July 16, 2017
By Defend the Defenders, July 16, 2017
On July 15, security forces in Ho Chi Minh City detained a group of environmental activists when they were walking by foot from the southern metropolitan city to the central coastal province of Binh Thuan in a bid to raise public concern over dumping a huge volume of solid waste into the sea off the local coast.
The group of several activists led by teacher Ngô Thị Thứ (Facebook account Ngo Thu) were with banners “Protect our Environment,” “Không thể đổ chất thải xuống biển” (translated: Waste should not be dumped into sea waters) or “Chúng tôi đi Bình Thuận ôm biển” (translated: We go to Binh Thuan to hold waters).
However, police in HCM City manipulated the walking activists, making some troubles for them and later detaining them to a police station in Tan Phu ward, District 9.
In the police station, police confiscated all belongings of the activists, including their personal documents and cell phones. They interrogated the activists for hours and forced them to sign letters to confess that they were causing public disorders before releasing them in late night of the same day.
Ms. Ngô Thị Thứ said police have not returned her ID and cell phones while Ms, Tran Huynh Nhu Uyen got back her items.
Police and thugs also threatened other activists when they came to the police station to support the detainees.
In June, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment granted a license to Vinh Tan 1 Power Company, investor of Vinh Tan thermal power plant, to dump 1.5 million cubic meters of mud and waste into the sea in the locality, which was eight kilometers from Hon Cau MPA. The mud was collected from dredging canals and quay, where a 100,000 ton-port is being built to welcome coal ships from Indonesia and Australia to serve three Vinh Tan thermal power plants.
Established in September 2012, the Hon Cau MPA is one of 16 marine protected areas in Vietnam, based on the approval of the government.
Mud dumping in the ocean is disapproved by experts and the public, who fear that the dredging and dumping will impact the marine ecosystem, compromise the MPA’s integrity and affect marine resources and local aquaculture production.
Environmental issues are problematic in Vietnam while environmental activists are suffering from the government’s persecution. As Oliver Ward said in his recent article in ASEAN Today, “the Vietnamese government’s decision to crack down on protestors shows their appetite to endorse foreign governments, not the activists.”
In late June, Vietnam sentenced human rights defender and well-known blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh to ten years in prison. Part of the indictment against her was her involvement in protests against the Taiwanese-owned Formosa Ha Tinh Steel plant in north-central Vietnam, which was linked to a catastrophic fish die-off in 2016.
“Mother Mushroom’s prominent ties to the anti-Formosa movement, which the government is increasingly viewing as a security challenge to its authority, means she became the ideal candidate for a heavy sentence designed to sideline her and intimidate others,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for the New York-based Human Rights Watch.