Sông Hậu

Crossing the Hậu River, the Mekong Delta.
Red broth-like water flows strongly under the flat-bottomed barge.
Did the river rust the barge or did the rust colour the river?
The water comes from the Tibetan Plateau, 2000 miles away
or Laos
or Thailand
or Cambodia
or Vietnam
or from the thick damp clouds that burst overhead.
Every afternoon. Like an outpouring of grief.
The Buddha will prevent a car crash.
The father will love his daughter for ever.
The clear plastic cape will keep the rain off.
The thing you dread may never happen.
And of course, you will win the lottery.




In 2016 Vietnam suffered its worst maritime pollution disaster when over 100 tonnes of fish carcasses washed up on the beaches in Hà Tĩnh, Quảng Bình, Quảng Trị and Thừa Thiên–Huế provinces.  Formosa Ha Tinh Steel, a steel plant built by the Taiwanese corporation Formosa Plastics, discharged toxic industrial waste illegally into the ocean through drainage pipes.  After denying responsibility for months, Formosa accepted responsibility for the fish deaths on June 30, 2016.

The disaster disrupted the livelihood of fishermen in four provinces in the central coast of Vietnam. On 4th May 2016, the Vietnamese government announced a ban of processing and selling seafood caught within 20 nautical miles of the central Vietnam provinces, just one day after the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment had claimed that the seafood in the region met safety standards.

According to the local government of Quảng Bình, the fishermen of this province had already lost $5.2 million; in addition, the disaster also heavily impacted the tourism industry as nearly 30% of tourists cancelled their planned tours to the affected provinces for the national holiday season starting on 30th April.

The Vietnamese government has cracked down on peaceful protests and civic action from affected fishermen, including arresting Nguyễn Văn Hoá, a citizen journalist who covered the Formosa protests. He was charged for "conducting propaganda against the state" under Article 88 of the Vietnamese Penal Code and sentenced to seven years prison.  Lê Đình Lượng, another environmental activist who campaigned for just compensation for affected fishermen was arrested for "activities attempting to overthrow the state" in July 2017.


Hanoi In June

“I can’t say what made me fall in love with Vietnam - that a woman’s voice can drug you; that everything is so intense. The colors, the taste, even the rain. Nothing like the filthy rain in London. They say whatever you’re looking for, you will find here. They say you come to Vietnam and you understand a lot in a few minutes, but the rest has got to be lived. The smell: that’s the first thing that hits you, promising everything in exchange for your soul. And the heat. Your shirt is straightaway a rag. You can hardly remember your name, or what you came to escape from. But at night, there’s a breeze. The river is beautiful. You could be forgiven for thinking there was no war; that the gunshots were fireworks; that only pleasure matters. A pipe of opium, or the touch of a girl who might tell you she loves you. And then, something happens, as you knew it would. And nothing can ever be the same again.” 

Graham Greene, The Quiet American