Vietnamese fishermen sue Taiwanese steel firm after toxic chemical spill kills sea fish

Formosa Plastics Group pledged US$500 million to clean up and compensate people for pollution that led to protests and hit livelihoods of more than 200,000 people

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 September, 2016, 4:25pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 September, 2016, 11:29pm

Hundreds of Vietnamese fishermen have filed claims seeking compensation from a Taiwanese steel company that admitted its toxic chemicals caused the death of many fish, a local priest helping the fishermen said on Tuesday.

The factory, owned by the Formosa Plastics Group, acknowledged in June that it was responsible for the pollution that killed large numbers of fish off the central Vietnamese coast in April, and pledged to pay US$500 million to clean it up and compensate affected people.

Taiwanese steel plant to blame for mass fish deaths in Vietnam

The pollution created the country’s worst environmental disaster, devastating the regional fishing and tourism industries, and sparked rare protests in the Communist country.

Catholic priest Dang Huu Nam, who led the group of local fishermen, said 506 petitions have been submitted to a local court in Ky Anh town in central Ha Tinh province where the massive death toll of fish occurred.

“Based on the fact that Formosa admitted their mistake, based on the Vietnamese laws and the losses suffered by the fishermen, they have submitted their claims and they demand that Formosa be closed and compensate their losses as well as material and health losses they may suffer in the future,” Nam said on Tuesday at the courthouse.

Rare street protests in Vietnam over mysterious mass fish deaths

Local court officials were not available for comment.

The priest said many more fishermen were completing their files and he expected more than 100,000 fishermen to file petitions.

He said the fishermen travelled 200km in 15 buses on Monday to the People’s Court in the town of Ky Anh, which received 199 petitions on Monday and another 307 claims on Tuesday.

About 5,000 people from around Ky Anh had gathered on Monday outside the courthouse to show their support, he said.

Nam said the court now would decide to process their claims or reject them or refer their cases to a higher relevant authority.

Under Vietnamese law, the claims must be filed individually.

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Lawyer Tran Vu Hai said the fishermen’s actions to file their claims might not lead to their cases being brought to trial, but could open a way for Formosa and the fishermen to “talk directly with each other” for a negotiated deal.

An estimated 115 tonnes of fish washed ashore along more than 200km of the central coast in April, the government said in a report to the National Assembly in July.

Over 200,000 people affected by toxic pollution by Taiwanese firm, says Vietnam

The disaster harmed the livelihoods of more than 200,000 people, including 41,000 fishermen.

Formosa Plastics’s US$10.6 billion steel complex in Ha Tinh province includes a steel plant, a power plant and a deep sea port, and is one of the largest foreign investments in Vietnam.