Foreigners urged to leave Vietnam province after anti-China protests

Protesters hold anti-China placards while marching in an anti-China protest on a street in Hanoi on May 11, 2014. Foreigners working in the Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Park (VSIP) were urged to leave the province in southern Vietnam, after thousands
Protesters hold anti-China placards while marching in an anti-China protest on a street in Hanoi on May 11, 2014. Foreigners working in the Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Park (VSIP) were urged to leave the province in southern Vietnam, after thousands of native workers went on a rampage, torching Chinese factories in protest of Beijing's deployment of an oil drilling rig in disputed waters. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS 
A gate from a factory in Binh Duong province destroyed following anti-China protests in Vietnam. -- PHOTO: ST READER BENJAMIN
A gate from a factory in Binh Duong province destroyed following anti-China protests in Vietnam. -- PHOTO: ST READER BENJAMIN
Thousands of workers staged a protest at an industrial park in southern Vietnam Tuesday over China's deployment of a drilling rig in contested waters, damaging factories and offices. -- PHOTO: ST READER BENJAMIN
Thousands of workers staged a protest at an industrial park in southern Vietnam Tuesday over China's deployment of a drilling rig in contested waters, damaging factories and offices. -- PHOTO: ST READER BENJAMIN

HANOI - Foreigners working in the Vietnam Singapore Industrial Park (VSIP) were urged to leave Binh Duong province in southern Vietnam, after thousands of native workers went on a rampage, torching factories in protest of Beijing's deployment of an oil drilling rig in disputed waters in South China Sea.

Benjamin, a Singaporean working in a factory at the industrial park in Thuan An district, Binh Duong province, told The Straits Times on Wednesday that all foreign staff have been advised to leave the province for nearby Ho Chi Minh City.

"VSIP officer just called and advised all foreigners to leave Binh Duong Province as the situation is bad n messy," he wrote to The Straits Times on Wednesday morning. VSIP's two industrial parks in the province are run by Singapore's Sembcorp Industries, a public-listed energy, water and marine group. Many Singaporeans work there, according to Benjamin.

But he said he would not leave the province immediately as the situation seemed calm on his way to work this morning.

"I feel safe, so I will play by ear," he added.

The Straits Times reader, who declined to share his last name, was also at the scene when the protests erupted on Tuesday night, and witnessed how protesters set some facilities ablaze.

"Taiwanese n Chinese companies suffer the same fate," he said.

Tens of thousands of workers staged a walk-out on Tuesday and went on a looting rampage before setting fire to at least 15 factories, the state-run VNExpress website reported. 

“About 19,000 workers were demonstrating against China’s violation of Vietnam’s territorial waters,” Mr Tran Van Nam, vice chairman of Binh Duong people committee was quoted as telling local reporters by Reuters. “Some workers turned angry, destroying companies’ gates and entering the compounds and asking other workers to join a strike.”

The protesters targeted mainly Chinese-owned manufacturing firms, prompting China’s embassy in Vietnam to urge its citizens to "take security precautions and avoid unnecessary trips outdoors” in an online statement.

But some Taiwanese firms also suffered damage. The Council of Taiwanese Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam said the protests had caused huge losses to Taiwanese companies, like Formosa Plastics Group, which invested US$500 million (S$626 million) building a petrochemical and fiber plant there last year, reported Reuters.

Taiwan foreign minister David Lin also urged the Vietnamese workers to "exercise restraint and not to take violent and non-rational actions as this would affect Taiwanese businessmen’s willingness to invest".

A number of Taiwanese, Japanese and South Korean businesses have stopped their operations for the day. Some also flew Vietname flags outside their premises to deter angry looters, AFP reported, quoting VNExpress. 

Firms from many Asian counties including China, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan have set up manufacturing units in Binh Duong. Along with Dong Nai and Long An provinces, they form an important industrial hub in southern Vietnam.

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