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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Emeutes sanglantes au Vietnam

by Lina Sinkari

Violent Riots in Vietnam

Vietnam Protests China’s Oil Drilling Rig in Contested Waters

Translated Sunday 18 May 2014, by Joseph Fronczak

The wave of discontent in Vietnam against China’s deployment in May of an oil drilling rig in waters claimed by Vietnam in the South China Sea already has resulted in the death of a Chinese worker and the injury of a hundred more. After a series of protests last week, riots broke out Tuesday at first in the country’s southern industrial zones dominated by foreign capital and then spread to 22 of Vietnam’s 63 provinces, with 20,000 protesters taking part. "I have requested that the prime minister take severe measures," Bui Quang Vinh, Prime Minister of Planning and Investments, announced after industrial parks were pillaged, including a Taiwanese-owned steel plant that saw three of its buildings housing Chinese workers reduced to ashes. Amid the riots, several factories, including that of a supplier for Nike and Adidas, closed up shop. "The rioters have left, but we’re afraid they’ll return," Huang Chih-peng, a Taiwanese diplomat, explained. Other factories near Ho Chi Minh City were left in flames on Tuesday. After the deployment of anti-riot police forces and the arrest of 500 people, the Vietnamese authorities assured the public that the situation was under control. Additionally, according to Cambodian authorities, 600 Chinese nationals have crossed the border from Vietnam into Cambodia at the Bavet checkpoint.

The Memory of the Sino-Vietnamese War of 1979 Still Lingers

Not only did Beijing deploy an oil drilling rig into the South China Sea’s contested waters, the regime deployed 83 ships as well. In Vietnam, these maneuvers were understood as acts of aggression and they stirred up nationalist sentiment. Throughout Vietnam, memories linger of China’s many past invasions, particularly the campaigns of the Sino-Vietnamese War of 1979. Such memories infuse each incident with the chance of provoking war.

The exercise of sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly Islands, with their prime locations along maritime routes and their promise of hydrocarbon exploitation, provokes recurrent skirmishes between China, Vietnam, and also Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia, and the Philippines. The United States’ desire to relocate 60% of its naval forces to the Asian Pacific by 2020 has renewed the tensions. Currently, the array of military bases and the United States’ alliances with Japan, South Korea, Thailand, and the Philippines leave Beijing feeling surrounded.

Vietnam Stresses the 1982 Convention of the United Nations on the Law of the Sea

Presently, Hanoi is denouncing Beijing’s activity as "illegal," a violation of the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, and demanding the removal of the oil drilling rig. Interviewed by l’Humanité, Duong Chi Dung, the Vietnamese ambassador in France, declared that "the Chinese escort vessels have rammed into Vietnamese vessels and shot water cannons at them, causing material damage and injuring numerous crew members." The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, meeting last week in Burma, declared its "great concern" and expressed fear that the conflict, which is undermining the region’s political confidence, will spread and implicate other nations.

To make its case, Vietnam stresses the 1982 Convention of the United Nations on the Law of the Sea and affirms its desire to resolve the political crisis. "The victim of countless conflicts and wars, having suffered more conflicts and wars than anyone else, Vietnam hopes for peace and aspires to make peace," Duong Chi Dung explained. At the international level, Great Britain expressed its fear of an "escalation of tensions" while the European Union appealed to Hanoi and Beijing to refrain from engaging in any "unilateral actions detrimental to peace and stability in the region." With trade between China and Vietnam estimated at 50.2 million dollars in 2013, up 22% from the previous year, Beijing is Hanoi’s primary commercial partner, and the two regimes recently have agreed to pacts concerning agriculture, electrical devices, telecommunications, and education.

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