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VIETNAM RIOTS: Foreign-owned factories reopen with tighter security

Publication Date : 20-05-2014


It is back to business - albeit at partial strength - for many companies in Vietnam that had been hit by anti-China riots.

This is even as the death toll rose; Taiwan's Formosa Plastics Group has reported four deaths, up from one, known to be a Chinese national.

Besides the Chinese worker who died of heat stroke last Wednesday night during a dispute between Chinese and Vietnamese workers at its steel mill in central Vietnam, another worker died over the weekend in hospital from injuries after being beaten up. And two bodies were found burnt outside the facility.

Lin Hsin-i, chairman of Formosa's Ha Tinh Steel Corporation, confirmed the four fatalities at a press conference yesterday in Taipei. Another 150 were injured.

Saying the company will seek compensation from the Vietnamese government, he estimated initial costs of the damage - from a fire set to the mill - at US$3 million, including $1.7 million in ruined computers and air-conditioning units. Its contractors had their tools and wires stolen.

Work on the mill restarted last Friday, Formosa's assistant to vice-president Yu Chin-chang told The Straits Times.

And last Saturday, 3,000 of its 4,000 workers were back at work, mainly Koreans and Vietnamese, he said. "No mainlanders have returned to work as yet. They do not want to start as they may still think the environment is not stable. This is causing delay."

Completion of its first blast furnace, slated for this month, will now be delayed by a month or two.

With deadline pressures and money leaking away, scores of companies have reopened their doors - with heightened security in place. Formosa, for instance, has installed shipping containers to reinforce its factory gates.

As of yesterday, 80 per cent of the 326 factories - owned by Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong interests - at two Vietnam-Singapore industrial parks have resumed operations, the parks' operators told Reuters.

Among Taiwanese companies, which bore the brunt of the damage, at least 16 - such as garment manufacturer Great Super Enterprise - restarted work last Friday. Taiwan's Ministry of Economic Affairs said 224 of the island's firms were affected.

On a 15,000-strong Facebook group for Taiwanese workers in Vietnam, members posted photos and updates. One wrote: "On the way home from work. The No 13 Highway in Binh Duong is peaceful and all is well."

The return to work is testament to Vietnam's appeal to manufacturers, given its relatively low costs and skilled workers. It has about 200 industrial parks, accounting for a third of its exports and attracting around $110 billion in foreign direct investment.


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