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ICC Note

Over a year ago, a blast hit the Formosa Plastics plant in Vietnam, and there were no casualties. However, this caused a spill that destroyed marine life, putting thousands fishermen out of work. Since this incident, a Catholic church in Vietnam has stood by those affected. Vietnamese authorities have targeted Catholics now because of their protests against the government for not helping those affected by the spill. Officials in Vietnam have harassed and abused many church members, including women and children, that are assisting the troubled communities.

2017-06-02 Vietnam (AsiaNews.it) – A major explosion stopped production at a steel mill owned by Taiwan-based Formosa Plastics Group in Ha Tinh province, central Vietnam, the same that saw the worst environmental disaster in the country’s history in April 2016. No casualties have been reported.

The deputy chairman of the Provincial People’s Committee, Duong Tat Thang, said that the incident was caused by congestion in the dust filter system of a lime kiln at the steel mill, which led to an increase in pressure, causing the blast. The incident occurred at around 9 pm on Tuesday, less than two days after the plant re-opened.

Last month, Vietnamese authorities cleared Formosa to start testing its steel mill after conducting a three-day inspection of the plant and concluding that the company had addressed 52 out of 53 operating violations that led to the spill.

The incident polluted more than 200 kilometres of Vietnam’s coastline, and killed about 115 tonnes of fish. Hundreds of thousands of fishermen in four Vietnamese provinces were left jobless and without a source of income.

Formosa Plastics has voluntarily paid US$ 500 million to clean up and compensate coastal residents affected by the spill, but slow and uneven pay-out of the funds by the Vietnamese government has prompted protests that continue to be held more than a year later.

The Church has stood by the affected communities and has engaged in a number of actions to defend their rights. As a result, Catholics in the most affected areas have been targeted by Vietnamese authorities because of their protests against the government for failing to help the victims.

Various members of the Catholic clergy and other activists have been harassed and arrested by the government. On 28 May, hundreds of thugs hired by Nghệ An authorities, central Vietnam, attacked and beat up a group of Catholic parishioners, including women and children. Local sources report that about 25 people were hospitalised.

Members of Phu Yen and Van Thai sub-parishes, under Song Ngoc parish in Nghệ An province, said that they were attacked after gathering at the Son Hai commune People’s Committee on Wednesday to retrieve fellow parishioner Nguyễn Thi Tra who had been detained earlier by police.

After arriving at the building, some parishioners began using their smartphones to videotape the authorities, who responded by sending “thugs” into the crowd to beat them.

“There were almost 500 people, such as thugs, working for the police to beat people – including women and children – as a way to prevent them from using their phones to record,” said one Catholic. Afterwards, several people required treatment for injuries at a nearby hospital.

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