People’s Maritime Militia [PMM]
Although militia organizations are widespread in the United States, China and other countries, with emphasis on the modernization of national defense and the professionalization of military personnel, few countries, especially those in a state of peace, will continue to place militia organizations on the same level as the regular army, like Vietnam. In many countries, although the concept of militia still exists in the national defense system, it is more of a tradition or symbol.
Vietnam is very different. Its militia self-defense force refers to mass armed forces that are not separated from production and is regarded as an important force for national defense. As of the end of 2019, the Self-Defense Forces of the Vietnam Militia accounted for 1.44% of the country's total population, approximately 1.5 million people.
The maritime militia is a mobile force deployed by Vietnam in the South China Sea to illegally occupy islands and reefs and claim jurisdiction over sea areas. It not only engages in fishing and production activities, but also performs maritime security tasks assigned by the Vietnamese government. Vietnam’s fishing activities in China’s Paracel Islands and other waters in the South China Sea adopt the "fishing boat-militia" system, incorporating fishing activities into the framework of military security struggles, and using fishing boats (civilians) to compete with Malaysia, China and other countries in the South China Sea. Frontier power".
Many observers believe that the problem of illegal fishing by Vietnamese fishermen (boats) is a regional problem. Many countries, including Indonesia, Malaysia, and France, have clashed with Vietnam due to illegal fishing activities. To simply equate Vietnam’s fishing activities in the South China Sea with illegal fishing activities in general, it is obviously impossible to explain Vietnam’s all-people system and unconventional maritime activities.
Many facts show that, in addition to economic interests, the political and security purposes of Vietnam’s fishing activities in the South China Sea deserve more attention than its economic plunder.
According to different management systems and tasks, Vietnam divided the militia self-defense forces into the backbone militia self-defense forces and general militia self-defense forces in the 2009 "Militia Self-Defense Forces Act." The Maritime Militia Self-Defense Force is a backbone force and needs regular training and militarized management.
In the new version of the "Militia Self-Defense Forces Act" in 2019, Vietnam has divided the militia self-defense forces into mobile, permanent, marine and special missions (artillery, engineering, reconnaissance, and information, etc.), which is equivalent to dividing all militia forces. Incorporate into the management mechanism of the backbone militia.
According to Vietnamese law, except for special circumstances, all men aged 18-45 (women aged 18-40) are obliged to join the militia self-defense force, and members of the militia self-defense force must serve 4-6 years.
In terms of organization and management, the latest version of the "Militia Self-Defense Forces Act" clearly states that the Self-Defense Forces are part of the Vietnamese People’s Armed Forces and are under the command of the Ministry of National Defense. The Minister of National Defense is the highest commander and the Chief of Staff of the Vietnamese People’s Army is its commander-in-chief. At the local level, Vietnam has established corresponding military command institutions (military command posts) and commanders in various military regions, provinces, and counties to manage and execute higher-level orders. The militia self-defense forces have units at all levels, including squads, platoons, companies, and battalions.
In recent years, in accordance with the actual needs of the maritime struggle situation, Vietnam has continuously adjusted the organizational form of the maritime militia, and organized the borders, coasts, islands, and towns and towns in key areas of national defense into permanent militia platoons with complete systems and organizational structures on duty. Ready to fight. At the same time, the Vietnamese government also pays special attention to creating some new models, such as the establishment of militia fleets at sea, setting up militia checkpoints along the land borders, etc., interacting with residential settlements, highlighting the decentralized but flexible characteristics, and improving mobilization in times of emergency , Command and operational efficiency.
Vietnam’s "Militia Self-Defense Forces Act" entrusts the militia’s self-defense forces with tasks such as coordinating operations with border defense, navy, air defense air force, and police forces, and safeguarding sovereignty and border security. Among them, the maritime militia is responsible for protecting the sovereignty of islands and reefs and claiming the security of maritime jurisdiction. Based on the activities of the militia self-defense forces in coastal areas such as Quang Ninh Province, in addition to general tasks such as rescue, the Vietnam Maritime Self-Defense Force also participates in regular maritime patrols by border defense forces and coastal police, monitors foreign ships and maritime situations, and reports to higher authorities in a timely manner Maritime military operations such as unusual circumstances, the discovery and expulsion of foreign ships entering Vietnam’s claimed waters, the spread and mobilization of fishermen to perform special tasks.
According to some local practices and maritime operations in Vietnam, its maritime militia implements a strict "fishing boat-militia" system, including two methods: one is to equip ordinary fishing boats with corresponding backbone militia forces to guide and organize fishermen to engage in fishing Other military security activities; the other is the backbone of the militia force using fishing as a cover, mixed with ordinary fishing boats to perform special tasks.
Taking the town of CUA VIET in Quang Tri province as an example, Vietnam adopts the "military militia model for fishing at sea", which combines military missions with fishing activities. The town carried out maritime training by screening male fishermen or local laborers on the coast, offshore and far seas, and finally formed a militia platoon, which focused on selecting shipowners and captains to participate in the militia or as low-level commanders. In actual fishing operations, 3-5 fishermen are arranged on each fishing boat to participate in fishing activities in the open sea, and fishing boats carry out maritime operations with militia platoons or regular troops in the name of fishing. According to statistics, as of March 2020, the town has formed 1 maritime militia platoon, 3 maritime militia squads, and 9 maritime joint operation teams, with 28 professional militias.
In actual operation, the activities of Vietnamese fishing boats in the South China Sea are also beyond the scope of conventional fishing activities. Many cases show that they have special political tasks. In the Paracel Shipwreck incident on April 2, 2020, according to the description of both parties, the Vietnamese fishing boat "QNg90617TS" continued to take dangerous actions after the Chinese coast guard ship issued a signal to drive away, and eventually crashed into a Chinese law enforcement vessel. At the same time, according to the public information of the Vietnamese side after the incident, there were at least two Vietnamese fishing boats, QNG 90399 TS and QNG 90929 TS, at the scene of the incident. They were very calm on the sidelines and quickly sent the photos taken on-site to Vietnam.
Combining the descriptions of the two parties and the scene of the Vietnamese fishing boat records, the Vietnamese fishing boat not only failed to take the measures to avoid or escape that ordinary fishing boats should take, but the three fishing boats cooperated tacitly and moved forward and retreated in an orderly manner. The fighting will and organization of these three fishing boats shows that they are not ordinary ships, but are probably militia fishing boats, cooperating with special maritime struggle tasks. Moreover, these three fishing boats do not have any information even in the ship database (marinetraffic.com) trusted by the Vietnamese. They are either not fishing boats or have not been filed with the corresponding international agencies. In either case, it seems very strange.
Since October 2019, in response to Malaysia's oil and gas activities in the waters east of Wan'an Beach in the Nansha Islands, Vietnam has dispatched a number of militia fishing boats to conduct real-time surveillance not far from the Malaysian drilling platform. Among them, according to AIS information, the Vietnamese "Long Son 07732" (MMSI number "574128508", MMSI number "574128508", 39 meters long and 8 meters wide) vessel was shown as a fishing vessel, but it left its home port on September 10, 2019. The port of Vung Tau in southern Vietnam then carried out surveillance missions on the Spratly Islands. On March 19, 2020, the ship once moved around at 6 degrees 46 minutes north latitude and 111 degrees 05 minutes east longitude (6.46139 N/111.05109 E), and it worked with the "West Capella" drill ship chartered by Malaysia. (Located at 6.43483 N/111.07167 E) are less than 3 nautical miles apart.
According to the official propaganda of Vietnam, its militia was founded in March 1935 (known as the Traditional Day of Vietnam) and has a history of 85 years. During the Vietnam War from 1954 to 1975, Vietnam organized a large number of fishermen and armed soldiers to form a militia self-defense force based on fisheries cooperatives in coastal provinces. By equipping light equipment such as 85mm artillery, it cooperated with the regular army and constituted the US military. Great containment.
After the reunification of the North and South, Vietnam still regarded the militia self-defense force as an important component of its national defense force and maintained its combat tradition. In accordance with its domestic and foreign needs, the Vietnam Self-Defense Force has continuously adjusted its development direction and combat tasks, gradually focusing on maintaining domestic security and order and fighting borders and seas.
Since 2010, with the gradual intensification of conflicts with China, Malaysia, and Indonesia in the South China Sea, especially after the Sino-Vietnam-China-Jiannan confrontation in 2014, the central and local authorities in Vietnam have significantly increased their investment in the construction of the maritime militia self-defense force. The scale of personnel, organizational forms, weapons and equipment have been upgraded to meet the needs of maritime struggles.
At the top-level design level, in 2007, the Minister of Defense of Vietnam issued the “04/CT-BQP” Directive on Strengthening the Construction of Maritime Militia and Self-Defense Forces to promote the construction of militia self-defense forces.  Since then, Vietnam has issued Prime Minister Decree No. 67/ND-CP and No. 89/ND-CP, Government Decision No. 49/QD-TTg and other documents, providing tens of thousands for fishermen in coastal areas to build high-power ships. 100 million VND in funding and loan services. According to the information released by the Vietnamese side, for iron-hulled ships with a main engine power of 400 horsepower (CV), or newly-built voyage fishing boats with a power of 800 horsepower (CV), the owner’s loan amount is up to 95% and the annual interest rate is 7%, of which the owner bears 1% , The Vietnamese government’s financial commitment is 6 percent.
In fact, judging from the practice in some coastal areas of Vietnam, under the all-people system, the activities of Vietnamese fishing boats in the South China Sea give priority to military security struggles. As a senior Vietnamese military officer said, Vietnam wants to make every fishing boat and every fisherman a "milestone" of sovereignty over islands, reefs and oceans. Since 2014, the construction of the Maritime Militia Self-Defense Forces in various regions of Vietnam faithfully reflects Vietnam’s strategy of strengthening the fishing boat-militia force. As of the beginning of 2019, Vietnam’s Quang Ninh Province had more than 1,100 militia self-defense forces, most of whom were maritime militias operating in the South China Sea.
In Shun Nam County, Ninh Thuan Province, Vietnam, which is located on the northern coast of the South China Sea, mainly demobilized soldiers, formed a standing militia platoon, and organized 2 maritime standing militia squads on 6 high-power fishing boats, only 2018 In 1999, 99 people were mobilized to participate in maritime combat exercises.  Since 2017, Shunnan County has also organized 106 maritime joint operation groups (mainly going to the far seas), and implemented the "three-simultaneity" strategy, specifically "the same fishery operation method, the same fishing ground, and the same local residents" to cooperate with the sea. The police, border guards and fishery inspection and enforcement departments carry out special tasks such as patrolling, monitoring foreign ships, preventing and handling maritime electronic reconnaissance.
With the cooperation of the central and local governments, Vietnam’s Maritime Militia Self-Defense Force personnel and ship teams have continued to grow, and the equipment and quality of the maritime militia have also been significantly improved. The coastal areas are based on fishing boats, fishermen’s groups, and fishery production teams. With certain financial support, fishermen with qualified political literacy are selected to form maritime militia platoons, and the personnel and boat teams have grown significantly.
About 8,000 fishing boats and 1.22% of the marine labor force in Vietnam are militia, according to statistics in October 2019 by the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee, which has long been concerned about Vietnam’s fisheries. Based on this calculation, Vietnam currently has more than 4.5 million engaged in marine and aquaculture (670,000 engaged in aquaculture), so the number of Vietnamese maritime militias exceeds 46,000, accounting for 3% of the total number of Vietnamese militias. However, the actual number of Vietnamese maritime militia may be much higher than this estimate. Vietnam’s marine and aquaculture population accounts for about 4.7% of the total population. In addition, the Vietnamese government has recently focused on maritime struggle. Therefore, the proportion of maritime militias in the total number of militias in the country is likely to exceed 4.7%, which is estimated to be at least 70,000. Among them, according to incomplete statistics, Vietnam has deployed 13 maritime militia platoons among more than 3,000 fishermen near the Paracel Islands, while in southern Vietnam there are approximately 10,000 fishermen and 2,000 fishing boats receiving military equipment.
According to the Prime Minister’s Decree No. 67/ND-CP in August 2014, Vietnam invested USD 400 million in loans for the construction of new fishing vessels and the upgrading of old fishing vessels. By the first half of 2016, the Bank of Vietnam issued a special loan of approximately US$176 million to help transform and upgrade 400 high-power fishing boats and build 84 new fishing boats.  As of September 2019, Vietnam has built 1032 ocean-going fishing vessels, including 362 iron hull ships, 571 wooden hull ships, 99 new-material fishing ships, and 37 fishing ships with loans. In Yuemen Town alone, as of January 2019, 10 steel fishing vessels and 7 wooden hull vessels of 800 horsepower and above have been added, with a total investment of 11 million US dollars.
In recent years, Vietnam has also conducted targeted training for the Maritime Militia Self-Defense Force in response to changes in the maritime struggle situation. The Vietnamese government organized the maritime police and border defense forces to conduct key training on the distance between the militia platoons when performing missions at sea, the methods of communication with each other, the reporting methods of maritime conditions, the key points of identifying strange ships, and how to fight foreign ships.  At the same time, Vietnam also conducts professional radio operations training for the militia self-defense forces for maritime electronic reconnaissance.  Vietnam is equipped with modern equipment for the high-power fishing fleet, which greatly improves the capabilities of maritime reconnaissance and counter reconnaissance, intelligence collection and counter collection. For example, Shunnan District has helped 33 fishing fleets in remote areas equipped with rangefinders, locators, radios, and detectors.
Vietnam has adopted a fishery-militia system in the South China Sea with complicated political considerations. The large-scale organization of maritime militia in Vietnam contains multiple political and security considerations.
First, through a large number of widely distributed, flexible and flexible fishermen (boats) to declare maritime claims, especially the creation of the Paracel Islands "dispute". According to incomplete statistics, Vietnam has about 100,000 fishing boats, of which more than 96% are wooden fishing boats less than 24 meters. Frequent and continuous fishing boat (civilian) activities have become an important way for it to show the international community the rights and interests of the South China Sea. In the waters of the Paracel Islands, since the beginning of the 21st century, Vietnam has continuously dispatched militiamen and fishing boats to the waters of the Paracel Islands on the basis of its unilateral propositions. In the event of accidents such as crew falling into the water, it will be hyped and deliberately created and actively transmitted Paracels to the international community. There are concepts of sovereignty and jurisdiction disputes.
Secondly, for Vietnam, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishery activities are a policy choice for both economic and political benefits and maximizing the benefit-cost ratio. Compared with increasing capital investment in the short term, greatly increasing military and police maritime and air equipment, using the "regular army" to compete with other claimants, and arming fishermen through limited financial subsidies, not only can they achieve "strengthening the proposition with economic existence" and cooperate The purpose of the Navy's concealed military operations is to greatly reduce economic costs. At the same time, Vietnam's strategy of covering the army with the people can also maximize the disparity between China and Vietnam in terms of strength, and China's "strong bullying" and "monopoly of the South China Sea" moral "advantage" to the extreme, and it can achieve the effect of making China "throw the rats".
In addition, it weakens China's international reputation and creates a favorable environment for its unilateral actions in the Nansha waters. In addition to the consideration that the military and police are inferior to China, Vietnam's strategy of "pretending to be weak" by the "people" against China's "military and police" is also deliberately "enlarging" China's power advantage and shaping China as a maritime "bully" so as to win the sympathy and support of the international community in unilateral actions such as island construction, oil and gas drilling and development in the Nansha Islands.
The Vietnamese government is strengthening the strategy of all citizens in the maritime sector, and is striving to include all fishing boats (civilians) operating in the South China Sea under the guidance of the defense department, and placing maritime militias in the South China Sea military security struggle in an important or even priority position. Relying on the fishing boat-militia self-defense force system, Vietnam can achieve the goal of “containing China’s operations in the South China Sea to the greatest extent possible, weakening China’s international reputation, and gaining international support” at a “low cost”, and it can take hold in maritime disputes with Malaysia, Indonesia and other countries.
In the context of the continuous escalation of the overall competition between China and the United States in the South China Sea, Vietnam seems to have obtained huge benefits from the "fishing boat-militia" strategy. It not only has the effect of monitoring China and proclaiming the South China Sea (especially the Paracel Islands), but also achieved The purpose of "relying on the United States to control China".
However, Vietnam's "fishing boat-militia" strategy has left a huge "dark space" for all parties in the South China Sea to control the situation in the South China Sea. At the same time, it has laid hidden dangers for the future development of the situation in the South China Sea and promoted the negotiation of the "Code of Conduct in the South China Sea" for China and ASEAN countries. The management and control of the maritime situation poses a difficult problem and runs counter to the trend of world development.
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