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Vietnam government criticized for being soft on polluters

Religious leaders say the government is not doing enough to pursue justice

Vietnam government criticized for being soft on polluters

Fishermen in Thua Thien Hue province with their idle fishing boats after fish were killed by toxic waste in Ha Tinh province. (Photo of Paul Tran)

Published: July 06, 2016 08:30 AM GMT

Updated: July 06, 2016 08:32 AM GMT

Religious, political and civil society organizations in Vietnam have criticized the government for allowing Formosa Ha Tinh Steel to continue operating, and called for people to demand justice.

"We condemn the communist government for allowing Formosa to continue its operation [which] damages the marine environment," representatives from 23 Vietnamese organizations said in a joint statement issued on July 4. There number included 11 religious leaders from Buddhist, Christian and indigenous religious communities.

Toxic waste, including phenol and cyanide, from the Taiwanese-built steel plant in Ha Tinh province, a unit of Formosa Plastics, poisoned water along a 200km stretch of coastline killing hundreds of tonnes of fish. The activists said the government has not done enough to restore the environment or help the affected people.

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Government Office Chief, Mai Tien Dung said the plant’s leaders promised to resolve the incident, pay US$500 million in compensation, and obey environmental laws.

But the activists said the compensation was not enough to restore the polluted waters and people’s livelihoods. Indeed, scientists estimate it will take 50 years for the ecosystem to recover. Their statement also criticized government leaders for not apologizing to the people.

The statement also slammed corrupt officials for lacking morality and good sense and called for all Vietnamese people to take to the streets and demand justice.

They suggested an "action month from July 6 to Aug. 6. "They encouraged activists to wear white shirts with dead fish photos, agitate for the closure of Formosa, and give material and legal support to victims so that they sue the plant."

Some fishermen in Thua Thien Hue province told ucanews.com that they do not want compensation from Formosa. "What we want is for them to return to us a safe marine environment so that we can continue to live in the traditional way," one of them said.

"We want a clean sea for younger generations," said a fisherman in Ha Tinh province. "If Formosa still operates here, they will discharge toxic waste … so they should be removed from Vietnam."

 

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