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Indonesia suspends sending students for intern in Taiwan

Workers from Southeast Asian countries chat with their friends at Taipei Station on Dec. 2, 2018. (Mainichi/Shizuya Fukuoka)

JAKARTA (Kyodo) -- Indonesia decided late Wednesday to suspend sending students to Taiwan for an internship program following news reports that hundreds of Indonesian students have been forced to be manual laborers in factories in the country.

Taiwanese media quoted legislator Ko Chih-en as revealing over the weekend that in one case, the Indonesian students were only allowed to go to class two days a week and had one day of rest, while working the remaining four days at a factory, where they packaged 30,000 contact lenses for 10 hours per shift.

The students, according to Ko, who is a legislator from Kuomintang, or the opposition Nationalist Party of China, worked the from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. with only a two-hour break, while they stood for 10 hours a day packaging the contact lenses.

And although most of the Indonesian students are Muslims, their meals contained pork chops.

Indonesian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said in a press statement that the Indonesian Trade Office in Taipei "has asked clarification and coordinated with local authorities to investigate the implementation of" the so-called study-internship scheme that has been ongoing since 2017.

Suspension over the recruitment and sending students under such a scheme will take place "until a better management is agreed," the spokesman said without elaborating.

The trade office, according to Nasir, has also requested the local authorities to take necessary actions, in accordance to the country's laws, to protect the interest and safety of the Indonesian students participating in the internship program.

According to Nasir, there are about 6,000 Indonesian students currently studying in Taiwan with about 1,000 of them joining the study-internship scheme in universities in Taiwan for the 2017-2018 period.

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