S'pore-linked parks hit as Vietnam fumes
FACTORIES in two Sembcorp-linked industrial estates were torched on Tuesday, as thousands of Vietnamese rampaged in industrial zones in the south of the country after protests against Chinese oil drilling in a part of the South China Sea claimed by Vietnam.
Four factories registered to companies from China and Taiwan were set on fire in the Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Parks (VSIP) I and II in Binh Duong, but there were no casualties reported, VSIP said in a statement.
The industrial parks are run by a joint venture between Vietnam's Becamex IDC Corporation and a Singapore consortium led by Sembcorp Development, part of Sembcorp Industries.
More than 200 tenant employees have been evacuated from the industrial parks, Sembcorp said.
Singapore called in Vietnam's ambassador to the country to voice concerns over the protests, according to a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The ministry said there have been no reports of Singaporeans affected by the demonstrations.
"About 19,000 workers were demonstrating against China's violation of Vietnam's territorial waters," Tran Van Nam, vice-chairman of the Binh Duong People's Committee, told local reporters in the province. "Some workers turned angry, destroying companies' gates and entering the compounds, and asking other workers to join a strike."
Hardcore protesters began looting and attacking security guards and factory management before setting fire to 15 factories, the local authorities said in a statement, with about 100 factories damaged. The rioting subsided by yesterday.
The brunt appears to have been borne by Taiwanese companies in the zones in Binh Duong and Dong Nai provinces, as rioters mistook the firms to be Chinese-owned.
One person was slightly injured and more than 200 Taiwanese people took refuge at a hotel in Binh Duong, according to Chen Bor-show, director general of the Taipei Economic and Culture Office in Ho Chi Minh City.
"The workers are not choosing from which country the factory belongs," said Bob Hsu, general manager of Taiwan's Great Super Enterprise, which has closed its garment factories in the southern province of Dong Nai.
Protesters looking at company names "are just trying to find a Chinese word. (These) include Korean, Japanese factories".
Police said they have detained 500 people for looting and arson.
"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. "And because China wants to keep that oil rig in place into August, these protests could just be the first pages."
Anti-China sentiment has also surged in Manila, as the Philippine government accused Beijing of reclaiming land on a reef amid disputed islands in another area, apparently to build an airstrip.
AFP, REUTERS, BLOOMBERG