Four prosecuted for disappearance of Vietnamese tourists in Taiwan

By Nguyen Quy   March 6, 2019 | 04:50 pm PT
Four prosecuted for disappearance of Vietnamese tourists in Taiwan
People at a night market in Taiwan. Photo by Shutterstock/Pisitpho
Four people, two Taiwanese and two Vietnamese, have been prosecuted for last year’s mass disappearance of 152 Vietnamese tourists.

They were charged on Tuesday with forging travel documents, breaching the Employment Service Act and violating the Human Trafficking Prevention law in the infamous case where 152 Vietnamese tourists went missing en masse after arriving in Taiwan on tourist visas.

The Taiwan News reports that Mai, Vietnamese employee of a Hanoi-based travel agency, faked documents for 20 Vietnamese citizens who planned to work illegally in Taiwan and arranged for them to be part of a tour group under a specialized visa program. For this service, the workers had to pay $1,000 to $3,000 each.

After acquiring electronic visas for her clients, Mai led the tour group of 19 Vietnamese to Kaohsiung on December 21, another person having been taken to Taichung on December 15.

Mai’s Taiwanese husband, whose surname is Hsiao, is charged with hiding two Vietnamese nationals in their home for several days and with arranging for another person to work as a delivery person in Taoyuan.

The missing tourists applied for electronic visas under the Kuan Hung visa program launched in 2015, which requires no visa fees for travelers from Indonesia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and India.

Following last year’s mass disappearance, Taiwan decided to halt issuing visas for groups of Vietnamese tourists under the program.

Another Taiwanese man, Cheng and a Vietnamese man, Nguyen, are charged with illegally bringing 33 Vietnamese citizens into Taiwan after charging them $1,000 to $2,500 each.

Taiwanese authorities have also issued arrest warrants for 27 other suspects linked with the disappearance.

The Kuan Hung visa program, a part of Taiwan’s New Southbound Policy to establish closer ties with selected nations, made it easier for citizens of Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam to visit Taiwan by applying for electronic visas without paying for visa fees.

The policy also allows simplified visa procedures for groups of five tourists or more from the six countries, as long as they are organized by "quality travel agencies" recognized by the Tourism Bureau or if they are part of company-sponsored groups.

According to National Immigration Agency data, 56 tourists of the 152 missing Vietnamese tourists were still at large in Taiwan as of February 19. Some of the people who surrendered or were found by police have admitted that they hoped to work in Taiwan illegally.

Ever since Taiwan lifted a 10-year ban on certain categories of Vietnamese workers in 2015, the territory has become a sought after destination for Vietnamese seeking jobs overseas. The average wage that Taiwanese employers pay to Vietnamese workers is around $700- $800 a month, which is three or four times the typical remuneration in Vietnam.

In 2018, 65,000 Vietnamese workers were sent to Taiwan, accounting for nearly half of Vietnam's overseas workforce.

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