Frustration at delays over environmental disaster

Government officials are still testing the waters off the cntral coast to try to find the cause of the disaster, Photo courtesy Tuoi Tre

Government officials are still testing the waters off the central coast to try to find the cause of the disaster, Photo courtesy Tuoi Tre

Activists are calling for more demonstrations on Sunday amid continued frustration at the government’s handling of the mass death of fish in central provinces.

Hundreds of people braved threats of arrest and beatings by uniformed and plainclothes police when they took to the streets of Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and other major cities last weekend.

Civil society groups say they need to keep up pressure on the government over its failure to find the cause of the environmental disaster which has affected four central provinces.

Two activists, who were arrested for publicising news of the fish deaths, have since been released after several days of questioning by police.

Truong Minh Tam, a member of the Vietnam Path civil society group, said he was stripped and roughly treated by police during interrogation sessions about reports and videos that he posted online.

Chu Manh Son, the other activist, was also released without charge. Both, however, were accused by their interrogators of intentionally inciting unrest through their reports.

Formosa remains prime suspect

The government has failed to announce the cause of the disaster a month after dead fish first began washing up on the shores of central Vietnam.

Some bloggers and environmental experts have suggested that the government already knows the cause but is delaying the release of results to protect those responsible.

Most suspicion continues to focus on a subsidiary of the Taiwanese Formosa group, which is building a giant steel mill and other infrastructure at the Vung Ang industrial zone in Ha Tinh province where the contamination was first reported.

The newly appointed prime minister, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, has attempted to take control of a government response that even senior officials have admitted was initially slow and ineffective.

He said the government would not shield anyone found to have caused pollution off the coast.

He acknowledged that the disaster had affected people’s lives and businesses as well as the environment and national security.

Mr Phuc also blamed local authorities for their slow response.

Foreign experts have since been consulted, and have been helping to examine samples of the contaminated water, in a continuing attempt to find out the cause of the disaster.