from construction companies in charge of building the Thai laborers' dormitory," he said.

Chung said that Yen and Wang were also suspected of receiving kickbacks for providing Thai workers to the Kaohsiung Mass Transit Bureau, but prosecutors were still not clear how much money Yen and his wife might have received.

Media reports have alleged that officials in the Kaohsiung City Government and the Kaohsiung Mass Transit Bureau were also involved in the affair. They said Yen had accompanied a retired high-ranking official to Thailand to seal the deal.

Chung did not comment on the allegations.

Some 300 Thai workers in Kaohsiung rioted on Aug. 21 over poor treatment they were receiving at the hands of Huapan Co, which was appointed by the MRT bureau to supervise the workers.

The riot took place at a five-story dormitory housing 1,700 residents.

Of the 1,700 residents, some 300 took part in the riot, setting fire to offices and cars, burning clothes and hurling rocks at police.

After Huapan accepted most of the workers' demands, they ended the protest and returned to work.

In related news, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Michel Lu (呂慶龍) yesterday denied media reports that Thailand will appeal to the UN over the riot.

The report quoted unidentified Kaohsiung prosecutors as saying that the Thai government's plan to file a petition with the UN against Taiwan over the mistreatment of the laborers might damage Taiwan's image.

Lu said the ministry had directed the nation's representative office in Bangkok to verify the report.

"According to information offered by our representative office, the report was erroneous," Lu said.

He added that the ministry would keep the Thai authorities informed of the investigations into the Aug. 21 incident.

Both Council of Labor Affairs Minister Chen Chu (陳菊) and acting Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) have tendered resignations over the incident.

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