Archive for Pacific Politics

Fierce On Their People, Meek To Their Enemies

Posted in IV. Columns, Politics, Society with tags , , , , , , , , on July 20, 2012 by Ian Pham

A brief protest took place on July 1, 2012 before being cracked down by Communist police.

The much anticipated anti-China protest slated for the 1st of July never took place, at least not to the scale that we all expected.  Much of this is due to the quick work of the Communist police network, who swiftly barricaded, detained, and blocked many areas and leaders key to the operation.  As a result, small scale demonstrations did take place before also being put to bed by the Communist police.

The following Sunday however, July 8, 2012, a modestly sized protest did take place in Ho Chi Minh City.  That protest too was suppressed by the Communist police in Vietnam.  Vietnamese authorities have been on high alert and placing heavy surveillance on its citizen, especially bloggers and writers.  The possibility of large scale anti-China demonstrations keep the Communist Party in a state of fear and paranoia.

In Vietnam, expressing patriotism and love of one’s country is grounds for imprisonment and government retribution.  The Vietnamese Communist Party would rather have a safe and cosy relationship with the PRC than its own people.  Fears of an angry China have prompted the government in Vietnam to constantly suppress and crackdown on their own people.

There is a saying associated with the Vietnamese Communist Party, “fierce to its people, but meek to the Chinese.”  It is quite self explanatory.  The Vietnamese Communist Party uses excessive force and expends heavy resources all with the goal of suppressing the Vietnamese population.  At the same time, they won’t hesitate to lower themselves to the Chinese Communist Party, for fear of an angry China.

Relations between the U.S. and Vietnam have developed substantially in recent years, though human rights remains an issue in Vietnam.

This can all be demonstreated by the VCP’s constant crackdowns of Vietnamese bloggers, writers, and protest organizers.  These individuals have not even expressed anti-Party sentiments.  All they’ve done is express love for the motherland and tried to defend her from the invading Chinese.

It is true that the Vietnamese government has passed a law laying claim to Paracel and Spratly, and greatly angering the Chinese.  However, the very same government continues to be submissive and dove-like when dealing with China’s assertive claims to the southeastern sea.

When compared to the Phillipines’ government, the Vietnamese Communist Party does not measure up.  President Benjamin Aquino III has handled the Phillipines’ situation with China promptly and assertively.  Though the military and naval strength of the Phillipines is not up to par with China’s, or even Vietnam’s, the country has shown that they are a force to be reackoned with.  As a result, the Filipino citizens are fully in support of their government, with the world also nodding with approval.

The VCP should take a lesson from the Philippines and start standing up to China more sternly.  It is true that their strategy of bringing in the U.S. to the matter brings great benefits.  However, their constant abuse of human rights and continued spineless approach in dealing with the PRC’s aggression continues to impede the country’s growth.  The Vietnamese should take a tougher stance on China, and a more respectable approach in dealing with its own citizens.  Only then will true progress be achieved.

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Major Anti-China Protest Planned for Sunday

Posted in Politics, Society with tags , , , , on June 28, 2012 by Ian Pham

Word has been spreading that the people in Vietnam are ready to stage a major demonstration this Sunday to protest China’s latest act of aggression in the Southeast Asia Sea.  The People’s Republic of China has recently offered bids to foreign oil companies to start operating in areas deep within Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone.  The Vietnamese government has declared these actions illegal, and in strict violation of Vietnam’s law and sovereignty.  Beijing responded by claiming that what they are doing is “normal business activity” and warned Vietnam not to further escalate the situation.

Hanoi cites UNCLOS as evidence against China’s “indisputable” claims of control over the entire Southeast Asia Sea, which Vietnam calls the East Sea.  According to Vietnam, the nine offshore oil blocks that China plans to open to foreign firms is well within Vietnam’s EEZ, violating both international law and Vietnamese law.  This dispute comes as part of a long standing tension building in the Southeast Asia Sea.

After much silence and hesitation on this issue, Hanoi has finally raised its voice, prompting the country’s National Assembly to pass a law claiming official ownership of the Paracel and Spratly islands.  These islands are prominently situated in the Southeast Asia Sea, and have been under Vietnam’s control since the Nguyen Dynasty in the 19th century.  China disregards both Vietnam’s historical claims and its claims based on international law.  The Asian giant continues to assert its claims over the sea in its entirety, putting the country into conflicts with its many neighbors.

The people of Vietnam came out to protest Red China in the summer of 2011.  The weekly demonstrations were permitted by the Vietnamese government for a while, but were formally and forcefully suppressed on the 11th week.

In reaction to the assertions of Red China, the people of Vietnam have come together in preparation for the large demonstration slated for this Sunday.  Protests are set to kick off in two of Vietnam’s major cities, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh (Saigon).  This is reminiscent of protests in Vietnam last summer, which were permitted by the government for a time before being forcibly subdued by Communist police.  Though it is difficult to predict what the protests will yield, it will become clear on Sunday morning.

For those of us who are outside of Vietnam, there is really not much we can physically do.  However, it is important to let the Vietnamese within know that we support them, and that we are behind them in their efforts.  Regardless of what country we are originally from or currently live in, Vietnamese everywhere are fighting for the same cause.  To all the courageous Vietnamese coming out on Sunday, just know that we all support you.  God bless.

Vietnam’s Role, and Leverage in the Southeast Asia Sea

Posted in IV. Columns, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , on June 5, 2012 by Ian Pham

This past Sunday, U.S. Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta paid a visit to Vietnam’s Cam Ranh Bay, a major U.S. base used during the Vietnam War.  The visit yielded agreements between the U.S. and Vietnam to open restricted military sites in Vietnam that would permit searches for MIA soldiers of the war.  Behind these agreements however, is the continuation of a deeper goal, the further normalization of relations between two former enemies.

As of today, Panetta is the most senior American official to visit Cam Ranh Bay.  Not only does this visit signify the developing ties between the two sides, it also signifies America’s national interests in Vietnam as a key player in the Southeast Asia Sea.  According to American analysts, Vietnam currently holds a decisive role in shaping the balance of power in the Southeast Asia Sea.  The Center for a New American Security professes that Vietnam is arguably the pivotal player, or “swing-state” for what happens in the sea.  If Vietnam fails to step up to an increasingly assertive China, smaller countries like the Philippines have little chance of resisting.

These insights paint a vivid picture of Vietnam’s potential in dealing with Chinese hegemony.  Of the many countries in Asia at this point in time, Vietnam remains the key obstacle against Chinese expansionism.  As a result, the U.S. continues to pursue better relations with the country.  Unfortunately, these warming relations comes at the cost of human rights in Vietnam.  To keep Vietnam from running into the arms of the Chinese, the United States must turn a blind eye to the atrocious human rights record of Vietnam.  This is the American dilemma.  In order to keep U.S.-Vietnam relations on the right track, the United States is forced to soften its stance on human rights.

Nonetheless, this reality outlines the importance of Vietnam’s role in dealing with Chinese hegemony in the South China Sea.  Vietnam can very well be the difference maker in China’s success or failure in this territorial dispute, and has the power to counter China’s influence in Southeast Asia.  America understands this, and Vietnam understands this.  This is one major reason why the two countries have become so close in recent years, with an increasingly nervous and aggressive China on the periphery.  Though the human rights abuses continue to cause friction between Vietnam and the U.S., the China issue continues to bring the two closer together.

Standing One’s Ground… In the Sea

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , , , on May 24, 2012 by Ian Pham

Tensions have been flaring between the Philippines and China over a topic we know all too well: sovereignty in the Southeast Asia Sea.  As China continues to pursue its rapacious claims over the entire sea in Southeast Asia, one country has stepped up to challenge the Asian giant’s “indisputable” claims of “indisputable” sovereignty, which, along with every other claim China is making, are “indisputable.”  This gutsy contestation comes from China’s little neighbor to the east, the Philippines.

The incident began in early April, when Filippino authorities spotted eight Chinese naval vessels stationed near the Philippines’ Scarborough Shoal.  What followed was a four day standoff between the Philippines and China near Filippino territory, from the identification of the Chinese ships on 6 April 2012, to the near detainment of these vessels on 10 April 2012.  To this day, the diplomatic crisis between China and the Philippines remains unresolved, as neither country shows any sign of backing down.

China’s government and state-run media agencies continue to threaten the Philippines with economic and military retribution if the country continues to resist the assertions of the PRC.  China has increased, and continues to increase, the number of military vessels deployed near the disputed Scarborough islands, which the Chinese call Huangyan.  Tourism from China to the Philippines have been blocked, and the Chinese Embassy in Manila continues to accuse the Philippines of violating China’s “indisputable” sovereignty.

Meanwhile, the Filippino people have gathered in protest outside of the Chinese embassy, sending their message to the Chinese government.  They carry with them signs saying “Stop Chinese Aggression Now!”, “China Back Off!”, and the like.  The Philippines government has also taken a tough stance against the PRC, standing by their people in the face of Chinese aggression.  The country has made military purchases in preparation of armed conflict with the PRC.  Weapons have been purchased from the U.S., with further transactions planned with Japan and South Korea.

Even with these new military expenditures however, the Philippines will still be no match for China in terms of military capability.  The People’s Republic of China exponentially dwarfs the Philippines in military spending.  Materially, the Philippines does not stand a chance against China, the giant to the west.  That being said, the Philippines has taken the necessary steps to defend the rights of their people.  Though they are outclassed and outnumbered, the Philippines refuse to bow down to the demands of a foreign bully, putting them leaps and bounds above the Communists in Vietnam.

Unlike the Communists in Vietnam, who refuse to stand up to the terrorist activities of the Chinese navy, the Philippines is not afraid to speak out.  When the Chinese military kidnapped and terrorized the fishermen of Vietnam, the VCP remained silent on the matter for months at a time.  Any attempt by the people of Vietnam to stand up for their fellow Vietnamese were met with heavy repression by the Communist Party in Vietnam.  Even the brief protests permitted by the Vietnamese government last summer have been quashed for fear of a vengeful PRC.  Put simply, Filippino President Benigno Aquino has resoundingly accomplished what Nguyen Tan Dung was too cowardly to follow though with.

China may be stronger than the Philippines for the time being, but the Philippines has the world on its side.  The Filippino people are fully in support of their government in defence against China, and continue to do so with no hesitation.  Furthermore, the basis of the Philippines arguments are based on international law, which follow the guidelines of the international community.  China’s rebuttal of “indisputable” historical claims remain to be proven, with the recurring term “indisputable” as their only source of defence.  As long as the Philippines stays firm in defence of its people, China will have a very difficult time in Southeast Asia.

Finally, the Vietnamese Government Lay Claims to Paracel and Spratly

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , , , , on December 2, 2011 by Ian Pham

After months of beating around the bush, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has finally released an official claim to the Paracal and Spratly Islands.  Vietnam was the formal the occupier of the Paracel and Spratly Islands since the 18th and 19th centuries, until the Chinese invaded Paracel in 1974, and Spratly in 1988.  The Nguyen Dynasty of Vietnam was the first country to explore and occupy these islands, becoming the sole patron of both Spratly and Paracel for nearly two centuries.  In the 1950’s onward, the Republic of Vietnam held the islands.

Nguyen Tan Dung has formally declared that Paracel and Spratly belong to Vietnam, and has stated that he is willing to use military force to defend the islands from China.  According to Bloomberg News, the Prime Minister is also looking to establish talks regarding the Chinese occupation of Paracel which, as mentioned above, once belonged to Vietnam, and, in legal terms, still belongs to Vietnam.  The Chinese acquisition of Paracel and the current pieces of Spratly are illegal, and still does not constitute as Chinese territory under international law.  Though the PRC holds the islands formally, their rule is illegitimate, and is contestable by Vietnam with historical evidence (and with some help from the military).

The Vietnamese government has announced that they will support the patriotism of the Vietnamese people, so long as that is all the people project.  In other words, the people of Vietnam are free to demonstrate against China, but if their is ever a hint of calls for democratization, the government will shut it down by force.  The official announcement by PM Nguyen Tan Dung on Paracel and Spratly is definitely positive for the country, though it has been long overdue.  There is so much more that the Vietnamese people need, and if the government wants to know what that is, they might want to take a look at Burma.

Chinese Vessel, In Vietnamese Waters, Rammed by Vietnamese Ship (Footage)

Posted in Politics, Videos with tags , , on November 13, 2011 by Ian Pham

The following video shows how a Chinese ship, while trekking into Vietnamese territory, gets pursued by the Vietnamese coastguard, warned, and subsequently rammed by the Vietnamese ship.  There was some skepticism at first on whether this video is authentic or not, but after some careful deliberation, it is more likely than not that this footage is real.  The Vietnamese did chase after a Chinese boat, this is their footage.

I’ll say right off the bat that the Vietnamese are probably the aggressors in this video, as they were the ones to chase down and collide with the Chinese ship.  However, to what extent can we call the Vietnamese the aggressors?  After all, this is just a response to what the Chinese have been doing for years now.  For the longest time, the Chinese have been committing these rimes with no response by the Vietnamese Communists at all.  Furthermore, the Chinese not only rammed the Vietnamese boats, but went as far as to confiscate, kidnap, and murder the civilians on board as well.

This is just a kind response from the Vietnamese government to Beijing, one that has been long overdue.  For too long, the government in Hanoi has remained silent about China and the piracy that they have been committing.  From the looks of things, the new leaders of Vietnam’s Communist Party are less tolerant of China’s belligerence and bullying tactics.  They are willing to call the Chinese out on the crimes they have been committing, which puts them above their predecessors.  However, they are still totalitarians, they are still corrupted, so they are still not that great.

Vietnam Strengthens Naval Capabilities, But It’s Still Not Enough

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , , , on September 5, 2011 by Ian Pham

It has been long overdue, but the Vietnamese government is finally looking to strengthen its own military capabilities.  According to Blog Critics Politics (August 31, 2011), Vietnam has recently acquired a new Gepard class frigate from Russia, with additional orders placed on six new Project 636 Varshavyanka kilo-class submarines. The newly acquired Gepard class warship will be the most capable of Vietnam’s fleet, leading the way for the new development and modernization of Vietnam’s naval forces.

Modernizing the military for the purpose of defending Vietnam’s sovereignty against foreign aggression is a respectable endeavour.  The new weapons purchased from Russia will surely add some much needed muscle to the Vietnamese military, but even so, it will be far from enough. Last year, the People’s Republic of China spent about $91.5 billion on their defence budget, investing heavily in their naval capabilities, using advanced nuclear weapons technology.  If Hanoi wanted to challenge Beijing, there is still much work that needs to be done.  Not only will Vietnam need to order weapons from Russia, but they must look to the United States for support as well.

Currently, the U.S. is prohibited from selling weapons to Vietnam, as part of an arms embargo put in place since 1984.  However, there are many in the U.S. who are considering on lifting the ban of selling weapons to Vietnam.  However, the Vietnamese government’s constant abuse of human rights and freedoms still provides an obstacle.  There are many in the United States who want to help Vietnam, the only thing standing in the way is their dictatorial style of governing.  If Vietnam were to take a stand on corruption and human rights, it is certain that the U.S. will support this change with open arms.  There is an easy way to push Beijing back, and it’s as easy as playing by the rules.