Labor minister resigns over workers riot in Taiwan

Taiwan's labor minister officially resigned on Monday, saying she wanted to take responsibility for a riot by 1,700 mostly Thai laborers over poor working conditions at a subway construction project.

Chen Chu of the Cabinet-level Council of Labor Affairs said she had turned down Prime Minister Frank Hsieh's appeal for her to stay in the job, because she wanted to take responsibility for the riot which broke out Aug. 21 in the southern city of Kaohsiung.

The riot began when several Thai workers returned to their dormitory after a day off and were barred from bringing in alcohol and cigarettes. The workers burned cars and battled police with stones and sling shots.

The workers, who are building a subway, complained about being packed into bunk beds in a crowded dormitory and about frequent fines for violating stringent rules set by the company that manages them.

On Monday, Chen said she felt compelled to take responsibility for the situation.

"The fact that the foreign workers were deprived and were being hurt had dealt a severe blow to my human rights values, and it gave me pain and unease," she said. "I don't just blame myself but want to take responsibility for it."

The riot has led to allegations of official corruption, with opposition politicians charging that the management company was able to exploit the Thai workers because it had paid huge bribes to officials.

Bringing in foreign laborers is lucrative. Each is charged up to 140,000 New Taiwan dollars (US$4,400; Ђ3,500) in brokerage fees the equivalent of nearly eight months' salary. The fees are split between Taiwanese and foreign brokers, reports the AP.

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