Independent civil society organizations in Vietnam are condemning Russian President Vladimir Putin for invading Ukraine, a stance at odds with Hanoi’s abstention vote at the United Nations.
Cultural researcher Nguyen Khac Mai and Professor Nguyen Dinh Cong, representing six independent civil society organizations in Vietnam and more than 150 individuals, presented a letter expressing their “support for the Ukrainian people” to Ukrainian Charge d'Affaires Nataliya Zhynkina at the Ukrainian Embassy in Hanoi on March 3.
“We have great sympathy and compassion for the people of Ukraine who were invaded by Russia,” said Nguyen Cong, 86, who taught at the National University of Civil Engineering in Hanoi. He gave up his Vietnam Communist Party membership in 2016 and now is a dissident and political observer.
“The reason we expressed our support was the Vietnamese government did not support Ukraine and abstained in the U.N. General Assembly’s vote on Ukraine. It's the government's move, they abstained,” Nguyen Cong said.
“As for us, the people, we have the right to voice our support … on behalf of some civil society organizations and individuals, we also want to speak out that we support, sympathize with the Ukrainian people and against Russian aggression,” he added.
In the meeting with the Ukrainian diplomat, Nguyen Mai, the 90-year-old researcher, expressed his concerns about the sacrifice and lost lives of the people in Ukraine under the firestorms of the past two weeks, according to Boxite Vietnam, a forum for Vietnamese intellectuals to discuss Vietnamese politics.
“We understand that defending Ukraine at this time is not only about protecting peace, but also about protecting a fledgling democracy that has just escaped from the authoritarian past. As freedom-loving people, we stand by the Ukrainian people to preserve your democracy,” said Nguyen Mai who was director of the Minh Triet Viet Research Center and a former director of the Communist Party Central Committee, according to posts on Boxite Vietnam.
“As a country that went through many wars until the late 1980s, Vietnamese understand the price Ukraine has to pay to maintain its sovereignty and democracy in the face of Putin hegemony,” the letter posted on the Boxite Vietnam reads.
“We resolutely condemn Putin's blatant aggression against Ukraine and fully support the just resistance war of the Ukrainian people and its government,” it said.
VOA emailed the Russian diplomatic mission in Vietnam and Vietnam’s Foreign Affairs Ministry seeking comments. Neither responded.
On March 2, the United Nations General Assembly held an extraordinary emergency session on the situation in Ukraine and issued a resolution that “deplores in the strongest terms the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine” and demands that Russia “unconditionally withdraws all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine.”
While 141 of 193 countries voted in favor of the resolution, five countries -- North Korea, Belarus, Eritrea and Syria -- joined Russia in voting against the motion. The remaining 35 countries that abstained included China, India, Laos and Vietnam.
However, on March 3, Vietnam said it’s deeply concerned about the armed conflict in Ukraine and called on the relevant sides to exercise self-restraint, stop using force and avoid causing casualties and losses to civilians, spokeswoman of the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Le Thi Thu Hang said.
The Vietnam-Russia relationship, which began in 1950, is now one of Hanoi’s three comprehensive partnerships, along with China and India.
The former Soviet Union provided arms to Vietnam’s communists that helped them win their war against the United States, which withdrew in 1975. And now Vietnam buys military hardware and oil from Russia as part of its policy to avoid dependency on any single foreign power such as China.
“Vietnam’s consistent policy of enhancing the solidarity, friendship and comprehensive strategic cooperation with Russia, which is also the top priority in the foreign policy of the Vietnamese (Communist) Party, state and army,” Vietnam’s party website Nhan Dan Online said.
On March 2, right after Vietnam abstained from voting at the U.N. General Assembly, Zhinkyna wrote on Facebook: “Among all ASEAN members, only Vietnam and Laos abstained. My Vietnam, my second homeland, I am very disappointed.”