MORE GARMENT WORKERS RETURN TO VIETNAM FROM AMERICAN SAMOA

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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (March 6, 2001 - PIDP/CPIS)---Another group of former Daewoosa Samoa factory workers have left American Samoa for Hanoi, Vietnam via Auckland and Hong Kong.

The group of 25 was originally scheduled to depart early last week, but the air tickets, sent via courier service from Hanoi, did not arrive until Saturday. Each ticket cost a little over $1,500.

The group will travel via Apia, Auckland, and Hong Kong before arriving in Hanoi on Thursday. The next group of workers is expected to depart in two weeks time.

The tickets were paid for the Vietnamese government's recruiting agency, Tourism Company 12, which recruited 200 workers.

The first group of 16 Vietnamese workers left three weeks ago. Their airfares were paid for by the International Manpower Supply (IMS) Company, one of two government-affiliated recruiting organizations that provided workers to Daewoosa.

The number of Vietnamese workers in American Samoa is now about 200 and there are also about 10 former Daewoosa workers who came from China.

Congressman Eni Faleomavaega said in a press statement last Friday that the Vietnamese government has firmly committed to bearing the costs of returning its people home.

Governor Tauese Sunia has indicated that the local government will pay for the return airfares if no one else comes forward.

Last week Tauese and Congressman Faleomavaega met with Vietnam's Ambassador to the U.S., Le Van Bang to discuss the fate of the Vietnamese workers and the financial status of the garment factory.

Faleomavaega and Tauese said in separate statements that the government of Vietnam is "firmly committed to bearing the costs of returning its people home."

In return, Ambassador Le Van Bang gave assurance that the returning Vietnamese workers would not face persecution at home, a concern raised by lawyers retained by the Vietnamese workers.

Regarding the money the workers’ claim is owed to them by Daewoosa, Tauese and Faleomavaega agreed to "work on securing back wages for the Vietnamese workers from the proceeds of the five finished clothing containers that are currently being held in New York."

The High Court of America Samoa is presently reviewing the workers’ claim for back wages and damages in a civil lawsuit.

Ambassador Le Van Bang was also informed that Daewoosa has not filed for bankruptcy but instead the company is under receivership, ordered by the High Court to protect the interest of the Vietnamese workers.

The Vietnam ambassador said his government does not want to see any further bad publicity resulting from this matter, noting that Vietnam has 54,000 expatriate workers employed in 40 different countries and that it does not want to jeopardize this program.

It has been exactly two years this week when allegations of mistreatment of the Vietnamese workers, non-payment of workers, and efforts by the company to deport three workers labeled as "trouble makers" first surfaced in American Samoa.

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