Singapore Riots by Indian Migrant Workers Follow Fatality

Monday, 09 Dec 2013 08:08 AM

By Michael Mullins

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Singapore saw its worst riot in more than 40 years on Monday after a 33-year-old Indian worker was struck and killed by a bus in the City state's Little India district. Some 400 Indian migrant workers began rioting after the incident throwing rocks and setting fire to the bus and other nearby vehicles.

The 55-year-old Singaporean bus driver was hospitalized and about 300 riot police were called in to quell the violence leading to 22 police officers and 5 auxiliary officers being injured, Bloomberg News reported. As a result of the riot police arrested 24 Indian nationals, 2 Bangladeshi nationals and a Singaporean permanent resident.

"There is no excuse for such violent and criminal behavior," Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a statement Monday. "We will spare no effort to identify the culprits and deal with them with the full force of the law."

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Loong added that a Committee of Inquiry will be assembled to further investigate what triggered the riot and evaluate how it was handled.

In addition to the bus, at least five vehicles, three of which were police cars, were torched during the riot.

The eruption of violence reportedly stems from an undercurrent of increasing tension between the island nation's native Singaporean population and its migrant workers.

According to Forbes, of the more than five million people who live in Singapore, just three million were born on the island, the remaining two million-plus are from other Asian countries, many of whom being low-skilled, low-paid migrant workers according to nonprofit group Transient Workers Count Too.

Singapore reportedly relies heavily on its guest worker program for the nation's growing construction sector.

Jolovan Wham, a migrant labor activist, told that Monday's riot, which occurred around 9:30 p.m. local time, was not "just mindless violence" but it was too early to tell what exactly triggered the violence beyond the 33-year-old Indian-born worker being killed.

A witness to the rioting, 69-year-old retiree Basher Marican, told that the "crowd was clearly drunk".

"They had beer and liquor bottles in their hands and some were throwing them," Marican said. "It was very unruly. I walked passed a crowd along the restaurants. There were some who were cheering others as they attacked the bus."

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