Formosa Steel Goes on The Offensive Over Fish Kill in Vietnam

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This photo shows the main part of Taiwanese conglomerate Formosa's steel mill in Ky Anh district, in the central coastal province of Ha Tinh, Dec. 3, 2015
This photo shows the main part of Taiwanese conglomerate Formosa's steel mill in Ky Anh district, in the central coastal province of Ha Tinh, Dec. 3, 2015

The giant Taiwanese conglomerate that appears to be at the center of an investigation into an environmental catastrophe that has seen thousands of tons of dead fish wash ashore in Vietnam is backing away from comments made by an executive concerning the disaster, RFA’s Vietnamese service has learned.

Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corporation, which operates as a subsidiary of Formosa Plastics Corporation, attempted to distance itself from statements made by a company executive, Chou Chun Fan, who was identified as the external affairs manager, which dismissed concerns about the fish kill.

In a copy of a letter from Formosa to media outlets, the company wrote that an interview Chou gave the media the day before was unauthorized and failed to reflect the company’s views.

“Our commitment is to contribute to the development of Vietnam’s industry and comply with Vietnam’s law, protecting the environment,” Formosa wrote.

In the letter, the company defended its environmental record in Vietnam, telling authorities Formosa has invested $45 million in the waste water processing system of the steel plant Formosa owns in Ha Tinh province.

Water tested

“All wastewater generated from the factory is processed properly,” the company wrote. “It is tested in accordance with Vietnam’s standards before being released to protect the marine ecology and at the same time to ensure Formosa’s adaptation with the area and that our development is on par with the development of the local area.”

Formosa told the authorities it hopes they find the answer to the fish kill.

“We wish that relevant authorities would find out the cause of the mass fish deaths in the Central Coast,” the company wrote.  According to the letter, Chou is not the company’s external relations manager. It directed questions on the issue to company Environmental Director Khau Nhan Kiet.

When contacted by telephone, Chou told RFA: “What I said was not right. I am waiting for a discipline decision from the company, and I can’t do an interview now.”

On Monday, the AFP news agency quoted Chou as telling Vietnam’s state-run VTC14 television channel, that “[You] need to choose whether to catch fish and shrimp or to build a state-of-the-art steel mill.”

Slow reaction

Ho Uy Liem, vice chairman of the Vietnam Union of Science and Technology Associations, criticized what he said was the government’s lethargy on the fish deaths.

“This issue is very serious and needs to be addressed. However, local governments are very slow in their reactions, especially Ha Tinh province,” he said.  “They were too busy with something else, and did not take care of this. The central government was quicker, but we still have not had any result.”

What caused the fish kill is still murky, but the investigation’s focus appears to center on a mile-long pipe that runs from Formosa’s $10.5 billion steel and port facility.

While Formosa admits it owns the pipe, it is unclear if they had the authority to build or use it.

Ho Anh Tuan, director of the Ha Tinh Economic Zone Management Authority, said that Formosa’s wastewater pipe system was approved by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, according to a report by the Vietnam Investment Review. But Hoang Duong Tung, deputy director of the MoNRE Environmental Department, said Formosa was not yet allowed to discharge wastewater into the sea, according to the report.

Company controversy

Formosa is no stranger to controversy in Vietnam. The company has been cited for building an unauthorized temple on the property it leased for 70 years in Vung Ang industrial zone in 2014, the Tuoi Tre News reported at the time.

Formosa has been criticized for demanding more and more concessions from the government, even though it had received a huge number of tax and business incentives from the Vietnamese government.

The plant was also the site of violent protests when Vietnamese attacked the plant after reports that China had moved an oil rig into a disputed part of the South China Sea. Vietnam considers Taiwan to be part of China, which claims sovereignty over the self-governing island. According to a Reuters report, one Chinese worker died and 90 were injured in the riot which took place before the plant opened.

While authorities have warned people not to eat the fish, some people see them as an unexpected bounty and are picking them off the beach and then selling them.

Many traders suddenly showed up with refrigerated trucks offering to buy the dead fish, Tuoi Tre News reported.

A woman in Quang Binh province told RFA “They told people not to eat the fish. They forbid us to eat the fish for safety reasons…. However they still sell dead fish.”

Reported for RFA’s Vietnamese Service by Nam Nguyen and Gia Minh. Translated by Viet Ha. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.

Comments (11)

Anonymous Reader

This is one one corruption in Vietnam... and people get hurt will be oversea and in Vietnam. Too bad for the income of Vietnamese who survive with fishing business in the middle part of Vietnam. "LONG THAM KHONG DAY" is the idiom in VN, they all forget, and they adapt with Ho Chi Minh theory and become more corruptiion in Vietnam, try to think what happen over there during the VN WAR, just ORANGE AGENT now also the right time the RAISE THE HIGH ALERT.

Jun 16, 2017 04:19 PM


from Cleveland

Corrupted VNmese government keeps turning a blind eye to foreign corporations and foreign government while lining their pockets. You have destroyed the future of VN over the last 40 years. Karma can't come soon enough for you.

May 29, 2016 07:31 PM


from Cleveland

Short sight gains will be paid by millions of people for these crimes against the environment. Once the food chain is contaminated, it is only a matter of time that everyone will be affected. Wake up and hold each other accountable for this.

May 29, 2016 07:27 PM

government craps

This is like the biggest chaos ever. All government agents super desperate for money tramps on and disregard for people lives. They (rulers) were taught to suppress and oppress people from having an opinion in order to feel in control. This is a very bad situation, and sometimes they end up targeting the wrong people who try to help. This situation can never be resolved if the people on the top don't change their mind set which may take generations and generations which set us back even further

May 17, 2016 03:03 AM


So bad, they could used the dead fish and make it into some kind of products and export to the whole world to eat. ROTFLMFAO

May 16, 2016 09:45 PM

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