Vietnam has formally punished four high-ranking government officials for the country’s worst-ever environmental disaster caused by a unit of Taiwanese conglomerate Formosa Plastics.
At least 50 violations identified at Formosa Ha Tinh Steel resulted in the notorious toxic spill that polluted 200km (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 in April 2016.
On Friday, the ruling Communist Party’s Secretariat rebuked former environment minister Nguyen Minh Quang, his two deputies Bui Cach Tuyen and Nguyen Thai Lai and former leader of Ha Tinh Province Vo Kim Cu.
They were among 11 government, provincial and industry officials who were named and shamed in February, 11 months after the disaster.
(L-R): Nguyen Minh Quang, former environment minister and Vo Kim Cu, Ha Tinh's ex-top leader. Photo by VnExpress
Their irresponsible leadership and lax management led to serious damage to the environment and affected people’s lives. It also caused social instability, hit the investment climate and tainted the reputation of the ministry and Ha Tinh Province, where Formosa is still running its $11-billion steel plant, according to the Secretariat, the organ charged with implementing directives of the decision-making Politburo and the Central Committee, a powerful grouping of 200 senior Communist Party members.
It is not immediately clear if these officials will face any further action given that all but one of them have retired.
Cu, the former Ha Tinh leader, has been chairman of Vietnam’s Cooperative Alliance since November 2015, and is a lawmaker. His future in those roles is looking doubtful.
The environment ministry said the 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, but many people in Ha Tinh are unhappy about how compensation payments have been handled.