Tuesday, December 10, 2013, 09:11
Rare riot jolts Singapore
By Agencies in Singapore

Rare riot jolts Singapore

Rioters are on a rampage in Singapore’s Little India district late on Sunday. Hundreds of South Asian workers rioted in Singapore after being enraged by a fatal road accident, leaving 18 people injured and police vehicles burnt in the city-state’s worst outbreak of violence in more than 40 years. (JONATHAN CHOO / THE NEW PAPER via Agence France Presse)

A crowd of around 400 people set fire to vehicles and clashed with police in the Indian district of Singapore late on Sunday after a man was hit and killed by a bus, the first major riot in the city-state in more than 40 years.

Police said they had arrested 27 suspects after the riot, which started after a private bus hit and killed a 33-year-old Indian national in the Little India area.

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 China went on strike illegally.

The police said five police vehicles and an ambulance were damaged in the riots.

Several videos posted online showed a crowd of people smashing the windscreen of the bus while the victim remained trapped under the vehicle.

Police said the 27 arrested were of South Asian origin and that they expected to make more arrests in coming days. About 300 officers were sent on to the streets to quell the riot.

A statement by the Civil Defence Force, which oversees ambulances and firefighting, said rescuers trying to remove the body had “projectiles” thrown at them when they arrived on the scene.

Footage showed police cars being flipped over and several vehicles on fire. The CDF said an ambulance, three police cars and a motorbike were burnt.

The Singapore Police Force said the violence started following the bus accident.

“Shortly after, a riot broke out involving a crowd of about 400 subjects,” it said in a statement, adding that around 10 police officers were injured.

Singapore Police Force Commissioner Ng Joo Hee said, “As far as we know now, there was no Singaporean involved in the riot.”

“The unwanted violence, rioting, destruction of property, fighting the police, is not the Singapore way,” Ng 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. Singapore has not seen a riot of this scale since 1969, when Chinese and Malay residents clashed violently. The country has tough laws on rioting that carry a sentence of up to seven years in prison and possible caning.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in a Facebook post, called the riot a “very grave incident”.

Reuters - Xinhua