Vietnamese Social Activist is Jailed: Protests One Year on From Marine Spill Disaster

 

The 2016 marine life disaster in Vietnam was a water pollution crisis caused by Formosa Plastics Group’s US$10.6 billion steel complex, which consisted of a steel plant, a power plant and a deep seaport in the Hà Tĩnh Province.

The company was accused of discharging toxins such as cyanide and phenol during a test run in April 2016, resulting in the death of massive amounts of fish and other sea life along more than 200 kilometres of coastline. The epidemic also resulted in a ‘seafood scare’ across the country, harming the livelihoods of more than 200,000 people, including 41,000 fisherman, all while devastating fishing communities and tourism in four central provinces. The plant owner has since paid US$500 million in compensation. Vietnam’s environmental ministry has stated that it will take at least a decade for the region to recover from the spill.

[Image credited to: Science Daily]

Vietnamese social activist, Hoang Duc Binh was jailed for fourteen years for live-streaming protests against the steel plant, and the chemical spill, one of the country’s worst environmental disasters, sparked rare protests across the nation. March 5th, 2017 marked the first anniversary of the spill, and protesters in the town of Kỳ Anh blocked the country’s main highway during the first week of April. Some 100 Vietnamese used fishing nets, bricks and heavy rocks to block the highway, reportedly delaying thousands of vehicles. Vietnamese communities from all over the world also joined in the protest, demanding greater action against Formosa Plastics Group and ending police abuse towards protesters.

Vietnam’s government promised to identify and prosecute protesters for “causing public disorder,” and has cracked down on peaceful protests and civic action by affected fishermen, including sentencing Hoang Duc Binh to fourteen years in jail for live-streaming the fishermen who were marching to file a lawsuit against Formosa. Fellow activist, Nguyen Nam Phong was given two years in jail for opposing officers on duty.

[Image credited to: South China Morning Post]

During last February’s live-stream on Facebook, Binh commented that “the fishermen were stopped and beaten by authorities.” It was reported that Binh told the court that he made these comments, but denied committing any crimes because what he said was true. The court confirmed his sentence saying that “his comments were untrue and slandered authorities.”

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