04/16/2018, 14.59
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Vinh diocese holds vigil for the victims of the Formosa environmental disaster

by J.B. An Dang

The Vietnamese government has admitted that the 2016 disaster killed at least 115 tonnes of sea fish, 140 tonnes of farmed fish and 67 tonnes of clams. Fishermen from the coastal provinces are still left without a livelihood. A peaceful Eucharistic worship is held in My Khanh parish for families who are losing members forced to leave.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) – Responding to an appeal by the Justice and Peace Commission, the parishes in the diocese of Vinh, Nghệ An province, held prayer vigils last night for the victims of the environmental disaster caused by the Taiwan-based Formosa Plastics Corporation.

In addition to Nghệ An, four other provinces – Hà Tĩnh, Quảng Bình, Quảng Trị and Thừa Thiên-Huế – are still reeling from a toxic spill in April 2016. 

The Vietnamese government has admitted that the incident killed at least 115 tonnes of sea fish, 140 tonnes of farmed fish and 67 tonnes of clams.

However, experts say that the real figures are likely far higher since the losses of shrimp, squid and other fish have not been counted.

What is certain instead is that the toxic waste wiped out the livelihood of coastal fishermen. The diocese of Vinh was the one of the hardest hit.

Despite threats from local authorities, Fr Đặng Hữu Nam organised a peaceful Eucharistic worship (picture) at My Khanh parish to pray for the families whose members have been forced to move to the big cities looking for work.

Fr Đặng Hữu Nam is one of the priests who were sued by the Vietnamese government in May 2016 for organising protests against Formosa Plastics.

The Taiwan-based company has voluntarily paid US $ 500 million for the damage caused to the environment and residents, but the slow and haphazard payments by the government has led to protests that continue two years after the incident.

On 5 April, as the authorities intensified their crackdown on dissidents on the anniversary of the environmental disaster.

Six activists from a pro-democracy group called the Brotherhood for Democracy were tried in Hanoi for trying to “overthrow the state”.

Nguyễn Văn Đài, a well-known human rights lawyer, and five other defendants have led campaigns on behalf of victims of injustice and in support freedom of religion and political prisoners and their families.

In all, the Hanoi court handed the activists 66 years in prison and 17 years under house arrest.

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