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December 09, 2013

Hundreds Riot in Singapore's Little India

by VOA News

Hundreds of South Asian workers rioted in Singapore after being enraged by a fatal road accident in a rare case of public unrest in the wealthy city-state.
 
The incident started after a private bus hit and killed a foreign worker in an area known as Little India. Television footage showed a crowd of people smashing the windscreen of a bus, police cars being flipped over, at least two other vehicles on fire, and debris strewn across Race Course Road, one of the main thoroughfares in Little India.

About 400 people took to the streets. Police say they will take action against the rioters.
 
"We treat this incident very seriously and we have classified the case as one of rioting with dangerous weapons. We will spare no efforts to arrest those who are involved,” said Singapore’s Deputy Commissioner of Police, T. Raja Kumar.  
 
Singapore Police Commissioner Ng Joo Hee said that in his 26 years of experience as a police officer, he had never seen rioting in Singapore's streets.
 
The city-state's Deputy Prime Minister, Teo Chee Hean, held a news conference a few hours after the riot saying the situation was under control and asking the members of the public to stay calm before describing the events.
 
“This is a serious incident, it started from a fatal traffic accident involving a private bus and as pedestrian, a crowd reacted to the accident and started a riot,” he said.
 
Little India is usually packed with people on Sundays, with many construction workers from Bangladesh and India gathering there to spend their day off.
 
The riot is likely to fuel concerns about discontent among low-paid foreign workers. Last year, Singapore saw its biggest outbreak of labor unrest in years when around 170 bus drivers from mainland China went on strike illegally.
 
Teo Chee Hean insisted Singapore still welcomes law abiding “guest workers” to make a living in the country, but said rioting will not be tolerated.
 
Police reported at 1 a.m. Monday morning that the incident was under control.
 
Singapore has tough laws on rioting that carry a sentence of up to seven years in prison and possible caning.
 
Some information in this report was contributed by Reuters.