Speech by Catholic Priest Dang Huu Nam regarding the Formosa environmental disaster

A Catholic Priest from one of the affected areas in Vietnam, Reverend Dang Huu Nam, pre-recorded his speech as he was prevented from attending the press conference in Taipei.

August 10, 2016

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am Dang Huu Nam, a Priest of Phu Yen Parish, Vinh Diocese in An Hoa Commune, Quynh Luu District, Nghe An Province.

People living in the central provinces rely on the sea as their main source of income and have faced hardships since the start of the environmental disaster. Their lives have been severely affected; as the seas have been poisoned and masses of fish have died, fishermen have been unable to leave the shores. Those who have been able to catch fish have been unable to sell fish. As a result, people are a high risk of bankruptcy due to loans from the bank to invest in fishing equipment.

Children face the risk of not being able to go to school with many people leaving their homes to find jobs in other areas. Of more serious concern, many people have died from working in the toxic environment. A few people have died from eating poisoned fish and shrimp, others who were poisoned were denied medical assistance due to pressure from above. Local residents have begun to be infected with strange diseases such as skin ulcers.

Despite admitting its responsibility for the disaster, Formosa continues to hide and bury dead fish and discharge toxic waste into the environment.

Along with the Vietnamese government misleading the people, Formosa has shown no interest in taking ownership or resolving the matter. Even during the press conference which published the results of the environmental disaster, Formosa only appeared via a pre-recorded video. The Director for External Relations Chou Chun Fan made a statement saying the people needed to choose between “fish and shrimp or to build a state-of-the-art steel mill”. Tran Nguyen Thanh, chairman of the Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Board, showed contempt towards the Vietnamese people by stating that the company will continue its operations regardless of the circumstances.

Victims who died from the disaster were not compensated nor visited. Formosa also issued policies which prevented reporters from approaching relevant authorities to take part in the investigation of the discharge.

Not only have we been concerned with Formosa’s attitude towards the environmental disaster, but there has been a lack of transparency regarding the Vietnamese government’s handling of the disaster. Our clergy has continually protested to voice our demands.

We hope for:

- Formosa must provide sufficient compensation for the people who have been affected by the disaster,
- Formosa must be involved in the restoration of Vietnamese waters
- Formosa must cease all of its operations within Vietnam
- Prosecution of Formosa, individuals and groups who were jointly responsible for Vietnam’s environmental disaster

I call for environmental organisations, unions, governments of the free world and the international community to advocate for Vietnamese to live in a safe environment.

Thank you

Dang Huu Nam