MAC: Mines and Communities

Thousands rally outside toxic steel plant in Vietnam

Published by MAC on 2016-10-15
Source: Reuters, Channel News Asia, RFA, Global Voices

Major spill killed tons of fish and devastated the local economy in Ha Tinh province

Thousands of demonstrators converged on a Taiwanese steel factory in Vietnam's central province of Ha Tinh to press claims over a major toxic spill that killed tons of fish in April 2016.

The protest followed the launch of some 500 individual lawsuits demanding compensation from Formosa Plastics Group for the chemical spill that put thousands of fishermen and fish processing workers out of business.

Demonstrators were also demanding Formosa, one of Taiwan's biggest conglomerates, to close the steel plant and for a better environmental cleanup.

Formosa Plastics's $10.6 billion steel complex in Ha Tinh province includes a steel plant, a power plant and a deep sea port, and is one of the largest foreign investments in Vietnam.

See previous on MAC: 2016-07-22 Formosa Steel Owns Up to Vietnamese Toxic Spill

Six Months After Massive Fish Kill in Central Vietnam, Thousands Protest Lack of Aid

Don Le

Global Voices -

4 October 2016

Around 10,000 to 15,000 people joined a non-violent protest outside the steel plant of a company accused of polluting a waterway that triggered a massive fish kill off Vietnam's central coast.

The protest took place on October 2 and was organized by affected residents and fisherfolk who have reportedly not yet received any compensation from Formosa Ha Tinh, the Taiwanese company which owns the steel plant.

The environmental disaster was first reported in April 2016.

Weekly demonstrations were organised to protest the government's slow investigation, despite the growing cases of fish kills in Ha Tinh province.

Finally, a settlement was announced by the government and Formosa in June that would require the company to provide financial compensation to affected residents.

However, dissatisfaction grew among fisherfolk and their families in the local areas as no compensation had been paid out.

During the recent weekend protest, activists and citizen journalists took advantage of various social media tools to broadcast the non-violent action. Vietnamese authorities had previously blocked Facebook during major events related to fish kills. However, netizens used circumvention tools to access the popular social media site.

The Facebook page by Ky Anh Congregation Youth used a drone video to document the protest. The video had already attracted more than 250,000 views since the initial recording.

Photos of people protesting outside Formosa were quickly shared over social media, with many photos going viral.

Despite police presence, the peaceful protesters were able to climb and spray paint the gates outside Formosa. Citizen journalist Paulus Le Son posted a recording of the incident on his page, attracting more than 500,000 views.

Aside from the protest in front of the steel plant, more than 1,000 households in Ha Tinh province have filed a petition sent to Vietnam’s National Assembly calling the government to immediately distribute compensation to affected residents. They were joined by 619 affected families from Quynh Luu District in Nghe An Province who also sent petitions to the National Assembly on October 3.

Father Tran Dinh Lai, a community organiser in Ha Tinh province, explained the importance of the protest action: "We know this regime won’t offer us justice. Nor do they represent the interests of the victims. We know that too well. However, there is a saying: ‘if a baby doesn't cry, then the mother won’t know when to feed the baby.’ If the victims and the people don't speak out, no one will feel the pressure".

Some petitioners warned authorities of mass lawsuits to add to the ones already pending if their demands are not addressed within two weeks.

On September 26 and 27, hundreds of residents travelled more than 200 kilometers to file more than 500 lawsuits against Formosa.

The Facebook page Catholic Youth broadcast live the gathering of petitioners which attracted the attention of the local online community.

Events inside and outside Ky Anh Court were broadcast using Facebook Live by members of the delegation including Peter Tran Sang, whose videos attracted a large following during the recording.

Thousands of Vietnamese Protest at Formosa Steel Plant in Ha Tinh

Mac Lam and Xuan Nguyen

3 October, 2016

Thousands of demonstrators converged on a Taiwanese steel factory in Vietnam's central province of Ha Tinh on Sunday to press claims over a major toxic spill in April that killed tons of fish and devastated the local economy.

The protest followed the launch last month of some 500 individual lawsuits demanding compensation from Ha Tinh provinces Formosa Plastics Group for a toxic chemical spill that put thousands of fishermen and fish processing workers out of work and drew sharp criticism of Vietnam's government for a slow reaction.

"October 2 is the day parishioners follow the call of the priests in charge to march peacefully, demanding transparency from Formosa, and fair compensation for people, demanding Formosa to stop releasing waste into our Quyen river," a female protester told RFA's Vietnamese service.

"What is Formosa? Why did they have to use hundreds of policemen, hundreds of vehicles, vans, fire fighter trucks and weapons? What did people do?" said the woman, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The lawsuits and the protest was organized by a local Roman Catholic diocese, which urged demonstrators to remain peaceful. Social media carried home-made videos showing some clashes between authorities and protestors, who want the stell plant closed and more compensation for lost livelihoods.

"I was not surprised but very moved to see most people were peaceful at the protest. Priests told people not to shout or engage in any violence, avoiding any clash with the police. I was very moved to see that in such a situation people still stayed calm and there is no report about damage to the factory," blogger and activist Nguyen Anh Tuan told RFA.

He said the protest against Formosa "is not over yet. It just started."

'What is left behind after the protest is the belief of people in Ha Tinh and Nghe An and they believe that they will win. By being non violent they will win in the end," freelance journalist Huynh Ngoc Chenh told  RFA.

In August, more than 200 policemen blocked and assaulted some of the 4,000 Catholic parishioners who tried to march to Ky Anh township’s administrative offices to protest government inaction over their losses.

In June, the Formosa Plastics Group steel plant acknowledged it was responsible for the release of toxic chemicals in April that killed an estimated 115 tons of fish and left fishermen and tourism industry workers jobless in Ha Tinh and three other central provinces.

Vietnam's government said in a report to the National Assembly in July that the disaster had harmed the livelihoods of more than 200,000 people, including 41,000 fishermen.

Formosa Plastics's $10.6 billion steel complex in Ha Tinh province includes a steel plant, a power plant and a deep sea port, and is one of the largest foreign investments in Vietnam.

A woman who gave her name only as Phuong, however, said local people want Formosa to pack its bags.

"They want to talk to Formosa directly but nobody came out to talk to the protesters, only policemen lining up in front of Formosa," she told RFA.

"I will continue protests until we get reasonable compensations and Formosa leaves Vietnam. Everybody wants the same thing. As long as Formosa stays here we will continue our fight even if they increase their compensation," said Phuong.

Translated by Viet Ha. Written in English by Paul Eckert.

Vietnamese rally outside Taiwanese steel plant that spread toxic waste

2 October 2016

Thousands of Vietnamese protested on Sunday at a steel plant run by a unit of Taiwan's Formosa Plastics to demand the unit leave the country and compensate more people after one of the country's biggest environmental disasters, witnesses said.

Protesters in Ha Tinh province vented their anger at Formosa Ha Tinh Steel, which has offered US$500 million in damages and admitted that its US$10.6 billion steel plant was responsible for massive fish deaths along a 200-km (124-mile) stretch of coastline in April.

The protest started early Sunday and finished around noon, with police in helmets and shields deployed to guard the compound. The police left as the number of protesters, estimated at about 10,000 people, outnumbered them, protestor Tran Viet Hoa said by phone.

Images posted by demonstrators on social media matched the description. There were no injuries or arrests reported.

Some demonstrators climbed a front gate reinforced from inside by fire trucks and other vehicles, but they were not able to get in, Hoa said. Others entered from a back gate and smashed some windows and cameras.

Formosa in Taiwan could not be reached for comment and an official responsible for external relations at its Ha Tinh unit said he was not aware of the situation and would respond later.

Police and the provincial authority, the Ha Tinh's People Committee, could not be reached for comments.

The Vietnamese government has offered favourable conditions to attract foreign investment, with companies such as Samsung Electronics and Intel key drivers of the economy and sources of jobs.

Formosa is one of its biggest investors and protests against the firm took place in Vietnam's biggest cities over several weekends since April. In some cases, police used excessive force to thwart them, rights groups say.

Another witness said people were angry because they encountered resistance from police while trying to peacefully assemble.

"People were irritated because they just want to meet Formosa directly and negotiate," said the witness, who declined to be named.

Demonstrators were demanding Formosa close the steel plant and give more compensation and do a better environmental cleanup. They wanted the government to stop an alternative plan of discharging the waste into a local river instead of into the sea for better monitoring, the witness said.

Taiwan's Foreign Ministry in a statement said its representatives in Vietnam had contacted the steel plant, which police had shut down temporarily.

"The representative office has asked Vietnamese authorities to send more police to protect the plant, its employees, and the lives and property of all Taiwanese businessmen in Ha Tinh province," it said.

(Reporting by Hanoi Newsroom and Faith Hung in TAIPEI; Editing by Martin Petty and Muralikumar Anantharaman)

Vietnam court swamped by fishermen seeking to sue Taiwan firm's steel unit

Reuters -

27 September, 2016

Hundreds of Vietnamese fishermen traveled to a small provincial court on Monday to sue one of the country's biggest investors for compensation over an accident at its $10.6-billion steel plant, activists and a court official said.

Tens of millions of fish died in April, in one of Vietnam's biggest environmental disasters, which the government blamed on a discharge of toxic waste into the sea by Formosa Ha Tinh Steel, a subsidiary of Taiwan's Formosa Plastics.

Formosa Ha Tinh Steel has promised $500 million in compensation and admitted its steel plant caused massive fish deaths along a 200-km (120-mile) stretch of coastline.

A total of 545 people are suing the company, Dang Huu Nam, a priest leading the group that journeyed 200 km (120 miles) by bus to a town in the central province of Ha Tinh told Reuters in a text message.

"The court is receiving their files," an official at the Ky Anh People's Court said by telephone. "It is very crowded here."

In a video posted on social media site Facebook, Nam said fishermen still feared the sea was polluted and were suffering hardship.

"They cannot go to sea and cannot catch fish while they face the prospect of hunger because of bank debts," he added.

The disaster unleashed a public outcry on social media and on the streets of big cities. Demonstrators vented their fury at both the government and Formosa, accusing them of a cover-up.

Such protests have been a headache for the authorities, who have accused anti-government groups of trying to exploit the disaster and stir up anger, with the aim of overthrowing the ruling Communist Party.

Monday's mass lawsuit captured attention on Facebook but was not covered by state-run media.

Activists said Monday's convoy of more than 10 buses was closely monitored by police, with military also deployed around Formosa's project in Ha Tinh.

Several thousand Christians gathered around the court and sang songs in support of the fishermen, the priest said, adding that the court was only able to process half the lawsuits filed but would receive more on Tuesday.

Formosa is one of Taiwan's biggest conglomerates. Its listed units include Formosa Plastics Corp and Formosa Chemicals & Fiber Corp.

(Reporting by Hanoi Newsroom; Editing by Martin Petty and Clarence Fernandez)

Home | About Us | Companies | Countries | Minerals | Contact Us
© Mines and Communities 2013. Web site by Zippy Info