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Vietnam envoy vows protection of Taiwanese

TAIPEI--Bui Trong Van, head of the Vietnam Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei, pledged Friday that Hanoi will protect Taiwanese citizens and their assets during a mass rally scheduled across the Southeast Asian country on Sunday.

The fact that the Vietnamese government has arrested more than 1,000 rioters after the violent demonstrations erupted on May 13 has shown its determination to “bring the small number of offenders to justice,” the official said at a press briefing joined by Taiwan's foreign minister and representatives of Taiwanese investors.

“Our government has brought the situation under control,” he said. “Similar damage will not occur again.”

Bui also said he personally felt very sorry and apologetic over the suffering of Taiwanese people in his country, but he refused to elaborate when pressed by local media over whether his apology represented an apology by his government.

The Vietnamese official also urged Taiwanese media to refrain from “exaggerating conditions” in Vietnam, saying that sensational press coverage was not helping the current situation and instead hurting bilateral relations.

Bui said local broadcasters were continuing to replay outdated footage of the riots that did not reflect the restoration of order by Vietnamese authorities.

“Vietnam remains in a developing stage and has its shortcomings,” he said. “I hope Taiwanese media can understand this.”

The priority for both the Vietnamese and Taiwanese governments is to help Taiwanese businesspeople recover from the turmoil, restore confidence in the investment environment in Vietnam and stay in the country, he said.

The Vietnamese government recognizes the contributions made by Taiwan, its fourth-largest foreign investor with total investment of US$28 billion, and will punish those who broke the law, Bui pledged.

Asked about compensation for those factories that were damaged during the riots, Bui said the country's Ministry of Planning and Investment has taken measures to help foreign investors, including those from Taiwan, resume operations.

There will be discussions about the proper settlement of Taiwanese people's losses during the riots, he said.

Liu Mei-te, chairwoman of the Taiwanese Chambers of Commerce in Vietnam who represented Taiwanese businesses at the press briefing, urged both governments to take concrete measures to compensate affected Taiwanese there.

Lin said the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) will send a delegation to Vietnam in the near future to negotiate related compensation, reiterating that an investment protection agreement inked between the two countries in 1993 can be used as the basis for dispute settlement.

Despite Bui's pledges, it remained unclear how effectively the Vietnamese government has quelled the unrest, as foreign nationals continued to leave the country on Friday.

Nearly 6,000 Taiwanese working in Vietnam had returned home as of Friday since the riots broke out.

The violence that ripped through southern Vietnam on Tuesday spread north on Wednesday into Ha Tinh province, where attacks that left one person dead and 90 injured broke out at the Formosa Plastics Group's steel mill.

The protests were triggered by China's deployment of an oil rig in what Vietnam sees as its exclusive economic zone near the Paracel Islands.

Mistaken for mainland Chinese factories, Taiwanese facilities bore the brunt of the attacks.

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Bui Trong Van, left, head of the Vietnam Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei, speaks as Taiwan's Foreign Minister David Lin listens during a press conference held in Taipei yesterday in the wake of the ongoing riots in Vietnam. Bui said he personally felt sorry for the Taiwanese businesses targeted by the rioters.(CNA

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