Hanoi (AsiaNews) – In response to the appeal by the Justice and Peace Commission, the parishes of the Diocese of Vinh, in the province of Nghệ An, on April 15 organized prayer vigils for the victims of the ecological disaster caused by the Taiwanese company Formosa Plastic Group. In addition to Nghệ An, there are four provinces of central Vietnam that still report the visible damage caused by the imposing toxic sewage spill in April 2016: Ha Tin, Quang Binh, Quang Tri, and Thua Thien-Hue.
The Vietnamese government has admitted that water pollution has killed at least 115 tons of sea fish, 140 tons of farmed fish and 67 tons of clams. However, experts say that the real figures are far greater. They do not take into account the tons of shrimp, calamari and other types of fish products that have been lost. The leak of toxic waste left the fishermen of the coastal provinces unemployed. The diocese of Vinh was the one hit harder by the consequences of the catastrophe.
Despite the threats from local authorities, Father Đặng Hữu Nam organized at the parish of My Khanh a peaceful Eucharistic adoration (photo) to pray in favor of “dispersed families,” whose members must leave everything to migrate to the big cities, looking for work. Father Đặng Hữu Nam is one of the priests who, in early May 2016, have been denounced by the Vietnamese government for organizing protests against Formosa. The Taiwanese company has voluntarily paid US $500 million to remedy the damage caused to the environment and its inhabitants, but the slow and irregular distribution of funds by the government has caused protests that continue to be held more than two years away.
On April 5, as communist authorities intensified the crackdown on dissidents on the anniversary of the environmental disaster, the court in Hanoi opened a trial against six activists from a pro-democracy group called the Brotherhood for Democracy. They have been accused of “having conducted activities aimed at overthrowing the state.” The well-known human rights lawyer Nguyễn Văn Đài and the other five defendants conducted campaigns for victims of injustice, supported religious freedom and political prisoners and their families. In all, the Hanoi court imposed convictions on activists for a total of 66 years in prison and 17 years under house arrest.