VPA readies for joining international activities

PANO – Vietnam hosts the 2013 ASEAN Regional Disaster Emergency Response Exercise (ARDEX) in October. Earlier, for the first time, the country sent its troops to join the Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief and Military Medicine Exercise (HADR&MM) in Brunei.

Vietnamese troops to join HADR&MM exercise in Brunei

Lieutenant General Tran Quang Khue, Deputy Chief of the General Staff of Vietnam People’s Army, granted the People’s Army Newspaper an interview about these events.

- How did the Vietnam contingent contribute to the success of the HADR&MM in Brunei, Lieutenant General?

Last month, Vietnam People’s Army sent its troops to join the HADR&MM, which took place within the framework of the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting Plus in Brunei. This was a large-scale exercise with the participation of over 3,000 people coming from 18 countries.

Lieutenant General Tran Quang Khue

Lieutenant General Tran Quang Khue

That was the first time we dispatched our troops to join an exercise overseas, so the leaders of the Ministry of National Defence instructed in very close touch. Units involved in this thoroughly grasped their tasks and seriously implemented them with a high sense of responsibility to well prepare for the exercise. The Department for Search and Rescue worked with the Defence Institute for International Relations, VPA’s Department for External Affairs, Military Medical Department, Engineering Command and other relevant agencies to prepare, from planning for the exercise to selecting personnel, training and logistics.

During their training, the troops tried their best to overcome difficulties under severe weather conditions. The selected troops have good heath, skills and speak English well, so they accomplished their assigned tasks

In the exercise last month, the VPA participated in as co-chair of the ADMM Plus Experts’ Working Group on HADR (with China). We were also a member of the Steering Committee for the exercise (including five countries of Japan, Brunei, China, Singapore and Vietnam). At the field, the Vietnamese contingent joined two important contents of the exercise: rescue at a collapsed building and military medicine assistance.

After returning from Brunei, the contingent met to review their activities and reported to the leaders of the Ministry of National Defence. Apart from successfully accomplishing our assigned tasks, the VPA’s status and prestige have been heightened. Discipline, friendship and good professional skills were maintained during the exercise. It can be confirmed, through the exercise, that the VPA is ready to participate in international activities in the future.

The leaders of the Brunei Ministry of Defence highly appreciated our contribution and confirmed that Vietnam’s participation made the exercise a success.

After the exercise, ASEAN and its partners proposed that each country should organize its own emergency response teams to be ready for any emergency situation.

- What lessons have we learnt to apply in the similar activities in the future, especially when Vietnam is to host the ARDEX in this October, Lieutenant General?

The preparation and dispatching of our troops to the exercise in Brunei has an important practical meaning because it helped bring valuable experience for Vietnam to prepare its forces to join United Nations peacekeeping operations, as stated by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung at the 12th Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.

There are many experiences drawn from the exercise in Brunei, notably the three following issues: Firstly, is the close collaboration and full exploitation of the potential of participating countries. Brunei is a small country but it collaborates well with other countries and takes use of the capacity of participating armies. That is what we should learn. Secondly, choosing the contents and planning for the exercise was scientifically and strictly conducted by Brunei. Finally, logistics work, from giving permissions to communication, accommodation and transportation, was well done.

These practical experiences will be learnt and applied to prepare for the ARDEX at Thuy An commune, Ba Vi district, Hanoi, in this October.

- Could you please elaborate about the goals and size of the 2013 ARDEX?

ASEAN Foreign Ministers signed the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response in July 2005 in Vientiane, Laos. This is the legal foundation for ASEAN members to cooperate and assist each other in possible serious disasters in the region. To realize this agreement, ASEAN Committee on Disaster Management decided to organize an exercise and, as a result, the ARDEX is established. This exercise is to train, review and supplement standard operation procedures for sending troops from ASEAN countries to a country in response to a disaster. This will facilitate the country in overcoming disaster, and ASEAN members, UN agencies and international organizations to effectively and practically cooperate in dealing with serious disasters.

The ARDEX was held in Malaysia in 2005, Cambodia in 2006, Singapore in 2007 and Thailand in 2008 … This year, Vietnam hosts this event.

- As the host country, how does Vietnam plan and prepare to make the exercise a success, Lieutenant General?

Ten ASEAN countries and some ASEAN partners are scheduled to join the 2013 ARDEX. The Vietnamese government tasked the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to contact the participating countries. The Ministry of National Defence is tasked to chair the field work. So far, we have completed the planning for the exercise. The scenario of the exercise is that a strong storm makes landfall in Vietnam, causing serious casualty and damaging property. Accordingly, the participating forces will conduct search and rescue for people in the flooded area, rescuing victims in collapsed buildings, responding to toxic chemicals spilling from a factory, and providing medical assistance.

The exercise will officially take place on October 23rd. Recently, Vietnam organized the first workshop, with the participation of representatives from 10 ASEAN countries, to introduce the plan, scenario and exercise area. After this workshop, the countries will consider and register the contents they will join, as well as their forces and equipment for the exercise. There will be two more workshops in August and September to reach agreement on the contents, scenario and participating forces.

The Ministry of National Defence tasked the Department for Search and Rescue to cooperate with other agencies to prepare the exercise ground and logistics for the Steering Committee, Multi-National Coordination Centre and participating forces.

- Thank you very much, Lieutenant General!

Translated by Ngoc Hung