Wed, Aug 18, 2010 - Page 1 News List

Mailiao protestors block access to FPG plant

STAFF WRITER, WITH CNA

Clashes erupted between protesters and the police yesterday morning when thousands of angry residents blocked all three major roads leading to the Formosa Plastic Group’s (FPG, 台塑集團) petrochemical complex in Yunlin County after compensation talks broke down the previous day.

Using blow horns and loudspeakers, the angry crowd laid siege to the complex, demanding that the conglomerate pay residents NT$1.8 billion (US$53 million) for polluting the area and allegedly harming their health. They also demanded that the company promise to relocate the facility later this decade.

Close to 1,000 police and at least three prosecutors were dispatched to the scene in an effort to clear the way for employees and keep watch for any illegal activity.

At about 8am, police asked protesters to clear one lane so employees at the plant, as well as clients, could access it. The protesters refused and began throwing water bottles at police officers, whereupon the police chief ordered that seven protest leaders be taken away.

“The seven individuals were arrested for leading the crowd to ‘attack’ police during the protest,” said Fang Chao-tsung (方朝宗), chief of Yunlin County Police Department’s Taisi Precinct.

Police said the demonstration violated the Assembly and Parade Act (集會遊行法) because the organizer did not obtain prior approval from authorities to hold the protest.

After questioning, the seven leaders were released without charge or bail.

No major injuries were reported during the incident, police said.

Yesterday’s protest came after the third round of compensation talks on Monday ended in acrimony when the plastics giant refused to agree to residents’ demand for a NT$1.8 billion compensation package.

An FPG representative said the demand was unacceptable, adding that the company would offer no more than NT$500 million in overall compensation. The group also agreed to subsidize a forestation project of up to 2,600 hectares to help curb carbon emissions.

The talks came after a huge fire on July 25 that set one of the complex’s oil refining plants ablaze. It was the second fire at the complex in three weeks.

Residents of Mailiao Township (麥寮), where the complex is located, and other nearby villages accused the plant of employing poor safety standards and neglecting the potential health risks for people living near the facility.

The residents, mainly farmers and fishermen, have formed self-help groups and demanded that the plant shut down immediately until a more thorough health risk and safety assessment has been conducted.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JIMMY CHUANG AND AFP

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