Last update 6/10/2011 4:51:00 PM (GMT+7)

East Sea: Fear doesn’t drive back danger

VietNamNet Bridge – There are circumstances that quietness doesn’t help us to avoid danger, but enhances the danger because the quietness misleads others as feebleness

VN condemns Chinese intrusion

Introduction:Andre Menras, a retired French teacher, is honored to be the first foreign man granted Vietnamese nationality in November 2009, with a Vietnamese name Ho Cuong Quyet.

Over 40 years ago, Menras was one of the two French who bravely climbed the statue of a US marine in Saigon in front of the Lower House of the Saigon government (HCM City Opera House at present) to wave the flag of the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam (NLF), and distributed 6000 leaflets against the Vietnam War in 1970.

Menras was arrested for these activities. He was sentenced to three years in prison and expelled.

Although hard and brutal, the years in prison did not pass by fruitlessly for the young man, a former French teacher at Saigon’s Jean Jacque Rousseau School. He learned Vietnamese from other prisoners and they gave him a Vietnamese name, Ho Cuong Quyet (Ho standing for Ho Chi Minh and Cuong Quyet meaning determination).

In early 1973, they were released and expelled Menras to France. Several months after, he published the book We Accuse: Back from Saigon’s Prisons in France. This book has been translated into many languages, including a Vietnamese version issued in 1974.

Almost 30 years since his hurried exit, Menras returned to Saigon in 2002 to see his friends. Since then, he has frequently shuttled between France and Vietnam, serving as chair for the French-Vietnamese Association of Education Development and Exchange.

To honor his contributions to Vietnam, he was presented with the “For the Young Generation” medal and the “Medal for Peace and Friendship between Nations” by the Vietnamese government.

In a talk with HCM City Vice-Chair four years ago, Menras expressed his wish to become a Vietnamese citizen while keeping his French nationality. At that time, Vietnam had not approved dual nationality yet and foreigners had to give up their original nationality to gain Vietnamese citizenship.

The new Law on Nationality was ratified in July 2009, and took effect as of November 2009. President Nguyen Minh Triet knew of Menras through some of his comrades and invited Menras to meet on November 4, 2009. At that time the President promised to grant Menras Vietnamese citizenship.

Several days later, Menras saw the Vietnamese President again in a meeting with his comrades in a forest near the Vietnam-Cambodia border, the war resistance base during the Vietnam War. The President told Menras to go to the HCM City Department of Justice three days later to receive his granting of Vietnamese nationality.

On December 1 2009, Menras received the decision at a solemn ceremony, attended by President Nguyen Minh Triet. From that day, Menras was a Vietnamese citizen named Ho Cuong Quyet. He is the first foreigner to receive Vietnamese nationality under the new law.

He sent VietNamNet’s Vietnam Week this article with his own view of the Binh Minh 02 incident.

The people must be honestly informed of the situation

There are circumstances that quietness doesn’t help us to avoid danger but enhances the danger because the quietness misleads others as feebleness.

Diplomatic response is certainly necessary, but it is not enough to court international solidarity that Vietnam needs at this time. Those who relied on the people’s power to liberate and unite the country are well aware better than anyone else of the value of the right to have access to information and the right to take action of the people.

China is determined to speed up its attack in the East Sea. It is before the eyes of the international community. We have to raise our voice strongly!

China has broken commitments that they signed. We have to raise our voice strongly!

Chinese naval forces have harassed and terrorized Vietnamese fishermen in the waters that our fishermen have netted for generations. We have to raise our voice strongly!

Information about the fate of our people who were harassed, imprisoned, robbed and went bankrupt in the East Sea must be reported to the people throughout the country.

Briefly: the people must be honestly informed about the actual situation.

Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) belong to Vietnam! We should not be satisfied with meetings of Vietnamese and international experts to confirm that fact quietly. These meetings are all important but we need to confirm our sovereignty [over Hoang Sa and Truong Sa] in historical textbooks in all schools.

I was flabbergasted and felt a throbbing pain when I knew that children on Ly Son island - the home of the fishermen who have been patiently fishing in the sea of Hoang Sa for many generations, and the island in the most dangerous position in the struggling to confirm Vietnam’s sovereignty over the Hoang Sa Archipelago – did not know about the geography of the islands where their fathers and brothers were seized by the Chinese navy.

Many administrative maps of Vietnam still lack the Huu Nhat and Quang Anh islands, where the ancestors of Ly Son island’s people, members of the Hoang Sa flotilla, sacrificed.

Fear doesn’t drive back danger

I understand the extremely difficult and sensitive position of Vietnamese leaders, who want to avoid new losses for their people, who experienced pains and losses in the country’s history. Vietnam’s history has witnessed bloodshed many times: in 1974, 1979, 1988…

But fear doesn’t drive back danger. As High-ranking General, Le Duc Anh said: “If we are frightened, we will lose. We will lose the places where they want to occupy. If we are not frightened, we will have a way to struggle to both keep our sovereignty and harmony”.

Mr. Bui Thuong, 73, the diving champion on Ly Son Island, is aware of this. “If you meet a shark, you have to confront it and look directly to its eyes so it doesn’t attack you,” he said.

There are moments that we have to face danger. That is the vital matter. Facing is firstly telling the truth and only the truth.

I talked with fishermen on Binh Chau and Ly Son islands, who have to take risks every day in the sea. They said that they saw Chinese fishing boats that approached their island very near, only 20 miles. Groups of Chinese fishing ships are well organized and accompanied by Chinese naval ships. Meanwhile, Vietnamese fishermen go out to the sea with unsecure feeling. They may be arrested, detained and their equipment and fish may be seized, and they have to pay huge debts. There are fishermen like Mr. Tieu Viet La in Binh Chau commune, was arrested four times by Chinese ships.

The State’s assistance is modest. Fishermen must be very brave to go out to the sea in that situation.

Widows of fishermen who went missing mysteriously in the Da Bong Bay area, a kind of the “Bermuda triangle” of the Hoang Sa Archipelago, are living lonely because their only assets are their husbands.

Some widows cannot even afford to build a fake tomb for their missing husbands. In the rainy season, they don’t have money to repair their dilapidated houses. They cannot afford their children’s extra classes while their children are the only hope in their remaining days.

The local governments’ symbolic allowance of VND2 million ($100) cannot help change their lives.

We have to talk about them!

These people must enjoy the State’s official assistance program, or at least they must be adequately supplied with food, necessities and medicines. Their children must be sent to schools and enjoy free healthcare. Protecting these children and their mothers is defending Vietnam’s waters and islands, defending the country in the most effective and practical manner.

In that situation, no one has the right to make relief China’s responsibility. If you tell fishermen in the central region about “strange ships”, they would immediately make correction “strange ships” into “Chinese ships”. For them, they are not “strange”.

Many Vietnamese friends told me: “China is wise”. Chinese leaders are wise, aren’t they? Escalating disputes, China is making conditions for ASEAN to get closer together.

They have opened a new front line, where they have to spend resources, which are necessary for economic development, into a costly adventure that will surely make them to get stuck.

The time that they could arrogate Hoang Sa, and scuttle Vietnam’s supply ship in Bai Gac Ma has been over. China is strongly developing, but that development is deeply digging internal contradictions and magnifying social inequality. You don’t need to be a prophet to see difficulties in front of Beijing, not behind their back. At that time, they will have to answer.

There is another lesson of history that Chinese leaders want to forget, which is not wise: in the long run, they cannot succeed if they go contrary to the will of other nations because the real power is in the people, not in guns and weapon.

On Ly Son Island, I attended a very meaningful rite, which shows the will of the local people. Whenever a fisherman goes missing for storms or any mysterious reason, his family will organize a unique ritual to call the soul of the dead to enter a clay-made dummy. The dummy is buried in a tomb which is called “mo gio” so the missing fisherman’s family can come to worship. Is it superstitious? Maybe, but I think that this rite is very meaningful. This custom of hundreds of years shows the will of the living: they are determined to fight to take back from the sea, from their enemy the best to their families and their countries. That is the clear message for invaders: “Whatever you do, we still have strong attachment to fishermen, to our sea, to this civilization, to this country. No one, no power can arrogate these things.

Andre Menras