China deploys more ships in Vietnam waters

HANOI - China has sent two more armed naval ships to waters surrounding the Haiyang Shiyou-981 oil rig illegally set up in Viet Nam's waters, according to a senior official from the Viet Nam Fisheries Surveillance Force.

When they arrived, the vessels removed unveiled canvas sheets hiding their weapons, intimidating Vietnamese fishing vessels, said Nguyen Van Trung, deputy head of the Viet Nam Fisheries Surveillance Department at a press conference in Ha Noi on Saturday.

Trung said the Chinese ships kept approaching and provoking the Vietnamese forces patrolling Viet Nam's waters around the oil rig.

He said the warships included a fast-attack missile craft coded 755 and a fast patrol attack craft coded 789.

He added that as Viet Nam Fisheries Surveillance ships approached the oil rig to demand China remove it, many Chinese ships encircled, rammed and fired water cannons into Vietnamese ships.

Trung said one Chinese ship intentionally rammed a Viet Nam Fisheries Surveillance Force ship when it was on duty about seven nautical miles from the oil rig.

At the same time, Chinese "fishing" vessels continued to surround Vietnamese fishing vessels, however, the Vietnamese refused to move from their traditional fishing grounds.

The Vietnam Fisheries Surveillance Force said it had tried to exercise the utmost restraint. Together with the Coast Guard Force, it continues to provide support for Vietnamese fishing boats to ensure their safety and operations, said Trung.

In a bulletin aired on Radio Voice of Viet Nam, Trung said that by yesterday afternoon, China had 134 ships of various kinds, including coast guard ships, warships, refuelling ships and fishing vessels, around the oil rig.

In another development, the Minister for Public Security, Tran Dai Quang, on Saturday telephoned his Chinese counterpart, Guo Sheng Kun, over recent public protests against the oil rig set up within Viet Nam's continental shelf and exclusive economic zone.

Quang updated the Chinese official about incidents at industrial parks in the southern provinces of Binh Duong and Dong Nai, central Ha Tinh province and HCM City.

He told the Chinese minister that some people had used the spontaneous protests to create social disorder and that dozens of policemen had been injured.

He added that the incidents were regrettable and that hundreds of people for being held for investigation.

The Vietnamese Government has promptly directed ministries, agencies and localities to take measures to help the affected businesses resume their activities and enable local foreigners to stabilise their lives, he said.

Trung said China should withdraw the oil rig from Viet Nam's exclusive economic zone and suggested the two sides sit down and hold talks to clear up differences.

Meanwhile, police in central Ha Tinh province have launched legal proceedings against 16 people involved in a disturbance at the Vung Ang Economic Zone.

The suspects are being investigated on charges of causing public disorder, intentionally injuring others, destroying and stealing assets, said Colonel Bui Dinh Quang, deputy chief of the provincial police, yesterday.

Earlier, local police also started legal proceedings against a public disorder case at the zone's Son Duong Formosa deepwater port project on May 14.

The province's competent agencies are conducting further investigations and encourage people to hand in images and video clips on the incident to be used as legal grounds for strictly punishing the offenders under the law.

Many foreign experts and workers were discharged from hospital at the weekend. They thanked doctors and nurses at Ha Tinh hospitals for their treatment.

Internationl press conference

An international press conference was held in Ha Noi on Saturday to inform foreign reporters about bad individuals' extremist actions that affected social order and safety in several localities in the country.

Dang Minh Khoi, Assistant to the Foreign Minister and head of the Northeast Asia Department under the Foreign Ministry, said right after learning about the incidents, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung immediately chaired several meetings with concerned Ministries and localities on how to promptly fix the situation.

He underscored that the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry has maintained regular contacts with foreign agencies in Ha Noi and HCM City to promptly handle the protection of foreign citizens in Viet Nam as well as their legitimate rights.

Lieutenant General Hoang Kong Tu, head of the Investigation Security Agency under the Ministry of Public Security, reported that the agency is working hard to investigate whether workers received money to participate in destroying the assets, but no official information on the action has been found.

Regarding the issue, the local police commenced criminal proceedings against 300 people on charge of appropriating and destroying assets, causing public disorder, and taking actions against on-duty officials.

He reported that several foreigners in Viet Nam were found to work without work permits and were sent to their homeland.

Lieutenant General Tu confimed that two people lost their lives in the incidents due to their fights with the rioters, which were out of expectations.