Harsh sentence for blogger may haunt Vietnam’s environmental movement

first_imgArticle published by Genevieve Belmaker HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam – On April 6, 2016 dozens of tons of dead fish began washing ashore along Vietnam’s central coast. The phenomenon continued through the month, turning into what is considered the largest environmental disaster in the country’s history.Fishing communities in Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue provinces were decimated and left without a way to make income. Public blame for the disaster quickly fell on Formosa Ha Tinh Steel, a massive steel plant operated by the Taiwanese company Formosa Plastics, which reportedly discharged huge amounts of chemicals into the sea in the days before the dead fish appeared.However, the Vietnamese government didn’t announce Formosa’s culpability until June 30, nearly two months after the disaster had unfolded. This delay angered the public, leading to social media commentary and even demonstrations in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s largest cities. These protests were swiftly broken up by the government, and sites like Facebook and Instagram were blocked at times.These events brought the environment to the fore of public discussion in Vietnam and shone a spotlight on Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, a blogger known as Me Nam, or Mother Mushroom. The 37-year-old had been active online for years as a co-founder of the Network of Vietnamese Bloggers, a rare independent organization among the country’s state-owned news agencies.Mother Mushroom had written previously about environmental crimes and state repression, but the Formosa disaster drew major government attention to her writing. On October 10, 2016, she was arrested while visiting a jailed dissident. She was accused of defaming the government.Her Facebook page, which was last updated on May 13, 2016, features posts decrying pollution, a lack of government transparency and the need for a clean environment. It also shares pictures of alleged police brutality, another common theme in Quynh’s writing.On June 29 of this year, Quynh was sentenced to 10 years in prison for “conducting propaganda against the state.” The decision was met with shock, both within Vietnam and abroad. Members of local Facebook groups that rarely discuss Vietnamese politics shared the news of Mother Mushroom’s punishment widely. Many saw it as unfair treatment towards a woman who was simply trying to highlight environmental problems in Vietnam.State-run media outlets reported Quynh’s sentencing, but made little mention of the issues she wrote about. Instead, they focused on official accusations such as publishing distorted information and abusing democratic rights, a commonly used but highly ironic charge in a single-party state.The government, meanwhile, has been unrepentant. In March, Quynh received the International Women of Courage Award from First Lady Melania Trump. Vietnam reacted by saying this was “not appropriate and of no benefit to the development of the relations between the two countries.”Condemnation from organizations like Human Rights Watch over Quynh’s arrest has had no impact, and there is fear that Mother Mushroom’s harsh sentence may deter other activists from speaking up on the environment, which is seen as one of the few sensitive subjects which citizens can openly discuss in Vietnam.It appears likely that Quynh will serve her full term, though she remained defiant in the courtroom, which was guarded heavily during the completely closed one-day trial. Even Quynh’s mother wasn’t allowed to attend.“Each person only has a life, but if I had the chance to choose again I would still choose my way,” the blogger said before her sentence was announced.Michael Tatarski is a freelance journalist based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. You can find him on Twitter at @miketatarski.FEEDBACK: Use this form to send a message to the author of this post. If you want to post a public comment, you can do that at the bottom of the page. Activism, Endangered Environmentalists, Environment, Environmental Activism, Environmental Politics center_img Popular in the CommunitySponsoredSponsoredOrangutan found tortured and decapitated prompts Indonesia probeEMGIES17 Jan, 2018We will never know the full extent of what this poor Orangutan went through before he died, the same must be done to this evil perpetrator(s) they don’t deserve the air that they breathe this has truly upset me and I wonder for the future for these wonderful creatures. So called ‘Mankind’ has a lot to answer for we are the only ones ruining this world I prefer animals to humans any day of the week.What makes community ecotourism succeed? In Madagascar, location, location, locationScissors1dOther countries should also learn and try to incorporateWhy you should care about the current wave of mass extinctions (commentary)Processor1 DecAfter all, there is no infinite anything in the whole galaxy!Infinite stupidity, right here on earth.The wildlife trade threatens people and animals alike (commentary)Anchor3dUnfortunately I feel The Chinese have no compassion for any living animal. They are a cruel country that as we knowneatbeverything that moves and do not humanily kill these poor animals and insects. They have no health and safety on their markets and they then contract these diseases. Maybe its karma maybe they should look at the way they live and stop using animals for all there so called remedies. DisgustingConservationists welcome China’s wildlife trade banThobolo27 JanChina has consistently been the worlds worst, “ Face of Evil “ in regards our planets flora and fauna survival. In some ways, this is nature trying to fight back. This ban is great, but the rest of the world just cannot allow it to be temporary, because history has demonstrated that once this coronavirus passes, they will in all likelihood, simply revert to been the planets worst Ecco Terrorists. Let’s simply not allow this to happen! How and why they have been able to degrade this planets iconic species, rape the planets rivers, oceans and forests, with apparent impunity, is just mind boggling! Please no more.Probing rural poachers in Africa: Why do they poach?Carrot3dOne day I feel like animals will be more scarce, and I agree with one of my friends, they said that poaching will take over the world, but I also hope notUpset about Amazon fires last year? Focus on deforestation this year (commentary)Bullhorn4dLies and more leisSponsoredSponsoredCoke is again the biggest culprit behind plastic waste in the PhilippinesGrapes7 NovOnce again the article blames companies for the actions of individuals. It is individuals that buy these products, it is individuals that dispose of them improperly. If we want to change it, we have to change, not just create bad guys to blame.Brazilian response to Bolsonaro policies and Amazon fires growsCar4 SepThank you for this excellent report. I feel overwhelmed by the ecocidal intent of the Bolsonaro government in the name of ‘developing’ their ‘God-given’ resources.U.S. allocates first of $30M in grants for forest conservation in SumatraPlanet4dcarrot hella thick ;)Melting Arctic sea ice may be altering winds, weather at equator: studyleftylarry30 JanThe Arctic sea ice seems to be recovering this winter as per the last 10-12 years, good news.Malaysia has the world’s highest deforestation rate, reveals Google forest mapBone27 Sep, 2018Who you’re trying to fool with selective data revelation?You can’t hide the truth if you show historical deforestation for all countries, especially in Europe from 1800s to this day. WorldBank has a good wholesome data on this.Mass tree planting along India’s Cauvery River has scientists worriedSurendra Nekkanti23 JanHi Mongabay. Good effort trying to be objective in this article. I would like to give a constructive feedback which could help in clearing things up.1. It is mentioned that planting trees in village common lands will have negative affects socially and ecologically. There is no need to even have to agree or disagree with it, because, you also mentioned the fact that Cauvery Calling aims to plant trees only in the private lands of the farmers. So, plantation in the common lands doesn’t come into the picture.2.I don’t see that the ecologists are totally against this project, but just they they have some concerns, mainly in terms of what species of trees will be planted. And because there was no direct communication between the ecologists and Isha Foundation, it was not possible for them to address the concerns. As you seem to have spoken with an Isha spokesperson, if you could connect the concerned parties, it would be great, because I see that the ecologists are genuinely interested in making sure things are done the right way.May we all come together and make things happen.Rare Amazon bush dogs caught on camera in BoliviaCarrot1 Feba very good iniciative to be fallowed by the ranchers all overSponsoredlast_img read more

Lawsuits test local governments’ ability to clean up Indonesia’s coal mining sector

first_img Popular in the CommunitySponsoredSponsoredOrangutan found tortured and decapitated prompts Indonesia probeEMGIES17 Jan, 2018We will never know the full extent of what this poor Orangutan went through before he died, the same must be done to this evil perpetrator(s) they don’t deserve the air that they breathe this has truly upset me and I wonder for the future for these wonderful creatures. So called ‘Mankind’ has a lot to answer for we are the only ones ruining this world I prefer animals to humans any day of the week.What makes community ecotourism succeed? In Madagascar, location, location, locationScissors1dOther countries should also learn and try to incorporateWhy you should care about the current wave of mass extinctions (commentary)Processor1 DecAfter all, there is no infinite anything in the whole galaxy!Infinite stupidity, right here on earth.The wildlife trade threatens people and animals alike (commentary)Anchor3dUnfortunately I feel The Chinese have no compassion for any living animal. They are a cruel country that as we knowneatbeverything that moves and do not humanily kill these poor animals and insects. They have no health and safety on their markets and they then contract these diseases. Maybe its karma maybe they should look at the way they live and stop using animals for all there so called remedies. DisgustingConservationists welcome China’s wildlife trade banThobolo27 JanChina has consistently been the worlds worst, “ Face of Evil “ in regards our planets flora and fauna survival. In some ways, this is nature trying to fight back. This ban is great, but the rest of the world just cannot allow it to be temporary, because history has demonstrated that once this coronavirus passes, they will in all likelihood, simply revert to been the planets worst Ecco Terrorists. Let’s simply not allow this to happen! How and why they have been able to degrade this planets iconic species, rape the planets rivers, oceans and forests, with apparent impunity, is just mind boggling! Please no more.Probing rural poachers in Africa: Why do they poach?Carrot3dOne day I feel like animals will be more scarce, and I agree with one of my friends, they said that poaching will take over the world, but I also hope notUpset about Amazon fires last year? Focus on deforestation this year (commentary)Bullhorn4dLies and more leisSponsoredSponsoredCoke is again the biggest culprit behind plastic waste in the PhilippinesGrapes7 NovOnce again the article blames companies for the actions of individuals. It is individuals that buy these products, it is individuals that dispose of them improperly. If we want to change it, we have to change, not just create bad guys to blame.Brazilian response to Bolsonaro policies and Amazon fires growsCar4 SepThank you for this excellent report. I feel overwhelmed by the ecocidal intent of the Bolsonaro government in the name of ‘developing’ their ‘God-given’ resources.U.S. allocates first of $30M in grants for forest conservation in SumatraPlanet4dcarrot hella thick ;)Melting Arctic sea ice may be altering winds, weather at equator: studyleftylarry30 JanThe Arctic sea ice seems to be recovering this winter as per the last 10-12 years, good news.Malaysia has the world’s highest deforestation rate, reveals Google forest mapBone27 Sep, 2018Who you’re trying to fool with selective data revelation?You can’t hide the truth if you show historical deforestation for all countries, especially in Europe from 1800s to this day. WorldBank has a good wholesome data on this.Mass tree planting along India’s Cauvery River has scientists worriedSurendra Nekkanti23 JanHi Mongabay. Good effort trying to be objective in this article. I would like to give a constructive feedback which could help in clearing things up.1. It is mentioned that planting trees in village common lands will have negative affects socially and ecologically. There is no need to even have to agree or disagree with it, because, you also mentioned the fact that Cauvery Calling aims to plant trees only in the private lands of the farmers. So, plantation in the common lands doesn’t come into the picture.2.I don’t see that the ecologists are totally against this project, but just they they have some concerns, mainly in terms of what species of trees will be planted. And because there was no direct communication between the ecologists and Isha Foundation, it was not possible for them to address the concerns. As you seem to have spoken with an Isha spokesperson, if you could connect the concerned parties, it would be great, because I see that the ecologists are genuinely interested in making sure things are done the right way.May we all come together and make things happen.Rare Amazon bush dogs caught on camera in BoliviaCarrot1 Feba very good iniciative to be fallowed by the ranchers all overSponsored Article published by Isabel Esterman Coal, Energy, Environment, Environmental Law, Governance, Law, Law Enforcement, Mining, Politics, Rainforest Mining center_img A government commission in 2014 found that thousands of mining permits did not meet Indonesia’s legal standards.Some local governments have moved to shut down violating companies. In one province, South Sumatra, companies are fighting back in court.So far, 10 companies have sued to get their permits reinstated. Five have succeeded. A court in Indonesia has once again ruled in favor of coal mining companies whose licenses were revoked by the South Sumatra Provincial Government.A series of lawsuits by coal companies are currently working their way through the Palembang State Administrative Court — a process activists see as a key test of both the resolve and the ability of local governments to stamp out illegality in the mining sector.In late August and early September, four companies successfully sued to have their licenses reinstated, bringing the total number of successful cases in South Sumatra up to five.A coal mining site in Bengkulu, Sumatra. Photo by Taufik Wijaya/Mongabay-Indonesia.Problematic licensesA 2014 review by Indonesia’s anti-graft agency identified problems with roughly 40 percent of the 10,992 mining licenses issued by local officials in 12 provinces, including South Sumatra. Such licenses were deemed not to be “clean and clear,” meaning they had failed to comply with basic laws regarding environmental impact assessments, payment of taxes and royalties, or proper registration of concession boundaries and corporate information.In response, some local officials took action against violating companies. By April 2017 more than 2,100 permits nationwide were either revoked or allowed to expire without being renewed. In South Sumatra, the provincial government revoked 34 licenses and did not renew an additional 43.So far, 10 coal mining firms have fought back, suing the South Sumatra government for revoking their licenses. Five of these companies have prevailed in court as of this month.Most recently, on Sept. 6, the Palembang court ruled in favor of coal miners PT. Trans Power Indonesia and PT. Duta Energi Minerratama.According to Rabin Ibnu Zainal, director of NGO Pilar Nusantara, the court determined that the companies had already taken steps to resolve the problems with their licenses, and should have been subject to administrative sanctions rather than revocation of their licenses. The gubernatorial decrees withdrawing their licenses were ruled void by the panel of judges overseeing the case, explained Zainal, whose organization monitors coal mining in South Sumatra.On Aug. 29, the court ruled in favor of PT. Brayan Bintang Tiga Energi and PT. Sriwijaya Bintang Tiga Energi, who successfully argued that the local government did not have the authority to shut down their operations.“The reasoning of the panel of judges was that both companies are foreign investors, and so the authority to revoke lies with the central government, in this case the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources,” explained Zainal.This followed a June 8 ruling by the same court reinstating the permit of PT Batubara Lahat.Meanwhile, cases filed by four companies have so far failed. Three of these sued the head of energy and mineral resources for South Sumatra: PT Bintan Mineral Resources, PT Buana Minera Harvest and PT Mitra Bisnis Harvest. Another coal miner, PT Andalas Bara Sejahtera, unsuccessfully sued the provincial governor.A mine pit in Indonesian Borneo with signs posted but no fence. The sign on left says the area is property of PT Bukit Baiduri Energi and is still active. The sign on the right prohibits raising fish in the water. Photo by Tommy Apriando for Mongabay-Indonesia.Looking to the futureThe government of South Sumatra is appealing the verdicts against it.In the meantime, environmental activists are concerned that rulings in favor of coal companies will embolden bad actors in the mining sector, and deter officials in South Sumatra and elsewhere from attempting to take action against law-breaking companies.“This sets a bad precedent,” said Zulfan Setiawan of the South Sumatra branch of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN). Noting that the South Sumatra governor’s actions came in the wake of a nationwide investigation into mining permits, Setiawan said he feared these court cases could have wider implications. “I hope the victory of these companies does not annul or eliminate various matters relating to environmental problems resulting from the activities of coal companies,” he added.Of particular concern to Setiawan are companies whose activities he said threaten customary land held by indigenous people in South Sumatra.Across the archipelago, communities living near coal mines have complained of serious negative impacts from mining firms, including water pollution and the dangers of abandoned mine pits, which have claimed the lives of at least 27 people, mostly children.This story was reported by Mongabay’s Indonesia team and was first published on our Indonesian site on Sept. 18, 2017.FEEDBACK: Use this form to send a message to the author of this post. If you want to post a public comment, you can do that at the bottom of the page.Banner image: an open pit coal mine in operation, by Tommy Apriando for Mongabay-Indonesia.last_img read more