2005/8/25 The China Post staff

Vice President Annette Lu made an apology yesterday to the foreign workers affected by the recent riot in Kaohsiung, saying a thorough investigation should be conducted. Premier Frank Hsieh said the government should improve the administration of foreign workers and urged businesses not to introduce foreign laborers in order to save money.

After the riot, television stations showed workers sifting through debris in a fire damaged office, searching for their passports. They also showed metal bunk beds packed into dormitory rooms housing hundreds of workers.

Lu said Taiwanese had to show more empathy toward foreign laborers.

“We have to use consideration to deal with them,” she said.” We have to regard them like our brothers and sisters.”

She and President Chen Shui-bian ran on a platform emphasizing human rights in both the 2000 and 2004 elections.

Vice President Annette Lu’s remarks followed a decision by Thais and other foreigners building Kaohsiung’s new mass rapid transit (MRT) system to return to their jobs after winning concessions from the Taiwanese management company that brought them here.

About 1,700 mostly Thai workers demanded better working conditions after dozens of foreign laborers burned cars and attacked police with slings and stones on Sunday.

The Thai laborers returned to work Tuesday after receiving promises from the management that none of them will be laid off and sent back to Thailand because of the riot. A day earlier, the management agreed to 14 of their 16 demands for better treatment.

Thais make up the largest group of foreign workers in Taiwan. There are about 94,000 on the island, employed mostly in the construction industry.

It is regrettable that such a thing could have happened in Taiwan, a nation she described as being committed to human rights protection.

Lu traveled to the southern port city in her capacity as the head of a Presidential Office human rights advisory panel to look into the repercussions of the riot. She called for the country to treat foreign laborers fairly.

She blamed Kaohsiung Rapid Transit Corp. (KRTC) for bringing such a shame to the country. She said the country should treat the foreign laborers, who are here helping Taiwan with its construction, as brethren.

Lu added that at a time of increasing globalization, when Taiwan is endeavoring to develop its businesses and industries so they can link up with the world, the country is becoming more reliant on foreign nationals working in Taiwan to help bolster national construction and infrastructure development.

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