Vietnam protests planned Taiwanese Spratlys visit

Hanoi – Vietnam’s government has asked Taiwan to call off a planned inspection tour of the disputed Spratly Islands, one of two archipelagos in the South China sea claimed by several countries in the region, local press reported Tuesday.

‘Vietnam resolutely objects to all activities violating its sovereignty over the two archipelagos,’ government spokesman Le Dung said.

Taiwanese Defence Minister Tsai Ming-hsien was scheduled to visit the Spratlys on Monday before postponing the trip due to bad weather.

Vietnam, Taiwan, China, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei each claim all or part of the Spratlys and the nearby Paracels, and all but Brunei have a military presence on one or more of the atolls. Taiwan has built an airstrip on the largest of the islands, while Vietnam has stationed sailors on another.

The waters around the islands are believed to contain substantial petroleum reserves.

Conflict over the islands began heating up in November, when China established a new government district, called Sansha, to administer them. Vietnam officially protested the Chinese move, and Vietnamese students staged rare spontaneous protests in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City asserting Vietnamese sovereignty.

To avoid military clashes in the region, China, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand signed the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.

The declaration commits the parties to resolving the islands’ status through negotiations, and provides for freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.

Taiwan is not a signatory to the declaration because China regards Taiwan as a breakaway province and has barred Taiwan from attending official meetings on the Spratlys.

Taiwan leader visits disputed Spratly islands: ministry

TAIPEI (AFP) — Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian on Saturday visited the Spratly islands, the defence ministry said, in a move aimed at underscoring Taipei’s claim to the disputed group but which will likely spark tensions in the region.

Soon after his arrival at Taiping islet, the president oversaw the opening ceremony of a newly-built runway, the ministry’s news agency said on its website.

It added that Chen, the first Taiwanese leader to visit the Spratlys, was “warmly welcomed” by troops stationed there after arriving at 10:32am (0232 GMT).

Speaking at the ceremony, Chen proposed a “Spratly Initiative” calling for a peaceful solution to the disputed claims of the group and promoting marine conservation in the region, a presidential statement said.

“Facing the complicated and sensitive territorial and sovereignty disputes in the South China Sea, Taiwan urges the countries involved to peacefully resolve the issues” according to international regulations, the statement quoted Chen as saying.

Chen left Taipei early Saturday on his presidential jet to a base in Taiwan’s south where he took an air force C-130 transport plane to the Spratlys.

He spent several hours in Taiping, the biggest island in group, to inspect troops before the Lunar New Year on February 7. Defence Minister Lee Tien-yu and Interior Minister Lee Yi-yang accompanied the president.

Vietnam has strongly criticised Chen’s visit to the Spratly Islands, in a statement reported by state media Sunday.

“Taiwan has to take full responsibility for any consequence caused by this action,” said foreign ministry spokesman Le Dung in reaction to Chen’s visit to Taiping, the largest island in the group.

“Vietnam considers the action a serious escalation that violated Vietnam’s territorial sovereignty in regard to the Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelago and increased tension as well as complication in the region.”

Dung reiterated that Vietnam possesses strong historic evidence and legal grounds to confirm its sovereignty over the Spratly and Paracel archipelagos.

“Vietnam demands Taiwan put an immediate end to such violations in the region,” Dung said in a statement carried by the Vietnam News Agency.

The visit is sure to also irk China, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines who claim all or part of the potentially oil-rich islets in the South China Sea.

The Philippines on Saturday expressed “serious concern” over Chen’s trip and warned it could affect relative peace in the area.

“The Philippines, therefore, urges all parties concerned to exercise prudence, self-restraint and use diplomacy as the toll to settle disputes,” Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo said.

Taiwanese media have said the visit was aimed at drumming up support for Frank Hsieh, the candidate for Chen’s independence-leaning ruling Democratic Progressive Party in the March 22 presidential election.

Hsieh is locked in a heated race with the opposition Kuomintang’s Ma Ying-jeou to succeed Chen, who is to retire in May after eight years in office.

Taiwan’s defence ministry completed construction of the 1,150-metre-long (3,800-feet) runway on fortified Taiping in December, despite opposition from Vietnam.

Vietnam protests Taiwan military flight to Spratlys

HANOI — Vietnam on Thursday protested a Taiwanese military flight to one of the disputed Spratly Islands, amid reports of a planned visit there by Taiwan’s President Chen Shui-bian.

Taiwan on Monday for the first time sent a military aircraft, a C-130 transport plane, to one of the Spratly islands for a one-day return trip, a defense official in Taipei said Wednesday.

Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei, China, Malaysia and the Philippines claim all or part of the potentially oil-rich Spratlys.

“Vietnam requests Chinese Taipei to stop immediately this action and to stop similar actions in the region,” said Vietnam’s foreign ministry spokesman Le Dung, using the name by which communist China refers to Taiwan.

Dung told a media briefing that “Vietnam resolutely opposes all acts violating the sovereignty of Vietnam” over the Spratlys and the Paracels, another disputed island group in the South China Sea.

The Taipei-based United Daily News reported Chen was planning a trip to the Spratlys before the March 22 presidential election to underscore Taipei’s claim to the archipelago.

Chen, who is to retire in May after eight years in office, planned to take an air force C-130 transport aircraft to the Taiping islet, the biggest island in the Spratlys, the newspaper said.

The trip, if it goes ahead, would likely trigger protests from claiming countries.

Taiwan’s defense ministry began building a 1,150-meter (3,773-feet) runway on the fortified Taiping islet in mid-2006, despite protests from Vietnam, and the project has been completed, the paper said.

All claimants except Brunei have troops based on the archipelago of more than 100 islets, reefs and atolls, which have a total land mass of less than five square kilometers (two square miles).

Vietnam : Taiwanese garment plant workers call on strike

On January 21, all workers of Sweneo Company, the 100 percent Taiwanese invested enterprise, walked off to demand salary hike and improved working mechanism.

The Sweneo, which is basically a manufacturer of under-garments, is located in Tan Thuan Processing and Exporting zone, the first EPZ of Vietnam. The company has recently forced its labourers to work longer shifts without increasing their payments.

According to an official of the Tan Tuan Processing and Exporting zone, leaders of the Swenco have agreed to negotiate with workers and discuss regarding the wage rise by January 23.

Taiwan president to visit disputed Spratly islands

TAIPEI, Jan 20, 2008 (AFP) –

Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian is planning a visit to the Spratly islands in the South China Sea to underscore Taipei’s claim to the disputed group, it was reported Sunday, in a move that is sure to spark tensions in the region.

The trip, which would come before presidential polls on March 22, is aimed at drumming up support for Frank Hsieh, the ruling independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) candidate in the election, the Taipei-based United Daily News said.

Chen, who is to retire in May after eight years in office, plans to take an air force C-130 transport aircraft to the Taiping Islet, the biggest island in the Spratlys, the newspaper said without citing its source.

It added that since the F-16s could not fully protect Chen during his trip to the islet, which is some 1,600 kilometres (960 miles) from Taiwan’s southern Kaohsiung city, the navy would send a fleet to the Spratlys led by a Kidd-class destroyer.

Presidential Office spokesman Lee Nan-yang would not confirm the visit. “The president visits various troop units before the Lunar New Year each year,” he told AFP.

“He may do so this year to boost military morale, but we’ve yet to receive this year’s visit plan from the defence ministry.”

If it takes place, the trip would lead to protests from neighbouring countries — including its rival China — which also lay claim to the islands, the daily said.

Taiwan’s defence ministry began building a 1,150-metre-long (3,795-feet) runway in the fortified Taiping islet in mid-2006, despite protest from Vietnam, and the project is nearly complete, it said.

The DPP suffered a humiliating defeat in parliamentary elections on January 12, with the major opposition Kuomintang and its smaller allies winning 86 of 113 seats. Chen immediately resigned as DPP chairman.

Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei, China, Malaysia, and the Philippines claim all or part of the potentially oil-rich Spratlys.

All claimants except Brunei have troops based on the archipelago of more than 100 islets, reefs and atolls, which have a total land mass of less than five square kilometres (two square miles).

2,000 Vietnamese workers strike at Taiwan-owned plant

<P>HANOI (Thomson Financial) – About 2,000 workers have gone on strike at a Taiwan-owned textile plant in southern Vietnam, complaining their wages are not keeping pace with rising consumer prices, a labour official said Friday.</P> <P>The workers walked out on Thursday from the CCH Top company plant in Ho Chi Minh City and kept striking Friday, claiming a new basic monthly salary from January 1 of 1.070 million dong (about 67 dollars) was too low.</P> <P>’With the rapid hikes in goods prices … the salary is not enough for living,’ said workers’ representative Pham Dao Nguyen.</P> <P>The industrial action was one of several this week in foreign-owned plants in Vietnam, a low-wage economy of 84 million and a major producer of textiles, garments and footwear as well as electronics and food products.</P> <P>Workplace disputes have risen in recent years, with many strikes before the traditional Tet lunar New Year, which is in mid-February this year, when prices go up and workers need more money to travel home to their families.</P> <P>Inflation topped 8 percent last year, and consumer prices jumped over 12 percent in December compared to the same month in 2006.</P> <P>The communist government said it has raised the minimum wage from January 1 for labourers to 540,000 dong and to at least 800,000 dong for workers in foreign-invested enterprises, the state-run Vietnam News Agency reported.</P> <P>Several more strikes hit foreign-owned factories in the country’s south this week, labour and company officials said.</P> <P>Some 1,480 textile workers went on strike at the South Korean-owned Sh Vina Company in Long An province Wednesday, but workers were back Friday after salaries were raised to an average of 1.4 million dong, an official told Agence France-Presse.</P> <P>About 500 workers at the Japanese-owned Mitsuba M-Tech also went on strike Wednesday, asking for travel and accommodation allowances, and returned Thursday after winning a 140,000 dong monthly allowance, said a company official.</P> <P>About 1,200 workers at the Taiwan-Vietnamese Duc Thanh II footwear plant in Dong Nai went on strike Wednesday but returned Friday after the company raised monthly wages by 150,000 dong, a company offical told AFP.</P> <P>The Tuoi Tre newspaper also reported strikes by hundreds of workers in the Tung Kuang Company in Dong Nai, and the Anjin company in Ho Chi Minh City on Wednesday over wages and allowance issues.</P>

News from Taiwan: Victims to get job skills training

Let’s not kid ourselves here, Taiwan’s government has had a very shady record when it comes to dealing with victims of outrageous human rights violation, in this case human trafficking. In response to the International Conference on Globalization and Human Rights of Migrants held at National Taiwan Normal University, Taiwan leading government heads scrambled to get remarks out in regards to the treatment of these trafficking victims. The NIA has also made many promises in the past to address the concerns of the treatment of migrants detained in the various detention centers throughout Taiwan. Nevertheless, such a statement about the future of a victim-centered approach to  trafficking victims is a step forward, if only in baby steps. Let’s hope NGOs, civil societies, and human rights activists hold the Taiwanese government’s feet to the fire. 

From Taipei Times:

HUMAN TRAFFICKING: An Immigration Affairs division director said the training would be implemented in shelters to help victims avoid being abused in the future

By Loa Iok-sin
Saturday, Dec 08, 2007, Page 2

Human trafficking victims awaiting return to their countries of origin may be able to work and learn new job skills in shelters starting as early as next year, a National Immigration Agency (NIA) official said yesterday.

Immigration Affairs Division Director Chien Hui-juan (簡慧娟) made the remarks when answering complaints made by a rights activist during a conference on migrant rights held in Taipei.

Zhang Yu-hua (張育華), executive director of the Taiwan International Family Association told delegates at the conference that neither the immigration authorities nor the legal system treat human trafficking victims as “victims.”

Zhang cited a case she had worked on recently as an example.

“Six Vietnamese women came to Taiwan as migrant workers,” Zhang said. “Although the broker in Vietnam told them they would be preparing food at a lunch box factory, they were sold into the sex industry instead.”

Although they were considered by police and prosecutors as victims, “they were not treated as victims,” Zhang said.

The six women were put into a shelter in March and stayed there until August when they were required as witnesses at a court hearing, Zhang said.

“They could not work during that period. They didn’t know how long they had to wait. For most of the time, they could only stay in the shelter, watching TV, sleeping and eating,” Zhang said. “They felt miserable the whole time.”

Zhang said during this time they were not asked if they wanted to be witnesses in the case, nor were they even told that they were expected to be witnesses, Zhang said.

After the six women were finally allowed to return to Vietnam in August, “an immigration officer asked us to provide evidence to prove they were victims before the NIA would waive their penalties for overstaying their visas,” Zhang said. “It makes me wonder whether they were considered victims or criminal.”

In response, Chien said the agency had started solving some of these problems.

“The Cabinet has approved a three-year project proposed by the NIA, which includes solutions to many of these issues,” Chien said.

One that may become a reality next year, Chien said, is allowing work or job skills lessons to be held in shelters.

“The reasoning behind this is, if these human trafficking victims don’t have any job skills, they may become victims of human trafficking again in the future,” Chien said. “That’s why we believe it may provide a solution to this issue if they can learn some skills while staying in the shelters.”