Taiwanese man arrested for helping Vietnamese tourists 'disappear'

By Thu Hien    December 30, 2018 | 08:01 am PT
Taiwanese man arrested for helping Vietnamese tourists 'disappear'
Tourists visit the Liuhe night market in Taiwan's Kaohsiung City. Photo by Shutterstocks/ Tomtran
Taiwanese authorities have detained a 30-year-old local man alleged to have helped 152 Vietnamese tourists go missing after arriving in the territory last week.

The man, surnamed Trinh, is of Vietnamese origin and a legal resident of Xinbei City, Taiwan’s Central News Agency (CNA) reported.

Initial investigation found him responsible for driving to pick up the Vietnamese tourists who initially arrived in Taiwan’s south-western city of Kaohsiung before straying from their groups and going missing.

Trinh has been placed under criminal investigation for violating the Immigration Law. 

He admitted to police that he had arranged to help the group of Vietnamese tourists flee and receive bonuses from them but denied being a member of a human trafficking syndicate.

However, immigration authorities suspect him of hiding the missing Vietnamese and are collecting evidences to investigate his crimes, according to CNA. 

As of Sunday, Taiwanese police have found 20 missing Vietnamese tourists, while another has been contacted and three have decided to go back to the airport and return to Vietnam. The remaining 128 are still missing.

Vietnam’s Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourism has stated that the missing tourists took advantage of special electronic visas which had simplified procedures to work illegally in Taiwan. The visas were issued under a program launched in 2015 that aims to foster closer ties between Taiwan and selected nations.

It is also investigating whether any human trafficking ring was involved in bringing Vietnamese citizens to Taiwan to work illegally.

Following the mass disappearance, Taiwan has temporarily suspended 102 travel agencies in Vietnam from a program under which they could apply for group visas for Vietnamese citizens.

The travel agencies had been designated by the Taiwanese Tourism Bureau to apply for visas under the special program for six countries, including Vietnam.

Meanwhile, the Taiwanese law enforcement agency has decided to take tougher actions to clamp down foreign illegal workers in the coming time, including checks on return tickets and hotel bookings, Taiwan News reported.

Vietnam has gained notoriety for several cases of tourists absconding after arriving in Taiwan under the special visa program.

Official statistics from Taiwan’s Tourism Bureau shows 225,702 foreign tourists have arrived in Taiwan under the visa program since 2015.

Of them, 566 people have gone missing to work illegally in the territory, and Vietnamese citizens account for 72 percent of the total, the Focus Taiwan newspaper reported Wednesday.

As a result of the sharp increase in the number of unaccounted Vietnamese tourists, Taiwanese authorities have shortened the length of visas issued to Vietnamese from 30 to 14 days.

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