Rare protests in Vietnam over mass fish deaths

PHOTO: REUTERS

Hundreds of people demonstrated in Vietnam yesterday against a Taiwanese firm they accused of causing mass fish deaths along the country's central coast, with some blaming the government for a sluggish response to a major environmental disaster.

Though an official investigation has found no links between the fish deaths and a US$10.6 billion (S$14.2 billion) coastal steel plant run by a unit of Taiwan's Formosa Plastics, public anger against the firm has not abated.

Hundreds gathered in Hanoi holding banners that said: "Formosa destroying the environment is a crime" and "Who poisoned the central region's waters?"

Demonstrations are rare in Vietnam and uniformed and plain- clothes police are usually quick to suppress them. Yesterday they cleared traffic to allow demonstrators to do a lap of a big lake in the heart of Hanoi. Huge numbers of dead fish have appeared at farms and on beaches since April 6, impacting 200km of coastline in four provinces, with no known cause.

What stoked public anger was a comment by a Formosa official who said Vietnam had to choose between catching fish and shrimp, and building a modern steel industry.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 02, 2016, with the headline 'Rare protests in Vietnam over mass fish deaths'. Print Edition | Subscribe