Around 300 Vietnamese workers have been held in isolation for the last eight months at a China-backed power plant amid COVID-19 concerns and have been refused permission to return home for the Lunar New Year, sources in the country say.
The workers have been held at the Vinh Tan 1 Thermal Power Plant in the Tuy Phong district of Vietnam’s southeastern Binh Thuan province, with anyone caught leaving the plant immediately fired, one worker told RFA this week.
“We have been isolated in this plant since June 1. We all work, eat and sleep here and have no contact with the outside world,” the worker said, speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons.
“There are around 300 Vietnamese people working at this plant, and though we are being provided with food and accommodation, we always wish we could be living there in the outside community,” he said.
Two other Vinh Tan power plants in the area are managed by the Vietnam Electricity Corporation and released their workers a month ago, the worker said. However, Vinh Tan Power Plant 1 is managed by Chinese investors and has kept its workers inside.
No announcement has been made about when the isolation will end, the worker said.
“The company hasn’t responded to many local workers’ wish to be able to return home each day after work to prepare for the Lunar New Year and celebrate with their families. We tried to raise this issue with company managers but were immediately told to stop,” he said.
Workers at the plant are frustrated and angry but don’t dare to speak up, the worker said.
“If only some of us stood up, we would be fired right away or be targeted by managers for retaliation later on, and this would affect our ability to support our families,” he said.
Union representatives have collected workers’ opinions to present to the company and have met with company managers, but no response has been received, the worker said.
A Jan. 13 document sent by the Tuy Phong District People’s Committee and seen by RFA designates the Vinh Tan 1 Plant as a low-risk “green zone” with no infections reported for more than 28 days, and urges company managers to let workers leave the plant.
As of Jan. 24, no workers had been allowed to leave, however.
Calls seeking comment from the Tuy Phong District People’s Committee this week were not picked up.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Anna Vu. Written in English by Richard Finney