16 Mei 2014

[160514.EN.SEA] Vietnamese Protest China Oil Drilling, Rampage, Loot, Torch factories

TWENTY THOUSAND Vietnamese rioters set fire to foreign factories in the south of the country protesting Chinese oil drilling in part of the South China Sea claimed by Vietnam, Reuters reports.

Photos on social media sites and blogs of the aftermath of the rioting, showed blackened shipping containers, smashed windows and several burnt out overturned vehicles.

Tran Van Nam, vice chairman of the Binh Duong People's Committee, said 6,000 workers first held peaceful protests, but order broke down when numbers swelled to 20,000. Gates were smashed and rioters set 15 factories on fire, he said.

But Taiwanese firms in Binh Duong and Dong Nai provinces that were mistaken for Chinese-owned companies, bore the brunt of the violence, one of the worst breakdowns in Sino-Vietnamese relations since the neighbours fought a border war in 1979.

FY Hong, president of Taiwan's Formosa Industries Corp, one of the firms being attacked, said 300 rioters looted televisions, computers and personal belongings of workers.

"Due to the limited number of police, they couldn't stop the looters. The situation was like in a country where there were no authorities to protect its people," Mr Hong said. The police later said they arrested 200 rioters.

Malaysian-listed furniture manufacturer Latitude Tree Holdings Bhd said its property was ransacked, forcing factory workers to down tools. It did not know when operations at the plant could resume.

"Everyone is terrified," said Serena Liu, chairwoman of the Taiwan Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam. "Some people tried to drive out of Binh Duong, but looters had put up road blocks."

Taiwanese firms had spray-painted messages on the road and across their gates saying "We Support Vietnam" in an effort to distinguish themselves from Chinese enterprises.

The tension over the South China Sea and anti-China violence in tightly-controlled Vietnam has raised fears of an escalation in tensions between the Communist neighbours.

"I fear a dark chapter in Sino-Vietnamese relations is now being written," said Ian Storey, a South China Sea expert at Singapore's Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.

Source : HKSG.

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