Indonesian police arrest five over factory torture

AFP, JAKARTA

Mon, May 06, 2013 - Page 5

Indonesian police have arrested a factory owner and four foremen for allegedly torturing workers and illegally confining them, an official said yesterday.

Factory owner Yuki Irawan and the four were accused of “torturing and depriving the personal freedom” of 34 workers, after a tip-off led to a raid on Friday on the illegal aluminum pot company in Tangerang City outside Jakarta, Tangerang City chief detective Shinto Silitonga told reporters.

The male workers, including four 17-year-olds, were forced to work at least 16 hours a day with only two meals a day and no pay, for between two months and one-and-a-half years, he said.

“They told us they were slapped, kicked, pushed, burned with cigarettes and had hot water poured on them if they disobeyed,” he added.

“At night, they were locked in an eight-by-six meter room and forced to sleep on concrete floor and thin mats. They had no way to escape,” Silitonga said.

The workers have since returned to their hometowns, he said.

“They were disheveled. Their clothes were tattered, their skin was covered with bug bites and rashes, some were really skinny. They were also fearful of people,” he said, adding that investigations were ongoing.

Despite fears that wage increases will encourage businesses to move to neighboring countries such as Vietnam, Indonesian factory workers remain some of the lowest-paid in Asia, often earning less than workers in China or India.

About 55,000 workers gathered in Jakarta for the Workers’ Day rally on Wednesday, the biggest the capital has seen in recent years as Southeast Asia’s biggest economy booms.

Labor activists say the number of protesters has swelled this year as anger grows at businesses denying many workers their basic rights, with poor salaries and a lack of benefits for those who are not employed full-time.