28 Oct 2002

Witness in Daewoosa case tells of starvation and beating

11:18 am on 28 October 2002

The first witness to testify against the owner of the American Samoan garment factory, Daewoosa Samoa, has told a federal court in Hawaii that she lived in fear of being sent back to Vietnam if she did not follow orders.

Trinh Thi Hao, who lived and worked at the factory in Tafuna for two years, said if she was sent back she would be unable to pay-off the money she borrowed to join the company.

The worker said she had seen police arrest and handcuff a group of Chinese factory workers and believed it could happen to her .

The seamstress says she and fellow workers were denied food for two days in 1999 because they refused to work extra hours without pay when they still had not been paid for previous work.

She told the court she was once beaten with a stick by a manager after she intervened when one of the employees on her workline was dragged outside and hit in the face, suffering an eye injury.

The trial of the owner of the factory , Kil So Lee, and two co-defendants is expected to take several months.

Lee, a Korean, is facing charges of involuntary servitude, racketeering, extortion and bribery.