Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has confirmed that a Singapore flag was burnt in the anti-China protests in Vietnam on Tuesday. The incident is reported to have taken place in one of two Singapore-run industrial parks in the country.
“The flag is a sacred national symbol and should be treated with respect,” the MFA said. “The Singapore Embassy in Hanoi promptly conveyed our strong concerns over the flag-burning incident to the Vietnamese government on May 14 via a diplomatic note and also made representations to the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Public Security to ensure such an incident does not happen again.”
The Vietnamese are protesting China’s deployment of an oil drilling rig in the disputed waters near the Paracels in the South China Sea, a chain of islands which are claimed by both Vietnam and China.
Vietnam says the area is well within its "exclusive economic zone," an area extending 370 kilometers from a country's coast.
The Wall Street reports that “at least three factories were burned overnight” in two of the industrial parks operated by Vietnam Singapore Industrial Park JV Co Ltd.
The Associated Press said many of the factories targeted were Taiwanese, which the rioters believed were Chinese-owned.
State-run newspaper, VnExpress, reported that “tens of thousands of workers poured onto the streets Tuesday and a small number of them began looting and attacking security guards and factory management before setting fire to at least 15 factories.”
Singapore is Vietnam’s third-largest investor, with about US$30.2 billion in 1,258 projects.
Although Singapore firms in Vietnam are reported to not have been directly affected by the unrest, they have stepped up security at their facilities nonetheless.
"The Singapore government continues to monitor the situation closely and there have not been any reports of Singaporeans affected by the demonstrations so far," said the MFA.
On Wednesday, the MFA summoned the Vietnamese ambassador to register its concerns over the unrest.
“The MFA requests the Vietnamese government to act immediately to restore law and order in the two VSIPs before the security situation worsens and investor confidence is undermined,” an MFA spokesman said in a statement.
The MFA described the burning of the Singapore flag as “a serious incident” as the flag is a sacred national symbol and should be treated with respect.
It seems, however, that the Vietnamese protesters may have mistook the Singapore flag for the Chinese one, news reported.
But this is not the first time that the Singapore flag has been desecrated by protesters in other countries.
In 1995, protesters in the Philippines burned the city-state’s flag over the death of a Filipino domestic worker who was hanged in Singapore for murder. (See here.)
In 2004, it was the Taiwanese who burned the Singapore flag in protest over remarks which the then Singapore Foreign Minister, George Yeo, had made to the United Nations on China-Taiwan relations. (See here.)
**Singaporeans in Vietnam who require consular assistance can contact the Singapore Embassy in Hanoi, the Singapore Consulate-General in Ho Chi Minh City, or the MFA 24-hour duty office.