Vietnam Marine Environmental Disaster a Threat to Taiwan’s New South Policy

Democratic People’s Party legislator Su Chih-fen (蘇治芬) today urged the government of Taiwan to confront the issue of the massive fish-kill in Vietnam that the Vietnamese people are blaming on pollution from a steel mill in Ha Tinh Province controlled by Formosa Plastics Group.

Su also called on the Taiwanese industrial giant, and other Taiwanese corporations investing in the region to show corporate responsibility, including respect for the environment and human rights.

Su, who represents constituents in Yunlin County pointed out that the environmental disaster poses a threat to the newly-elected DPP government’s New Southward Policy, which is designed to improve ties to South-east Asian nations.

Besides the issue of environmental pollution, the Formosa Plastics Group’s development of the Ha Tinh steel mill has also caused controversy because it required people to be forcefully relocated.

Father Peter Nguyen of the Hsinchu Catholic Diocese of Vietnamese Migrant Workers and Brides Office said that Vietnam’s Deputy Minister of Environment and Natural Resources, Tuan Wu Jen (Vo Tuan Nhan) on April 25 noted that there was insufficient evidence to prove Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Plant is the cause of the fish-kill.

The Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Plant has a 1.2 meter diameter wastewater pipe extending 1.3 kilometers out to sea. A diver died shortly after inspecting the facilities, and other divers having contact with wastewater at the Formosa Ha Tinh Steel plant were hospitalized suffering dizziness, vomiting, chest tightness, and other symptoms. Doctors at the hospital refused to release information about their diagnosis.

The Vietnam’s government’s refusal to at first acknowledge and respond to the disaster led to mass protests starting on Labor Day May 1.

Despite government attempts to suppress protests with mass arrests and blocking internet sites such as Facebook, protests again occurred on Mother’s Day May 8, when police violence against the growing protest movement went largely under-reported by the international press.

The government of Vietnam has since admitted they know the cause of the environmental disaster, but have refused to tell the public what it is. They have promised to reveal the information before the end of June.

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