Thai subway labourers riot over dorm rules

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 August, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 August, 2005, 12:00am

More than 300 Thai labourers helping build Kaohsiung's subway line set fire to buildings in an overnight protest over what they said were unreasonable rules at their dormitory. The riot began when overseers reprimanded workers for drinking alcohol at the dormitory.

During the protest in Kangshan, southern Taiwan, which began on Sunday night and lasted 17 hours, the workers set fire to houses and cars and vandalised vending machines and other facilities.

They hurled bottles and used slingshots to fire stones at police called to stop the mayhem.

The workers blamed 'unfair and inhuman' management by the manpower agency hired to run their quarters.

'Not only are we not allowed to use mobile phones at the dormitory, we are required to use their so-called substitute money, which can only be used at the shops run by the management company,' said one worker. Products at the shops were more expensive than at those off site, he said.

The workers were not allowed to drink inside the dormitory, and were deprived of food and water if they returned late, even if they had been doing overtime, he said.

The protesters finally came to terms with their employer, the Kaohsiung City Mass Transit Bureau, and the manpower agency.

'They agreed to return to work after the management company promised to ease the rules, including allowing them to use mobile phones at the dormitory site, supplying food and water after they return from night work at 10pm and providing Thai TV programmes,' said Fang Lai-chin, director of the Kaohsiung Labour Bureau, which was asked to mediate in the dispute.

The vice-chairman of the Labour Affairs Council, Lai Ching-lin, said workers found to have instigated the riot would be deported.