15 Apr 2003

Palau President defends police handling of rioting workers

10:11 am on 15 April 2003

The President of Palau, Tommy Remengesau, has defended the level of force used by police to arrest rioting former workers of a deunct garment factory.

The workers had barricaded themselves in a restaurant and taken a police officer hostage.

The workers believed the restaurant's owner was one of those who had left them abandoned in Palau without jobs and no way to return to their homes in China.

According to witnesses the protesting workers, mainly women, were wrestled to the ground and then dragged to a waiting bus.

Some were forced to the ground and had their hands bound.

Mr Remengesau said when laws were broken the government had no option but to take action.

The workers were processed in court and remain under house arrest in the empty factory.

They face a variety of charges including trespassing, rioting, obstruction of justice and disturbing the peace.

Some may face extra charges of kidnapping.

Meanwhile a Chinese delegation is expected in the country to help organise the workers repatriation.