Lawyers in Taiwan on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against the Formosa Plastics Group, a large Taiwan-owned industrial conglomerate, demanding compensation for thousands of Vietnamese fishermen left jobless by an April 2016 spill of toxic waste by a company steel plant that devastated more than a hundred miles of coastline in four central provinces of Vietnam.
The lawsuit against the Formosa Plastics Group, which has been joined by 7,875 Vietnamese affected by the spill, calls for payment of at least 140 million Taiwan dollars (U.S. $4.46 million) in compensation, Agence France-Presse said in a June 11 report, citing figures provided by Taiwan’s Environmental Rights Foundation.
Taiwan’s courts have jurisdiction in the case because most of the Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corporation board members and shareholders listed as defendants in the suit are Taiwanese, AFP said in its report.
Two months after the spill, the Formosa Plastics Group acknowledged it was responsible for the release of the chemicals from its massive steel plant located at the deep-water port in Ha Tinh province’s Ky Anh district.
The company later paid U.S. $500 million to clean up the damage and compensate those affected by the spill, but slow and uneven payout of the funds by the Vietnamese government prompted months of large protests, followed by the arrests of protest leaders and environmental activists posting criticisms of Vietnam’s government online.
On June 11, about 60 Vietnamese residents of Taiwan, Vietnam, and the U.S. held a press conference in the capital Taipei to voice support for the group action and submit evidence and petitions to the Taiwan court considering the suit.
Participants in the gathering included Catholic priests coming from areas in Vietnam affected by the 2016 spill, including Bishop Michael Hoang Duc Oanh, Joseph Nguyen Hong Linh, and Peter Tran Van Thanh of the Tam Toa parish in Ha Tinh.
Following the press conference, participants marched to the Formosa Group’s headquarters building, where an annual shareholders’ meeting was under way, to call for adequate compensation for victims of the 2016 waste spill and for the company to clean up affected areas and leave Vietnam.
“I hope Taiwan’s independent judiciary will seriously handle the case to return justice to the victims,” Nguyen, a former fisherman taking part in the protest said, quoted by AFP.
“And I hope Formosa will give Vietnam back a clean ocean so the fish will return,” he said.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Chanhhu Hoang. Written in English by Richard Finney.