Environmental Justice for the Victims in Vietnam
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Environmental Justice for the Victims in Vietnam
Presented by Taiwan Association for Human Rights (TAHR)、Justice for Formosa Victims（JFFV）、Environmental Jurists Association (EJA)、Environmental Rights Foundation (ERF)、Covenants Watch、Vietnamese Migrants and Immigrants Office
In response to the Taiwanese government's Go South policy, Formosa Ha Tinh Corporation came to Vietnam to enjoy cheap land and labor. When building its factory in Ha Tinh in 2008, the Formosa Ha Tihn Steel Corporation (FHS) enjoyed the privilege of renting over 33 thousand hectares of land with 33 km of coastline on a 70-year lease at a very low cost. To make way for the construction of the factory, thousands of families had to move. FHS shook hands with the Vietnamese authorities, who paid very little compensation to the Villagers and provided inadequate funds to rebuild their homes. Hundreds of families refused to accept this unfair compensation, which resulted in their utilities being cut off, their children being stopped from going to school, and being subjected to continuous harassment by local authorities.
When the factory began operating at the beginning of April 2016, the company dumped hundreds of metric tons of toxic chemical waste including Phenol and Cyanide, into the sea causing devastating losses of fish and other marine life along 250 km of coastline. Coral and marine organisms also suffered severe effects. A vast area has been completely contaminated. Even though trying everything to cover its crime for nearly three months, FHS finally acknowledged its responsibility in public on June 30, 2016 when the evidences surfaced from the investigation by over 100 domestic and international scientists.
Up to date, fishermen are unable to make a living due to the damage caused, and other businesses such as salt farms, mushroom farms, restaurants, and tourism companies have also been affected. Fishermen had no choice but to sell their boats at very low prices; other business entities related to fishing industry were also seriously affected. Tens of thousands of families had to get loans out of their houses to find work in other provinces or even overseas. Thousands have gone to Taiwan. Furthermore, FHS has not provided any measures to rehab the polluted marine habitat and the coastal areas. Upon admitting the violation, FHS, in an arrangement with the authorities of Vietnam, announced that they would compensate $500 million USD without offering any report and the assessment of the damages.
Even the compensation of $500 million USD was not paid to the victims affected by the marine disaster. Instead, FHS gave it to the government of Vietnam. The majority of victims were not compensated, or were compensated very little compared to what they had lost. These people filed their complaint to the Court of Vietnam, but their petition was rejected. When they went to file an appeal, they were blocked and beaten by the police to the extent that some have suffered permanent injuries. Over 20 people were arrested and imprisoned, given sentences of up to twenty years.
In response to their cries for help, we, the Justice for Formosa Victims (JFFV) a non-profit organization with members from over ten countries worldwide who fled Vietnam for freedom after the War ended because we couldn't live under a communist dictatorship, have raised a legal fund to help the victims. Despite suffering the punishment and persecution from the Vietnam Government, 7875 plaintiffs risked their lives to file the complaint against FHS, Formosa Plastics Corporation and other major shareholders to the Taiwan Taipei District Court on Jun 11, 2019. The Taiwan court set a court fee of NT$1.2 millions on June 14, 2019 and JFFV submitted the court fee accordingly.
The victims went to Taiwan court to seek justice because there was no way to sue in Vietnam. Furthermore, the companies that comprise FHS are largely based and registered in Taiwan. Additionally, evidence shows that all technical decisions, business plans, capital, and high-ranking personnel involved in decision-making regarding FHS are also based in Taiwan. We have trusted and hoped that Taiwan is a country of freedom, democracy, and rule-of-law with an independent judicial system, and especially a nation leading in the struggle for human rights in Asia. We came here looking for justice for thousands of poor people who have no voice and have become victims of FHS, a huge company, making profit with no regard of the safety and life of human beings. We have evidences that FHS continues discharging toxic wastewater on the coast of Vietnam, and its emissions have been polluting the air surrounding the factories. Shortly after becoming aware of the lawsuit, FHS signed a contract agreement with the Ha Tinh police to protect the company and resulted in more brutal suppression of the victims. Many subsequent prosecutions have occurred, and on Oct 10, 2019-- three days before the Taiwan court ruling to reject our lawsuit, Nguyen Van Thanh, who was helping with the lawsuit, was arrested on unfounded and unrelated charges, a tactic used by the Vietnamese authorities to persecute and imprison those who disagree with or displease them.
Two college students were also expelled from their school for helping with the case.
You can imagine how devastated, confused, and anxious the Plaintiffs feel now after four long months of waiting when they received the ruling by Taiwan District court on Oct.14, 2019 to deny their complaint. The court kept the $1.2 million in court fees and argued that the victims to go back to Vietnamese court where they have already been beaten, harassed, arrested, and imprisoned after their rights were denied.
We strongly urge the Taiwan courts to reconsider their decision and review the case seriously, holding hearings to make FHS and its shareholding companies confront their responsibilities.
Let the victims have a day in court and have their voices heard.
This is a serious human rights violation of the right to clean water, clean air, the right to satisfactory compensation by those who have caused damage, and the right to live peacefully without violence, harassment, and imprisonment just because they went to court to ask for their rights.
The Plaintiffs are appealing to Taiwan Taipei High Court and need you to stand with them in support of this litigation. On behalf 7875 Plaintiffs, we ask our international friends at the FIDH 40th Congress to sign our petition and support our fight for human rights and environmental justice.
Contact: Nancy Bui, Spokesperson and VP of External Affairs, JFFV
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