NEW CHINA TIMES
Japanese lawmakers called on the government Tuesday to provide compensation to thousands of unrecognized victims of Minamata disease, a debilitating disorder caused by eating fish tainted with mercury, ahead of the 50th anniversary of the official diagnosis of the illness.
After victims endured decades of social stigmatization, corporate bullying and legal battles, the Supreme Court in October 2004 held the government responsible for allowing the pollution to continue for years, and ordered it to compensate 37 plaintiffs who were among 12,000 officially unrecognized patients.
Following the ruling, the government last April announced plans to expand its support program for thousands of patients who weren’t previously eligible for government help.
The disease was named for Minamata Bay, where a Japanese chemical company, Chisso Corp., dumped tons of mercury compounds.
Since the 1950s, thousands of people have contracted the degenerative neurological disorder.
“The government must take the ruling seriously and implement measures steadily and comprehensively so that all the Minamata victims, who have endured pains both physically and mentally through the 50 long years, can live in peace and understanding,” said the nonbinding resolution, passed by Parliament’s lower house ahead of the 50th anniversary of the first government recognition of the disease on May 1.
The Supreme Court ruling ordered the government and Kumamoto prefecture (state) in southern Japan to provide compensation ranging from 1.5 million yen to 2.5 million yen (US$13,090 to US$21,820; euro10,590 to euro17,650) to each plaintiff.