Press Release: International Coalition Seeks Justice for Vietnamese Fishing Communities and Victims of Formosa Toxic Spill

For Immediate Release: November 2, 2022

Contacts:

Nancy Bui, 512-844-9417

nancy@vietnameseamerican.org

Diane Wilson, 361-218-2353

wilsonalamobay@aol.com

Houston, Texas – An international coalition of Vietnamese American communities, fishermen, environmental and human rights organizations will hold a press conference November 4, 2022, at 11 AM in front of the Taiwanese Economic & Culture Office at 11 Greenway Plaza, Houston TX 77046. They will present a petition and read a US congressional letter of intervention sent to the government of Taiwan requesting attention to the victims of the Formosa toxic spill, who are Vietnamese fishermen nationals, seeking justice in Taiwan’s court.

The Formosa toxic spill that occurred in Central Vietnam in 2016 is one of the worst environmental disasters that struck Vietnam ever. The Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corporation, a subsidiary of the Taiwanese firm Formosa Plastics, admitted responsibility for the release of toxic chemicals and agreed to pay 500 million USD in compensation. Unfortunately, Formosa paid the Vietnamese government instead of the victims. So far, the impacted fishermen and their families have not been compensated fairly. When they sued the Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corp., their cases were dismissed and when they tried to appeal, many of them were arrested, brutally beaten, and even imprisoned with heavy sentences ranging from 5 to 20 years. Currently, more than twenty victims are in prison only because they were seeking justice. With assistance from overseas Vietnamese and organizations such as the Justice for Formosa’s Victims Association in the United States, in June 2019, 7,874 victims have filed a lawsuit against the Formosa Plastic Group in Taiwanese Court.

Nancy Bui, VP of External Affairs for the association Justice for Formosa Victims Association, mentioned that “due to the violence and threats of imprisonment in Vietnam, the victims have been forced to seek due compensation in Taiwan, where Formosa is based. With the assistance of environmental and human rights organizations in Taiwan, Vietnam, US, France, Australia, and Canada, the World Forum of Fisher Peoples, and others, victims of the Formosa Ha Tinh Corporation marine disaster filed the lawsuit against Formosa Plastic Group and its partner investors, including Formosa Plastics USA.

Supporting the Vietnamese fishermen in their lawsuit against Formosa are environmental groups in the United States who have challenged Formosa Plastics for different cases of pollution and beyond the fear of further expansion, such as the $9 billion plastic plant Sunshine Project in St. James, Louisiana. In March 2019 the San Antonio Bay Estuarine Waterkeeper and former commercial fisherwoman, Diane Wilson, sued Formosa Plastics plant in Point Comfort Texas for thousands of plastic violations into Lavaca Bay and surrounding waterways. The Waterkeepers and Wilson won the case and settled a compromise with Formosa for $50 M and zero discharge of plastics. It is the largest amount ever paid in US history for a citizen Clean Water Act. A federal judge called Formosa a “serial offender” whose “violations were enormous.”

For Diane Wilson, “what happened to the Vietnamese fishermen and their fisheries is what happened to us in Texas. This wrong has to be made right and Formosa must not be allowed to destroy another fishery.”

The letter that will be read at the press conference was signed by seven US Congress persons, urging the government of Taiwan to uphold human rights of Vietnamese nationals, who are victims of the Formosa toxic spill, to help them seek justice in Taiwanese courts, and to hold the Taiwanese company, Formosa Plastics Group, accountable for this major case of environmental injustice.

As the letter states in particular, “Taiwan and the United States share a deep commitment to democracy, human right and to the rule of law. We, as members of Congress, are fully and unequivocally committed to the survival of flourishing of Taiwan’s democracy, and it is absolutely imperative that a judiciary function freely and without political interference. We therefore ask that, in light of the non-cooperation of Vietnamese authorities, the government of Taiwan take all appropriate and lawful measures to enable Taiwanese courts to provide justice to those impacted by the Formosa toxic spill.”