Ha Tinh Villagers Protest in Bid to Get Formosa Payouts in Vietnam

Hundreds of residents from Thach Banh village gather at the local people’s committee, but the office is closed.

A Vietnamese villager shows dead fish he collected on a beach in Phu Loc district of central Vietnam's Thua Thien Hue province, April 21, 2016.

Hundreds of residents from Thach Banh village in the Loc Ha district of Vietnam’s Ha Tinh province protested at the local people’s committee office on Wednesday in a bid to obtain compensation for pollution caused by a massive toxic spill from the Formosa steel plant nearly a year ago.

“We have gathered at the village’s committee office to protest” because none of the residents have received compensation for the environmental and economic losses from a chemical spill that polluted waters along four coastal provinces last April, said a female protester who declined to give her name.

People’s committees constitute the executive branch of Vietnam’s central communist government that carry out local administrative duties.

“Yesterday when we were here, they [people’s committee members] sent out some representatives to talk to us, but today they are closed,” she told RFA’s Vietnamese Service. “They took away phones from people who tried to record the scene.”

“Owners of businesses selling frozen seafood products and dried fish have not received any compensation” for the loss of their livelihoods, she said.

Wednesday’s demonstration was the latest of frequent protests by people in the coastal region affected by the disaster.

The April spill—Vietnam’s largest environmental disaster to date—killed an estimated 115 tons of fish and left fishermen and tourism industry workers jobless in four central provinces, including Ha Tinh.

Two months later, Taiwan-owned Formosa Plastics Group acknowledged it was responsible for the release of toxic chemicals from its massive steel plant located at the deep-water port in Ha Tinh province’s Ky Anh district.

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

The company pledged U.S. $500 million to clean up and compensate people affected by the spill, but the government has faced protests over the amount of the settlement and the slow pace of payouts.

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Viet Ha. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.