BBC News World Edition Monday, 22 August 2005, 06:29 GMT 07:29 UK

Hundreds of expatriate Thai workers have set fire to their dormitory and clashed with riot police in southern Taiwan over their living conditions.

A police officer said the 1,600 workers were upset over a ban on drinking and gambling in their living quarters.

The violence broke out late on Sunday night in Kangshan city, where the workers live on site while they build a mass-transit railway system.

Tens of thousands of Thai labourers are employed in Taiwan.

The Thai workers burnt cars and threw stones at police after some were caught drinking by their employers, police said on Monday.

“The workers are unhappy with the way they have been treated by their Taiwan managers,” a police spokesman said.

Several workers and police were slightly injured, authorities told the French news agency AFP.

The situation reportedly calmed after the Taiwanese employers agreed to relax restrictions on drinking and the use of mobile phones, as well as allowing the workers to watch TV.

Most of Taiwan’s 300,700 foreign labourers are from the Philippines and Thailand.

Taiwan lifted a ban on hiring foreign workers in 1991 to meet a domestic labour shortage.

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