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Last Updated: Friday, 3 June, 2005, 12:22 GMT 13:22 UK
Vietnam women in Taiwan 'abused'
By BBC Vietnamese reporters

A Vietnamese Roman Catholic priest in Taiwan is providing shelter and assistance to around 20 women who claim to have been raped or sexually assaulted by two labour brokers.

Father Nguyen Van Hung told the BBC that he estimates up to 50 female overseas workers in Taiwan could have been victims of the men, who run an employment agency in Tainan.

The allegations against the men, which Taiwanese authorities are investigating, include assaulting the women during "physical examinations" carried out when they were applying for work as maids in the country.

The two men are also accused of forcing the women to sign documents denying that they were sexually assaulted. It is alleged that one of the women was paid $2,000 to stay silent.

In an interview with the BBC Vietnamese Service, Mr Tran Dong Huy, Head of Vietnam's Ministry for Labour's Representative Bureau, denied that the Vietnamese authorities were not doing enough to protect the women, who are now said to be living in very poor and cramped conditions.

He said that his bureau had contacted the Taiwanese authorities immediately, asking them to help any Vietnamese women who came to them needing protection and accommodation, and that his mobile number was always available.

Epidemic

The Vietnamese media frequently publish stories of Vietnamese workers overseas being maltreated, beaten and humiliated by their employers.

For several years they have criticised the Vietnamese Ministry of Labour for not doing enough to protect the workers abroad, particularly those in South Korea and Taiwan.

Dinh Quanh Anh Thai, a journalist for Little Saigon Radio in California - who has been investigating the conditions for Vietnamese female workers in Taiwan - said the fact the alleged victims are now under the care of Father Nguyen Van Hung, and not with Tran Dong Huy, proved they did not trust the government's representative.

Tran Dong Huy replied that those women only went to the priest because they had his phone number.


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