Aug 23, 2010

Q & A on Vietnam and the East Sea

Q & A with Mr. Santoli, founder and President of Asia America Initiative, by Ngoui Viet daily news, a Vietnamese language newspaper in Orange County, California:

1 - China recently sent a navy escorted survey ship to look for oil near Triton island (Paracel islands) only about 100 nautical miles to island of Vietnam. Vietnam’s Foreign Affairs Department protested several times without prevail. Do you think China will continue do what they want at the area that Vietnam and China both claim sovereignty?

Santoli: China believes the entire East or South China Sea belongs to them based upon old Ming Dynasty conquests, the last time they had a global naval force. Ironically, they have become the new "Mongol Horde" [with Chinese characteristics, as the Communists always describe their military modernization of the modern times. Communism is a criminal organization that is empowered by abusing the people that their military police state controls. The best defense against such a force is human will power empowered by freedom and non-corrupted democracy. Free people can plan creatively. This is the importance of the Vietnamese human rights and democracy advocates, not only for the protection of Vietnam but for all the region that is threatened by Chinese Communists forces. That is why courageous and unselfish non-violent activists like my writing partner, Dr. Nguyen Dan Que, in Vietnam must succeed for patriotic and historical reasons.

2 - Vietnam is right now too weak, too small to fight against the giant China, what can Vietnam do to protect their land and sea?

Santoli: The best way to stand up against China at this time is a regional alliance and the protection of the US, Indian, Taiwanese, and Japanese navies. The local countries that claim islands in the Sea should understand that China will try to divide and conquer them politically and militarily. But historically, true strength in Vietnam comes from the unity of all the people. So Communism and any other one-party tyranny must end and give way to popular governance and freedom.

3 – It seems an international meeting to resolve the East Sea (as Vietnam calls it or South China Sea as China calls it) problems may not easy to assemble because China’s objection. Also ASEAN members may be divided under the influences and scare tactics from China, so a conference between China and ASEAN to resolved the East Sea problem through diplomatic channel look like not easy to happen. Your opinion?

Santoli: A unified political resolution may be difficult because of the inherent greed and corruption of politicians and dictators. So for each country, such as Vietnam, there must be strong unity and will power of the people to stand up and resist. The United States navy is also needed to have a strong role. That also will require clear-sighted strategic and political will power in Washington and Hawaii where the US military has a lot of power for decision making in Asia. The US diplomats and military must not see dictators as allies, but continually work for encouraging democracy based on justice and international standards of human rights which most countries agree to in the United Nations covenant on human rights.

4 – China builds up their military might at a very fast speed. They have abundant resources to do it. They build a huge nuclear submarine base at Sanya (Hainan island), they brought a lot of tanks and airplanes to Woody Island (Paracel Islands), they are expanding Triton island (southern Paracel island), if they claim almost all the East Sea as their backyard lake and do whatever they want, will a war be inevitable with Vietnam sooner or later if Vietnam want to protect their interest?

Santoli: At this time, a large regional and international war including economic, political. electronic/cyber and weapons of mass destruction is possible in the coming years. However, deterence to a regional war could be possible if Communism and other forms of militant tyranny are ended by internal non-violent movements. Appeasement of the tyrants by their neighbors will not succeed. People must be strong through holding the "moral high ground" by democratic institutions. False democracy like Ho Chin Minh's murderous communist movement have ultimately weakened the Vietname people's strength and spirit. Historically in Vietnam, popular "people-power" movements have been a factor in defeating Chinese and Mongol invaders.

There is fear in Chinese Communist military-political circles that they are vulnerable to a popular revolt and their knowledge that their wealth is very fragile due to their corruption, reduced markets and lack of natural resources. The Chinese Communists will try to hold on to power, no matter how many people die, much as they abuse millions of Chinese people, Tibetans and other ethnic minorities they hake already conquered. This is where people's strong wills to resist tyranny -- even inside of China -- is so important.

Vietnam can help trigger a needed revolt against communist tyranny by the Chinese people by pursuing democratic reform that can spread like a forest fire to the majority of Chinese people of all nationalities inside of China who also want justice and human dignity. Confucius and Mencius are pioneers in the world of good responsible governance "with Chinese characteristics." Lao Tzu also emphasized harmony and peace in Taoism. Buddhism aught that revenge and lust for power are destructive human tendencies. And there are many Christian and "chi gong" groups like Falun Gong Chinese who courageously abide by peace even when persecuted and tortured by the Communists.

5 – The United Stated repeated several times that they don’t take sides in the conflict, an international solution is a wish of the Vietnamese government now. But to me, to see that comes, an armed conflict may happen first. Your opinion?

Santoli: Dictators and human bullies will always attack the weak and vulnerable, but will hesitate if their neighbors are strong and courageous. As the Chinese martial arts tradition says, "The weak can defeat the strong, with the right attitude and skillfulness." The Chinese military leadership knows this and will use corruption and bribery to keep its neighbors weak. This is why the democracy advocates in Vietnam like Dr. Nguyen Dan Que, the religious organizations and the Internet users and writers are true heroes of the Vietnamese people and in the world struggle for peace and justice, human rights and international security should not be separated.


Here is the original article in the Wall Street Journal:

China’s Aggression and Vietnam’s Legacy

Albert Santoli and Nguyen Dan Que

August 4, 2010

A war of words directed by Beijing’s toward its smaller neighbors and massive live-fire naval exercises in Southeast Asian waters has sent shudders through regional capitols. Beijing’s willingness to flex its muscles is to spit its “Dragon’s fire” against the United States and rival claimants, whose economic lifeline depends upon the 1.3 million square mile South China Sea.

China’s increasing military aggressiveness intends to back its claim that the entire South China Sea -- where close to 50 percent of all international trade must transit -- is exclusive Chinese territory. The islands, reefs and shoals of the South China Sea, potentially rich in gas and oil deposits, are also claimed by Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

On July 23, the ASEAN Regional Forum hosted in Hanoi was the stage for U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to challenge Beijing’s claims. Calling freedom of navigation a “national interest of the United States,” Secretary Clinton called for a Code of Conduct by all claimants in the region.

Despite a 2002 regional code of conduct, the Chinese Foreign Ministry responded on their web site by stating “there is no need to internationalize the issue.” In terms similar to the Japanese World War !! “Greater Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere,” Beijing’s official statement claimed that their dominance was in the interest “of all Asians.” Behind closed doors, China’s Foreign Minister Yang Yeichi accused the United States of “plotting against China.” Yang stared at an ASEAN Foreign Minister and stated, “China is a big country and other countries are small countries, and that’s a fact.”

Beijing backed its words on July 26 with a massive naval and air force exercise in the South China Sea, which its international media called “the largest in PLA history.” The July 26 China Global Times proclaimed, “ It is clear that military clashes would bring bad results to all countries in the region involved.” People’s Liberation Army Chief of Staff General Chen Bingde watched the operation and stated the nation must make "solid preparation for military struggle.”

At the Regional Forum press conference, in courting Hanoi for a military alliance, Mrs. Clinton was effusive in her praise of Vietnam’s dictatorial government. “The extraordinary economic progress, the strengthening of institutions that we’ve seen, are encouraging,” she stated. “Both South Korea and Vietnam are very important models for other countries around the world.”

Secretary Clinton should be praised for standing against a regional bully. But for a reliable alliance with Vietnam, the repressive and non-democratic system must be dealt with clear vision and purpose. Politically, Vietnam is far more similar to Beijing than to Washington. The regime continues to repress religious believers and dissidents who risk their lives their lives to advocate for democratic freedoms for the Vietnamese people. Free speech and internet communication is harshly suppressed. The corruption and self-interest of Communist elite in Hanoi has led to Vietnamese land, natural resources and maritime territory to be ceded to Beijing.

During the course of history what has inspired Vietnamese heroes to rise up against superior Chinese forces has been the respect generated by enlightened and respected leaders.
Ngo Quyen was the first national hero who stood up against China after a thousand years of colonization and declared independence in 938. In the 18th century, China once more invaded Vietnam and suffered a great defeat led by a peasant hero Nguyen Hue (King Quang Trung) . Against the Northern militarily much stronger, each time in danger, Vietnamese Kings and people united in high nationalist spirit, actively fighting side by side. To mobilize all the support from the masses, the Kings always let people participate directly and democratically in the decision making of any national policies as well as implementing them. Among the most famous democratic acts was the Dien Hong Plebiscite made by King Tran Nhan Ton who rallied all the people behind him for national salvation.

The power of consensus among all the stratums of the society has historically helped Vietnam preserve its independence. We must not forget the importance of democracy and freedom in Vietnam today as the most vital strength needed to defend against bullying from the North.

Albert Santoli is the President of Asia America Initiative and is the author of the best selling ”Everything We Had: An Oral History of the Vietnam War.” Dr. Nguyen Dan Que is a dissident in Vietnam, who has received the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award and has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Article: Human Rights and Armed Conflict

Other partner organizations are Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Amnesty International (AI), Asia America Initiative, Benigno S. Aquino Jr. Foundation, Hanns Seidel Foundation, Human Rights Watch-Philippines,

Human rights handbook to shape military operations

August 13, 2010, 5:41pm

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) takes discipline in the military one notch higher with the release of the “AFP Human Rights Handbook,” which shall serve as the Filipino soldier's “bible” as he carry out the armed forces' internal security campaign.

A soft release of the AFP Human Rights Handbook was held Thursday afternoon at Camp Aguinaldo as the world celebrated the International Humanitarian Law Day

The AFP, which had to bear the stigma of the poor image of the military during the martial law days, is continuously hounded by charges of human rights violations. But the present AFP leadership is bent on showing the people that today's new breed of soldiers can be relied upon by the community.

Lt. Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr., AFP public affairs office (PAO) chief, said with the release of the handbook, the Armed Forces takes a major step towards the institutionalization of human rights protection in the new paradigm of warfare it adopted.

“The publication of the Human Rights Handbook was made part of the lined up activities the AFP has been participating in as part of the nationwide celebration of the International Human Rights Law Month, which is being commemorated every month of August here in the Philippines," said Burgos.

The AFP Human Rights Handbook contains an introduction to the Philippine human rights experience – which touches topics such as “A Silent Problem in a Silent War”, the dilemma, source of confusion, misconception of human rights and human rights groups, human rights activities, the prejudices against the soldiers, and the need for a practical guide.
It also gives an analysis of the “soldiers as alleged human rights violators” and the rebels as “alleged human rights violators”.

On the protection and promotion of human rights, the handbook guides soldiers on methods of enforcing human rights and the rights of an accused and suspected person, a person during investigation, and a person on trial.

It also tackles issues as human rights violations under Commission on Human Rights (CHR) jurisdiction.

The AFP HR handbook further deals on the “Law of War for Armed Forces,” which teaches soldiers about non-international armed conflict, command responsibility, exercise of command, behavior in action, treating wounded, sick and missing person; prisoners of war, and particular provisions on specific weapons.

Most importantly, it serves as a practical guide to safeguard human rights of civilians and wounded or captured combatants during military operations, specifically: While not in combat, during combat operations, after an engagement, and steps to be undertaken when faced with human rights case.

In his speech during the event, AFP Chief Lt. Gen. Ricardo David explained the importance of publishing the HR handbook. “The publication of this 'soldiers’ manual' will become the Filipino soldier’s ‘bible’ in our internal security campaign. It is one of the new thrusts set by the AFP leadership in reinforcing existing mechanisms to ensure military discipline and respect for Human Rights,” said David.

“We also recognize that respect for human rights is at its core, a question of values at the individual level. For this reason, we are going to invest extensively in human rights education and values formation for our personnel… Each will not only know the content of the soldiers’ manual but will develop the moral conviction to practice it. Each will understand that respect for human rights is not incidental or secondary to mission accomplishment; it is a prerequisite to mission accomplishment,” he further added.

The AFP Chief issued a directive through Maj. Gen. Victor Felix, Deputy Chief of Staff for Civil Military Operations, J7, to disseminate HR handbooks to major services command, unified commands, and AFP support services units and to use and maximize the handbooks as reference materials in all AFP training schools, the allotment of time for troop information and education of soldiers at all levels of command on the handbook content, and the submission of after activity reports to the headquarters on the implementation of the directive.

Burgos said the AFP human rights handbook embodies the military's thrust to move away from its past authoritarian image and build a new image that will fully embody the Armed Forces' constitutionally mandated role as protector of the Filipino people and the State.

Thursday's event, simultaneously done as the world celebrated the International Humanitarian Law Day, was participated by non government organizations (NGOs) such as the European Union-Philippine Justice Support Programme (EP-JUST) and the International Committee on the Red Cross (ICRC), which are all partner organizations in the publication of the manual. Other partner organizations are Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Amnesty International (AI), Asia America Initiative, Benigno S. Aquino Jr. Foundation, Hanns Seidel Foundation, Human Rights Watch-Philippines, Karapatan, Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates, and Sulong CARHRIHL.

Other personalities who witnessed the ceremony were Prof. Rommel Banlaoi, chairman of the Board and Executive Director of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence, and Terrorism Research (PIPVTR); Fr. Jun Mercado of Human Rights Advocates; and P/Supt. Gerardo Dia of the PNP Human Rights Affairs Office.

Also part of the event was a short video clip by the primary authors depicting the writing procedures that the handbook underwent from conceptualization to publication.