Nearly a thousand protesters surrounded the police station of Quynh Luu district in central Vietnam’s Nghe An province on Monday to demand an apology from police for their confiscation of 200 T-shirts carrying protest slogans and beating of the two men caught transporting the shirts, sources said.
The shirts, which police promised later in the day to return, bore the slogan No-Formosa in a reference to the Taiwan-owned Formosa Plastics Group, whose steel plant in coastal Ha Tinh province caused a toxic waste spill last year that killed an estimated 115 tons of fish and left fishermen jobless in four coastal provinces.
Outraged by police mistreatment of those transporting the shirts, Quynh Luu residents including many Catholics gathered outside district police headquarters on April 24 to demand the shirts’ return, parish priest Dan Huu Nam told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.
“I’m still at the scene and have encouraged people to leave,” Nam said.
“We and the police have agreed on a solution. They have to apologize for their behavior and must return the shirts to Song Ngoc Church so that we can give them back to the people.”
“I told the authorities in front of everyone that if they don’t resolve this situation properly, we will continue to peacefully protest to demand our rights,” he said, adding, “The authorities have promised to make a statement in written form.”
The protest ended without clashes, and by 6:00 p.m. all protesters had returned to their homes, sources said.
The Formosa Company has voluntarily paid U.S. $500 million to clean up and compensate coastal residents affected by the April 2016 spill, but slow and uneven payout of the funds by the Vietnamese government has prompted protests that continue to be held a year later.
Vietnam’s government has meanwhile rebuked former environmental minister Nguyen Minh Quang and dismissed two of his deputies over their handling of the waste spill and its aftermath, Vietnam’s Tuo Tre news said on April 22.
Vo Kim Cu, former party chief secretary of Ha Tinh province has also been dismissed, Tuo Tre said.
Reported by Anh Vu for RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Viet Ha. Written in English by Richard Finney.