Protesters take to streets in SE Asia

Workers protested against statutory holidays, wage inequality, media restriction, and the government policy of encouraging the entry of more foreign workers.

Protesters take to streets in SE Asia
Labour Day on Friday was marked with workers’ street protests across Southeast Asia.

In Singapore, around 400 people converged at Hong Lim Park for the annual May Day protest.

Protestors spoke out about wage inequality, media restriction, and the government policy of encouraging the entry of more foreign workers, with organisers – unemployment support service providers Transitioning – also rallying for the establishment of a minimum wage system.

Labour leaders also reportedly took a moment to show support for teenager Amos Yee, who is facing currently criminal charges for his eight minute video criticizing Lee Kuan Yew.

In Hong Kong, two main labour groups marched for workers’ rights – but it appeared the two disagreed about what they wanted around statutory holidays.

The Beijing-loyalist Federation of Trade Unions (FTU) and the pan-democratic Confederation of Trade Unions (CTU) were unhappy about new labour laws allowing only 12 statutory holiday days, when many workers enjoy 17 public holidays a year.

FTU chairman Stanley Ng Chau-pei described the changes as “unfair for workers … And it is artificially dividing society”.

But he dropped a strong hint that the FTU's six lawmakers would not support CTU-backed lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan's plan to draft a personal Legislative Council bill to "unify" the statutory and public holidays, the South China Morning Post reported.

Organisers said there were about 3,400 people at the start of the CTU rally, while a spokesman for the FTU said 3,500 joined their march from Southorn Playground in Wan Chai to the government offices.

Meanwhile, in Malaysia, more than 10,000 people protested against the government’s introduction of GST; spurring Member of Parliament Charles Santiago to defend the protest.

“The increased cost of living, escalating prices of essential good, and the GST-linked price increases deal a further blow to the middle and working classes,” he said.

“The people who took to the streets on Friday did so to bring these pressing issues to the attention of the government so that necessary steps could be taken to alleviate the sufferings of the poor.”

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