Taiwan prepares safe houses for citizens in Vietnam
MOFA expands yellow alert to all of Vietnam
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-05-17 03:10 PM
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Saturday issued a yellow travel alert for all of Vietnam ahead of May 18 anti-China protests which were feared could turn into attacks against Taiwanese.

Over the past week, angry Vietnamese looted and burned dozens of Taiwanese businesses in protests directed against China’s operation of an oil-drilling rig in disputed waters.

MOFA also said it had prepared safe houses where Taiwanese citizens could seek refuge if violence erupted. The Vietnamese government said it would not tolerate Sunday’s protests to turn into looting or rioting.

MOFA said it had prepared temporary refuges at several locations in the most troubled areas. If Taiwanese citizens needed to flee or to go into hiding, they would find safe houses. The list included the Taiwan representative offices in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, the Taiwanese school and the Nikko Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City, and seven hotels in Binh Duong and Dong Nai, MOFA said. Associations of Taiwanese business people in other provinces were also arranging for safe houses, and local public security authorities had been asked to provide protection.

Contacts had also been established with car rental firms to provide cars or even buses should Taiwanese have to leave a particular area for example to reach the airport, MOFA said.

Foreign Minister David Lin said that if necessary, military planes could also be mobilized in case of a massive exodus overwhelming regular airlines, though at present there were still 400 seats available on regular flights from Vietnam to Taiwan, reports said. A series of phone numbers for special assistance in Vietnam was listed on the ministry’s website.

In addition to the yellow alert, MOFA also issued a higher-level orange alert for Ho Chi Minh City, the former South Vietnamese capital of Saigon. Two provinces in the area also subject to an orange alert, Binh Duong and Dong Nai, were the most seriously hit by violence. The four-tier alert system has red at its most serious level, then orange, yellow and grey.

Despite assurances by the Vietnamese authorities that they were in control and would protect Taiwanese citizens and businesses against violence, calls for national anti-China protests on Sunday May 18 had Taiwanese rattled, reports said.

Protesters were likely to converge on the Chinese embassy in Hanoi and the Chinese consulate in Ho Chi Minh City, reports said. MOFA advised Taiwanese citizens not to approach the protests and to stay away from crowded places in general. The government also did not want Taiwanese business people to seek protection from the Chinese embassy, reports said. Critics have blamed the attacks against Taiwanese citizens on President Ma Ying-jeou’s policy of forging closer ties with Beijing.

Vice Premier Mao Chi-kuo, who is in charge of a special Cabinet taskforce monitoring the situation in Vietnam, called on the Transportation Ministry and on MOFA to stand by in case assistance has to be provided to Taiwanese nationals. Over the past week, regular and special flights evacuated more than 5,700 citizens out of Vietnam.

Mao told the taskforce meeting Saturday morning that the government was still interacting with its counterpart in Vietnam to make sure the safety of the Taiwanese was being adequately protected.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs reported that a total of 107 Taiwanese businesses had been damaged, with ten quite seriously, even to the point they had no way of resuming operations in the short term. The ministry said it was calculating the level of the damage to prepare for the filing of compensation claims. A MOEA delegation would travel to Vietnam next week to assess the needs of Taiwanese investors there.

Transportation Ministry officials said the travel situation had improved, and there was no longer any problem for Taiwanese looking for flights out of Vietnam. Earlier reports said that only a few hundred members of tour groups preparing to travel to the communist country later this month had canceled their trip. An estimated 2,000 Taiwanese nationals were planning to tour Vietnam in the near future. The authorities there said tourists would be safe, but Taiwan nevertheless advised travel agencies not to send tours on their way Saturday and Sunday.

Vice President Wu Den-yih called on the government in Vietnam to restrict violent action from its own people and to guarantee a safe and stable environment for investors. If it did not succeed in doing so, events would affect the country’s international image, Wu said.

Taiwan was too far so it could not send any police to Vietnam, but the government was doing its best to assist local Taiwanese citizens in matters such as the evacuation to safer locations, according to the vice president.

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