Farmers to drop lawsuits following Vedan payout agreement

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Farmers in Ho Chi Minh City and Ba Ria Vung Tau Province said they will drop their lawsuits against the MSG manufacturer, Vedan Vietnam, if the river-polluter fully follows-through with its compensation committments.

On Monday, Vedan agreed to compensate farmers in Can Gio a total of VND45.7 billion (US$2.39 million) for damages caused by its fourteen year pollution of the Thi Vai River.  

For the past year, the Taiwanese-owned manufacturer has turned down the district's compensation requests and made meager counter-offers to affected farmers.

On Friday, representatives from the Can Gio District Farmers Association in HCMC signed an agreement to postpone litigation on the condition that Vedan pays out 50 percent of the sums promised within the next week.

The second half of the compensation will be paid by January 14, 2011; the money will be guaranteed by the Bangkok Bank Public Co., Ltd. in HCMC, according to the agreement.

Farmers in the southern province of Ba Ria Vung Tau signed a similar agreement [for VND53.6 billion (US$2.8 million) the same day.

In the meantime, authorities in the southern province of Dong Nai, the area most affected by Vedan's pollution, have yet to respond to the company's offer of nearly VND120 billion ($6.29 million).

The Dong Nai farmers are expected to reach a decision after a meeting between authorities and related agencies next Monday.

Meanwhile, local farmers are still filing lawsuits against Vedan, according to Nguyen Duc, Chairman of the Dong Nai Bar Association. Duc said that, so far, they have received 2,500 petitions from farmers, nearly half of which have been filed in court.

In an unrelated river pollution case, authorities in the central province of Quang Ngai Friday asked the Quang Ngai Sugar Joint Stock Company, to meet with affected farmers to formulate a compensation package.

The company was caught discharging untreated wastewater into the Tra Khuc River from May, 2009 until April 2010. Over 420 farmer families in Son Tinh District and Quang Ngai Town have claimed damages worth nearly VND3.9 billion ($204,724).

If the two parties can't reach an agreement, local agencies will help farmers bring the company to court, according to the Quang Ngai People's Committee.

The company's crime was discovered in early May when tons of assorted marine creatures and thousands of ducks were found dead along the river.

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