Thousands of Vietnamese Protest at Formosa Steel Plant in Ha Tinh
RFA - 10/03/2016
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
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 compensatoin for lost
"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
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.
Reported by Mac Lam and Xuan Nguyen for RFA's
Vietnamese Service. Translated by Viet Ha. Written in English by Paul Eckert.