May 03, 2016

    Vietnam protesters: Taiwan firm behind mass fish deaths


    HUNDREDS of people demonstrated in Vietnam on Sunday against a Taiwanese firm they accuse of causing mass fish deaths along the country's central coast, with some also blaming the government for a sluggish response to a major environmental disaster.

    Though an official investigation has found no links between the fish deaths and a US$10.6 billion (S$14.2 billion) coastal steel plant run by a unit of Taiwan's Formosa Plastics, public anger has not abated.

    Hundreds gathered in Hanoi holding banners that said: "Formosa destroying the environment is a crime" and "Who poisoned the central region's waters?"

    Others said: "Formosa out of Vietnam!" and took aim at the government for being aloof.

    Demonstrations are rare in Vietnam and uniformed and plainclothes police are usually quick to suppress them.

    On Sunday, they cleared traffic to allow demonstrators to do a lap of a big lake in the heart of Hanoi.

    Huge numbers of dead fish have appeared at farms and on beaches since April 6, impacting 200km of coastline in four provinces, with no known cause.

    The Environment Minister has demanded Hung Nghiep Formosa Ha Tinh dig up its waste pipe at the steel project to enable the government to monitor its discharge.

    The government's initial probe said the cause could be "red tide", when algae blooms and produces toxins, or a release of toxic chemicals by humans.

    What has stoked public anger was a comment by a Formosa official who said Vietnam had to choose between catching fish and shrimp and building a modern steel industry.

    Social media and witnesses said protests also took place in central Quang Binh province on Friday, with fishermen throwing fish on the highway after failing to sell their catch.

    The government on Saturday ordered the trade and agriculture ministries to help buy seafood caught in deep-sea fishing.