A couple more updates as Sunday rapidly approaches. There are two more write ups that seem necessary for anyone interested in following the unfolding events.
Foreigners living in Saigon will be put in the spotlight Sunday due to an apparent change in protest strategy: moving the demonstrations from the city center at Duc Ba Cathedral to the ‘Backpacker area’ of Pham Ngu Lao/ Bui Vien. My last post, New Tactics? translated a widely shared message from Nhat Ky Yeu Nuoc that proposed a shift toward 23/9 Park and the Backpacker area. Today, in a pair of new translations, another facebook user analyzes the strategic benefits of the Bui Vien-De Tham intersection, while a second article, written by party member and wife of vice chief editor of Tuoi Tre and chief editor of Phap Luat TP HCM, Chau Thi Phan, recounts her experience being arrested in last week’s May 8th demonstrations. Her facebook post has 2,700 comments and over 10,200 shares.
I am reposting these because I believe they will be useful to an English speaking audience that may be considering involvement. The first will give you an idea of the strategies of one protest supporter, the second a profile of the arrest experience. Please forgive any translation errors.
First is the translated analysis Bui Vien De Tham intersection posted by Nam Nguyen Hoang Dao on May 9th at 9pm. It has more than 1,200 shares and 3,800 likes. Links to the original Vietnamese language posts will be included underneath. Scroll past for Chau Thi Phan’s article.
THE WESTERN AREA IS GOING TO HELP THIS DEMONSTRATION EXPLODE
We choose the intersection of Bui Vien- De Tham to be the place where everybody gathers (red hexagon in the map). We choose this spot not only because of the foreigner factor, but also it’s a place that is very difficult for the police to seal every entrance because they would have to close at least four major streets [blue marks on the street].
-Pham Ngu Lao: the biggest street in the western area
-Tran Hung Dao: connects district 5 with district 1
-CMT8-Nguyen Thai hoc: connects distict 1 with district 4
That’s just the segment of road closest to the gathering point. If blocked in this way it’s still easy for demonstrators that wish to penetrate because, as you can see, from the streets with the blue marks it’s a short distance to the red hexagon. Usually if the police want to block the inside effectively, they have to block all around the outside, therefore they have to block all the green diamonds.
-Nguyen Trai: the most crowded street connecting district 5 and district 1.
If you want to absolutely isolate the people inside the gathering place like on 8/5, the police will even have to block off Nguyen Van Cu, Ong Lanh bridge, Ben Thanh Market, and Le Lai with the famous New World Hotel.
In this way, to block the protestors in this area, the police have to paralyze traffic unmatched in it’s importance and a crowded commercial area from district 1 to the end of district 5. This area has two bus stations relatively essential for continuously moving foreigners in and out. The demonstration area around Duc Ba Cathedral is just the center of the city, it’s essentially empty during the day and the continuous traffic demands are low so if it’s blocked no big deal, if you want to block this, it’s difficult. What do you guys think, anyone in SG for a long time knows that this pathway is continuously needed for circulating people and vehicles, it has extremely important nodes… therefore IF THE POLICE WANT TO SEAL UP WESTERN STREET IT IS IMPOSSIBLE.
The shops along Bui Vien are sidewalk shops, if there is a crowd the people sitting in the shops will pay attention, we certainly won’t be distantly isolated like the from the shops in the city center around Duc Ba Cathedral.
This area is not only difficult to block but also has the foreigner element. They will help alert international public opinion, which wont be indifferent to seeing police beat demonstrators. The Vietnamese people around here, because they communicate with foreigners a lot, have a much higher cultural standard compared to the average among Vietnamese people, they will also participate and speak out when they see the police attack. Because of this the police won’t be able to continue to freely abuse, and repress demonstrators. If the police attack foreigners by mistake then the communist party will fall foul of foreign embassies, surely the packs of cops won’t dare to snatch foreigner’s cameras.
With a quantity of less than a thousand in the beginning, the complete Bui Vien- De Tham area is large enough to contain all the protesters. If were have more people we can move to CMT8. Tran Hung Dao, Nguyen Trai to march. When we go out onto a large street with many vehicles we should go in a line so as not to anger anyone. 2 people should hold hands, protect eachother… This is an occasion for men and women who are “forever alone” to pair off with one another.
That the western area has many alleys that connect with the big streets is also a benefit for demonstrators.
*23/9 park will be the place closed by the authorities… pay attention, if the gathering here is too small you will be arrested quickly.
Someone put out the hypothesis that those in power will try to find a way to evacuate all the people from this area (the people connecting the green and blue markers together), even if they have to say there is a bomb to get the foreigners to run away. In my personal opinion that would be very difficult to do. Foreigners aren’t docile like Vietnamese people, they will not easily accept an evacuation without compensation. Where will they go, how long would transferring the luggage of such a big group take >>> the costs of compensating them would be terrifying. Paralyze this area for two days? How would you do it? There are big foreign businessman staying at the big hotels, evacuating them like this will inconvenience them, the difficulty of their business makes it tough to simply evacuate. If they say there is a bomb to make the foreigners run, then people find out that it was just a ploy to block people protesting the communist party, how can they explain that internationally?
All the above elements show that this will be the place the protest blows up, the quantity of participants is going to grow uncontrollably. The thing that everybody needs to prepare right away are ENGLISH SLOGANS
*Accept the difficulty of taking a taxi or xe om… the police are going to manipulate the parking around the demonstration area.
Bonus lesson take the link to an article recounting the truth about the internal situation of the 8/5 protest from a party member, the wife of the vice chief editor of Tuoi Tre and chief editor of Phap Luat TP. HCM [news magazines]
[This is the article I have translated below]
Please share and help this analysis spread widely in so the people who want to protest can put their faith in this new location and feel safer than at the previous two demonstrations.
Now, here Chau Thi Phan’s recollection of the May 8th protest.
THANK GOD, I WAS ARRESTED!
I was arrested, but frankly I’m happy. Happy because my own eyes have witnessed everyone’s shared pain. And I will be the person to tell it honestly.
I left the house about 9am but because I was mistaken about the location of the demonstration, I had to wander around until 10am before I was able to integrate with the protesters who were leaving 30-4 park heading toward Duc Ba Cathedral.
Even though the protesters held their signs up high while sitting or going peacefully, the packs of police, riot police [mobile force], youth shock brigades, and swarm of green shirts, together with a pack of plainclothes officers, internationally thrust deep into the protest in order to divide the mass into small isolated groups.
Jostling, clubs and pepper spray began to sweep down. Blood was spilt, the sound of screams, people were one after the other pulled kicking and screaming onto the bus. I too was among those arrested, pulled onto the bus. Many young people, young women, had their heads split open with blood running out onto their shirts. We yelled out in protest of the beatings and demanded that those injured be taken to the emergency room. But it was all ignored. The number of young people seriously beaten and thrown onto the bus grew larger by the minute. On the bus I was on, there were quite a few young people not only punched but also kicked in the face, the stomach, broken arms… faces swollen and purple and blood drenched.
There were two young people who were fainted outside of the bus with civilian clothed officers striking them in the head and in the lower belly, beaten to tatters, and then thrown on the bus. There was a mother and father trembling asking to get off because they had a 2 year old, and a 4 year old all alone out on the street with nowhere to go. But the plain-clothed officers came onto the bus and firmly told them they weren’t leaving. Just like that, he pointed his finger as though he wanted to hit somebody.
All the busses took the prisoners to Hoa Lu stadium in district one. They were all led by a motor brigade of police flashing and honking their horns as though they were protecting a world leader. Once in the stadium, everybody was dispersed into small groups surrounded by riot police [mobile force]. All the phones were gathered in one place, and all the data was erased. Except for my cheap phone [corn cob], after the security forces checked it carefully, they gave permission for me to keep it as long as I didn’t use it while I was detained.
More than 200 people were detained at the Hoa Lu field, besides having to make a declaration and have a picture taken holding a sign like a thief (those who, like me, didn’t bring their papers), they also were surrounded tightly by the security forces. Even though there was a person with stomach pains who needed to use the toilet, they wouldn’t let them. In that situation everyone gathered around and shouted to that person to defecate right there on the spot, everyone will stand around and keep protect them. At that point a few security officers sent the riot police to keep watch. A ridiculous scene for one person to go to the toilette, if the person that went was a young man then 2 or 3 riot police would go with him. And as for old ladies like me, we only had a single guard follow.
It was stiflingly hot, many people were hungry, thirsty and tired. People began to scream in protest when they saw the different police forces sitting in chairs haughtily drinking pure bottled water, while the others, clothes messy on the ground only supplied with a bucket of water and a plastic cup. I don’t know how the water was in the beginning but when I went for a drink I saw that it was filthy so I tossed the cup back. Only after an eternity did they change it for a bin of water from some anonymous company with suspicious quality, not for 17 hours were we supplied with a few small bottles of water to share with one another to forget our ravenous hunger.
Nobody paid any attention to the few among us arrested who collapsed from heart pain or due to low blood sugar fell to the dirt tired and hungry.
There was a young person in plainclothes with an arrogant face filming (maybe to film everyone’s face). If anybody argued, or made too many appeals, he would intentionally film them to intimidate them. There were two women who argued demanding justice and were taken away. Everyone unanimously resisted were forced to make a path for the women to get in the police vehicle, it’s not clear where they went.
Close to the majority refused to fingerprint, be photographed, or sign a document written by the police that said “I confess that gathering caused disorder”. A small number were lured “grab the sign with your number, take a picture, get fingerprinted and you can go early”, but in the end the people who were deceived also had to stay into the afternoon with us and then were lead out to the district police department (where they live) where they continued to be interrogated, maybe also to the early morning until finally released.
To speak fairly, there were also a fair number of good officers: courteous, gentle when we immediately refused and sternly protested the fingerprinting and photo taking. Or when they saw a few people club the protesters, they shouted to protect the elderly people like me. A few others also knew how to listen, even though I didn’t speak out, looking in their eyes I quietly understood they only arrested us because it was their job.
Because I said to them, “Do your families dare to eat fish? How many fisherman have lost their livelyhoods. The sea is dead, the fisherman hungry, the environment, dry land and undersea, have both been threatened. The Paracel islands are lost, the Spratly islands have been partially taken from our control. Are our grieved by this? Don’t you want revenge?”
When the district 2 officer asked “Are you going to continue protesting next time?” I looked right at them and replied: “I will continue along with everybody to protest against China and demand that the government implement more active measures to protect the environment.”
And they were still silent when I continued: “I believe in the heart of GENUINE VIETNAMESE PEOPLE, you would do the same if you didn’t wear those uniforms, wouldn’t you?”