"Experiment No. 3" comprehensive scientific research vessel of the Institute of South China Sea under the Chinese Academy of Sciences was deployed in Nansha and undertook scientific investigation mission. It was once trailed for a long time by a vessel disguised as a Vietnamese fishing vessel. (Photo by Sun Zifa of China News Agency)
Is illegal fishing a consensus in Vietnam?
On January 13, 2016, Phu Yen Province in Vietnam donated 1,000 Vietnamese national flags to fishermen of four cities.VNA commented that "the move is a kind of encouragement for Vietnamese fishermen."
A social movement integrating the government, military and fishermen is under way in Vietnam and the Vietnamese news media walk in the forefront of the campaign.
The Vietnam News Agency, Nhandan Newspaper, Youth Daily and other mainstream media in Vietnam have opened English columns to promote its sovereignty claims over the South China Sea, encouraging the Vietnamese community to shift focus to the South China Sea.
The Vietnamese government is also trying to find another carrier for its claims from the historical tradition. The coastal areas of Vietnam will hold a grand "Fishing Festival" on the third day of the first month of the lunar calendar every year.
Dozens of fishing boats with Vietnamese national flags and a large photo of the Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh will go fishing. Some of the folklore activities and performances will be staged at the same time to encourage open sea fishing.
Folk artists promoted by Vietnamese official media all have works to encourage Vietnamese fishermen to fish in China’s Xisha Islands and Nansha Islands.
On February, 2016, the Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang visited the hometown of a local militia team and encouraged fishermen to fishing in open sea.
"Supporting illegal fishing in the South China Sea has become the consensus of the Vietnamese society," said Zheng Zemin, deputy researcher at Hainan Normal University.
Zheng believes that the Vietnamese society supports illegal fishing in the South China Sea by organizing various activities including parties and donation ceremonies, in an effort to send Vietnamese fishermen to the South China Sea.
"Beware of Vietnamese fishing boats. There is at least one 'spy' on each boat. They have guns and they are reckless," Cui Siyi would patiently warn captains of his company.
Cui and other fishermen from Hainan Province also noticed that there has been an increase of Chinese navy ships and law enforcement vessels since 2000. These vessels would greet Chinese fishermen and tell them to be safe.
Professor Li Jinming of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies at Xiamen University said that "Vietnam often sends militias disguised as fishermen to gather intelligence and harass Chinese fishermen. With the increasing divergence between China and Vietnam on South China Sea issue, China began to attach importance to maritime militia building. Maritime militias can also safeguard national interests, in a moderate way compared with the use of armed forces. "
Changes in the Vietnamese maritime self-defense militia
Vietnam's maritime self-defense militia is a paramilitary militia consisting of the militia and the self-defense force. Militias are deployed in coastal villages, townships and islands. The force engaged in maritime activities with vessels are called the maritime self-defense force.
The Militia Self-Defense Force Bureau is the governing body under the General Staff Department of the Vietnam People's Army. Maritime militia force has two levels including squad and platoon. The maritime self-defense force has four levels including squad, platoon, company and battalion.
There is a group in each fleet that is engaged both in fishing and defending maritime sovereignty; each fishing group conducts activities within a certain area and when they are under attack, other fishing groups will contact troops ashore and cooperate with each other in the fight.
Maritime self-defense militia forces are equipped with firearms and a number of complementary tools. Each fishing vessel is equipped with radios for the weather forecast and for the communication with troops ashore.
Vietnamese National Assembly revised the Law on Militia and Self-Defense Forces in 1996, 2004 and 2009 respectively to adjust the building of the militias.
The authors are Yu Dong and Wen Sha of the Southern Weekend. The opinions expressed here are those of the writers and don't represent views of the China Military Online website.