So, I don’t know if it’s hit your radar if you’re living outside the country, but Vietnam’s been having some pretty serious civil unrest the last couple of days: in an industrial area called Bin Duong, rather near to Saigon, factories were attacked, looted, and set on fire. The international news coverage seems to have caught on in the last 24 hours, and I see in the articles a lot of attempts to clarify what triggered this outburst:
Thousands of workers rampaged through an industrial area in southern Vietnam on Tuesday in what reportedly began as protests against China’s stationing of an oil rig in disputed waters off of Vietnam’s coast.
It’s been alleged that the police didn’t do much early on–or didn’t have clearance to do much, or feared they were too heavily outnumbered–which allowed this all to spiral out of control, including looting and a lot of fear among Chinese, Taiwanese, Singaporean, and yes, Korean expatriates in Vietnam. A few factories were set on fire, and many more were trashed:
VSIP Binh Duong industrial parks 1 and 2 are managed by a unit of Singapore’s Sembcorp Industries.A VSIP spokeswoman said protesters set fire to three factories but there were no reports of casualties.
Local police have taken over the provision of security at the two parks, she added in a statement.
Anti-China mobs torched up to 15 foreign-owned factories and trashed many more in southern Vietnam as anger over the recent deployment by China of an oil rig in disputed Southeast Asian waters spun dangerously out of control, according to news reports out of Vietnam.
The unrest at industrial parks established to attract foreign investors was the most serious outbreak of public disorder in years.
Apparently a lot of rioters and looters have been arrested–the NYT article above mentions the detainment of over four hundred people–so perhaps the mayhem is dying down… but there were also demonstrations and protests in downtown Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and even in the shopping district near our house, far from downtown.
It seems apparent to me that it’s not really all about the Chinese oil rig, of course. Despite this being a dispute with China, the rampage has been much less discerning: rumor on the Korean web boards has it that a Singaporean factory was one of the worst-hit, and that outside a Taiwanese school, “Chinese” were lynched-in-effigy–that is, a mannequin was hanged by the neck, prompting closures not just at the Taiwanese school but also at the local Korean International School as well.
Not only that: many South Korean-run factories have been attacked; the factory run by one student we know was actually pretty badly trashed, or so we heard tonight. (One of our students joked that maybe his dad was happy to find his office computer smashed to bits, making work impossible, yay!) Fortunately, nobody’s been seriously injured yet, at least not in the news reports I’ve read, but that’s scary, and Bin Duong is a royal mess.
This raises the question: why hit Korean factories?