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Police stop Catholics filing anti-pollution lawsuits in Vietnam

Large groups of parishioners blocked while attempting to reach court over Formosa case

ucanews.com reporter, Phnom Penh

ucanews.com reporter, Phnom Penh

Published: October 19, 2016 10:32 AM GMT

Updated: October 19, 2016 10:33 AM GMT

Police stop Catholics filing anti-pollution lawsuits in Vietnam

Vietnamese police in Nghe An province on Oct. 18 stop Catholics en route to filing additional lawsuits against Formosa Plastics Group. (Photo courtesy of GNsP)

Hundreds of Vietnamese Catholics in Nghe An province were blocked on Oct. 18 from filing more lawsuits against a Taiwanese industrial plant that polluted the country’s coastline.

A group of about 1,000 parishioners planned to march to Ky Anh Court, according to a statement from Father Anthony Nam Dang Huu Nam, pastor of Tan Yen parish and noted human rights and democracy advocate.

Many in the group planned to travel more than 200 kilometers to file new lawsuits after a number of previously filed suits were rejected.

"Police prevented us from getting to Ky Anh court," said Paul Tran Minh Nhat, a Catholic activist.

He said the group of about 1,000 set out in vehicles from central Nghe An but were stopped by police and told that there were too many of them to travel to the court.

According to an account from RFA, nails were thrown on the road to deter drivers and some drivers were abducted.

In April, a toxic leak at a steel plant owned by the Formosa Plastics Group saw hundreds of tons of fish wash up dead on a 200-kilometer stretch of the Vietnamese coast.

According to the government, more than 200,000 people were affected by the environmental catastrophe and the company was ordered to pay US$500 million in compensation.

The disaster led to rare public protests in Vietnam, many spearheaded by the Catholic Church in Nghe An.

Earlier this month, some 10,000 protesters led by Catholic priests demonstrated at the site of the Formosa plant calling for a more thorough clean up and better compensation.

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In his statement, Father Huu said there had been “increased repression to prevent the peaceful acts of protest.”

In addition to trying to force out activist priests, the Father Huu said, “police in both uniform and plainclothes have been threatening locals. Many have been told not to file lawsuits if they don’t want to be evicted from their homes.”

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