Vietnam probes protest in province hit by Formosa's toxic spill

By Hung Le   April 13, 2017 | 10:35 am GMT+7
Vietnam probes protest in province hit by Formosa's toxic spill
People in Ha Tinh gather in front of a district government office on April 3. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Hung

Many people in Ha Tinh are unhappy with compensation they've received.

Police in Vietnam's central province of Ha Tinh have launched criminal investigations into a recent protest which involved around 2,000 people and has caused public disorder, a police officer said.

Around 200 people brought banners to protest outside the People's Committee of Loc Ha District on April 3, demanding compensation for an environmental disaster, said Nguyen Thanh Liem, Ha Tinh’s deputy police chief.

Fourty minutes later, the number of protestors grew ten-fold

Liem said the gathering “had hindered” the office’s operations, while some protestors have also injured a policeman and prevented him from being taken to hospital.

Ha Tinh police are investigating the case on charges of “causing public disorder”, which is punishable by up to 10 years in jail, and “illegal arrest of people”, which warrants prison terms of up to seven years. Police are looking for those who incited the protest.

In a related development, police in Ha Tinh's Ky Anh Town, around 50 miles to the south, announced Sunday an investigation against 150 people on charge of “causing public disorder” for blocking a section on a national highway.

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People in Ha Tinh protest on the National Highway 1A on April 2. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Hung

In early April, Ha Tinh police arrested a 22-year-old man on accusation of working with foreign organizations to produce social media content on what the authority brand “sensitive” events, which have emerged in connection to a mass fish kill in several central provinces last year.

Ha Tinh Province was at center of media attention last year, when it was hit by Vietnam's biggest ever environmental disaster caused by Taiwanese steel plant Formosa.

The notorious toxic spill polluted 125 miles of coastline, devastating sea life and local economies dependent on fishing and tourism in Ha Tinh as well as the nearby provinces of Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue.

The environment ministry said the affected region is expected to take a decade to completely recover from the incident, while experts predict the disaster may set back Vietnam’s economy for years.

Formosa agreed last June to pay $500 million in compensation and the money is being disbursed to people directly affected. But many people in Ha Tinh remain dissatisfied with how the compensation has been handled.