The Vietnam Briefing, which is released every Monday morning Vietnam time, looks at Vietnam’s social and political developments of the past week.
Vietnam abstained from United Nations’ resolution condemning Russian aggression
- On March 2, as the UN General Assembly approved a nonbinding resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Vietnam remained one of 35 countries that abstained. It is also one of the only two countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN,) together with Laos, that chose not to publicly vote in favor of the resolution.
- In the resolution, the UN stated that it deplored “the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine.” It also demanded that Russia “immediately cease its use of force against Ukraine” and “immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces.”
- Vietnamese Ambassador at the UN Dang Hoang Giang on March 1 made a speech during its special session on the situation in Ukraine, calling on involved parties to “stop the use of force, resume dialogue, and seek longterm solutions to differences.”
- He also mentioned the need to “ensure security and safety of the people and protect essential infrastructure in accordance with international humanitarian law” and asked the international community to “continue providing humanitarian aid for civilians.”
- Nataliya Zhynkina, chargé d’affaires a.i. at the Embassy of Ukraine in Vietnam, wrote in a Facebook status that she was “deeply disappointed” about its abstention.
- As Russia’s closest partner and ally, the Vietnamese government has been largely silent on voicing its support for Ukraine while refraining from criticizing Russia for its unprovoked attacks on a sovereign state. Meanwhile, local pro-government internet users have also been seen widely supporting the Kremlin’s manufactured reasons for its invasion.
Vietnamese scholars, lawyers, and activists show support for Ukrainian people
- Two groups of Vietnamese scholars, attorneys, and representatives from civil society organizations voiced support for Ukraine in its fight against Russia’s invading army. It strikes a markedly different tone than their government’s stance, which has largely been silent on the war.
- In a letter to Nataliya Zhynkina, three dozen Vietnamese declared themselves “freedom lovers” and urged Ukrainians to resist Russia in defense of their “young democracy,” which emerged from an authoritarian past.
- Among the signatories were members of the Civil Society Forum, Nguyen Trong Vinh Club, Le Hieu Dang Club, Lap Quyen Dan, and Vietnam Independent Writers Initiative. They noted that while Vietnam is a communist country, many Vietnamese believe that independence and democracy — values that Ukrainians are protecting — are important.
- The letter and a second one a group of attorneys wrote to Russian President Vladimir Putin circulated among closed groups on Facebook. They stand in sharp contrast to the Vietnamese government’s overarching passivity to the conflict.
- The two letters also criticized Vietnamese who support Putin’s actions in Ukraine. “Given invasion threats from China, as Vietnamese people, they should have empathized with Ukrainian people instead of supporting Putin’s invasion,” Mac Van Trang, an expert on sociopolitical issues in Vietnam, said about the pro-Russia stance of several Vietnamese groups. “How stupid and narrowminded they are!”
- Meanwhile, on March 4, a group of local activists and civil society organizations gave donations worth more than 200 million dong (US$8,755) to the Ukrainian Embassy in Vietnam via its chargé d’affaires Nataliya Zhynkina. The donations were locally raised and “surpassed 200 million after one day,” one of the organizers wrote. “We understand and [...] share the losses that the Ukrainian people and its government have been bearing,” he added.
Vietnamese activist arrested on allegations of “distributing anti-state materials”
- Vietnam’s state media on March 1 reported that Ho Chi Minh City Police had arrested Tran Van Bang, a local dissident, and pro-democracy activist, for investigations of his alleged activities of “storing, making, and posting online materials that propagandize, distort, and defame the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.” It added that his posts had “intended to defy the government and negatively affect social security and order.”
- Bang was subsequently prosecuted under Article 117 of Vietnam’s 2015 Penal Code, which penalizes anyone who “distributes anti-state materials.”According to the police, the investigation agency had conducted a search of his house and “collected a number of books and materials containing anti-state information.”
- Following Bang’s arrest, his attorney - Dang Dinh Manh - told RFA that he was in the process of registering to defend his client. Attorney Manh added that he would be allowed visitation to his client only after the police finished its investigation.
- Bang, 61, is a member of the Le Hieu Dang Club, a local organization advocating for democracy and the protection of Vietnam’s sovereignty, and also a regular attendee at several anti-China protests in Vietnam. In 2015, he was assaulted by security forces at an anti-China rally in Ho Chi Minh City.
Vietnamese court postponed the trial of former journalist
- On March 3, the Hanoi People’s Court announced that the trial of former independent journalist Le Van Dung was postponed after one of the judges tested positive for COVID-19, according to attorney Ha Huy Son.
- Previously, Dung had his trial scheduled on March 11 on accusations of “distributing anti-state propaganda.” The new trial date will be announced later, Son added.
- Commonly known by his pen name Le Dung Vova, Dung was detained in late June last year after the police issued a national warrant for his arrest. He owned a Vietnamese language personal media channel - Chan Hung Nuoc Viet TV - where he reported and live-streamed his comments on different social and environmental issues.
China announces South China Sea drills close to Vietnam coast
“In a statement late on Friday, the Hainan Maritime Safety Administration said the drills would start from the same day and last until March 15.
It provided coordinates for an area roughly halfway between Hainan’s Sanya and the Vietnamese city of Hue. Sanya is home to a major Chinese naval base.”
Salinization in Mekong Delta in Vietnam to a spike in March
“On Feb. 7, Vietnam’s Southern Institute of Water Resources Research (SIWRR) said that the Mekong Delta had been suffering from early salinity intrusion since the beginning of the dry season as China had been limiting water discharge from its upstream hydropower plants.
According to SIWRR, China’s decision to cut water discharge from its storage reservoirs to generate electricity has been one of the key causes of the salinity levels.”
Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam
The Diplomat/ Hai Hong Nguyen/ March 4
“Prima facie, these statements reveal that Vietnam faces a dilemma in how to respond to the war in Ukraine. Reading between the lines, however, Vietnam is sending different messages not only on Russia and Ukraine but also with regard to other potential future conflicts.”
Nikkei Asia/ Huong Le Thu/ March 2
“Still, ASEAN's muted response to Russia's attack on Ukraine is disappointing. Even more so was the joint statement by ASEAN foreign ministers calling for restraint from "all parties."
Trying to remain impartial when one country is bombing the unarmed civilians of another country does nothing to uphold the principle of neutrality. It is, in fact, a blurring of black and white.”
RFA/ Zachary Abuza/ March 2
“Already riddled with divisions over Chinese aggression in the South China Sea, the damming of the Mekong, the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya, and the 2021 coup d’êtat in Myanmar, ASEAN, through its toothless response to the Russian invasion, yet again is proving inept in collectively addressing a security issue with potential implications for Southeast Asia.”
The Diplomat/ Phuong Vu/ March 2
“It should not be controversial to point out that Vietnam and the U.S. share a deeper, more multi-faceted relationship than some nations higher up in Hanoi’s diplomatic hierarchy. Since 2013, the U.S.-Vietnam comprehensive partnership has made significant strides. In 2020, bilateral trade reached $92.2 billion, more than nine times higher than Vietnam’s trade with India. The U.S. is Vietnam’s 11th largest investor, with nearly $10 billion invested in the country."
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