Vietnamese petition calls for change of 'South China Sea' to 'Southeast Asia Sea'

Vietnamese group launches petition to change name of 'South China Sea' to 'Southeast Asia Sea'

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(Screenshot from Change.org petition)

(Screenshot from Change.org petition)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- A Vietnamese group has launched a petition on Change.org calling for the name of the "South China Sea" to be changed to the "Southeast Asia Sea."

The petition, called "Change the name "South China Sea" to 'Southeast Asia Sea' Petition," was created by the Nguyen Thai Hoc Foundation, which is named after a Vietnamese revolutionary. The petition argues that the name of the South China Sea should be changed to the "Southeast Asia Sea" because that is the name of the region that it lies in, the vast majority of coastline belongs to Southeast Asian nations, and freedom of navigation should not be limited to one country in the region.

The petition begins with a history lesson pointing out that Western merchants (Portuguese) who coined the name in the 16th century had little knowledge of the region at the time. It then mentions that ancient Chinese historical documents actually refer to the body of water as Jiaozhiyang or the Sea of Jiaozhi (交阯洋), with Jiaozhi actually being the ancient name for Vietnam.

In Southeast Asia itself, the body of water was originally known as the Champa Sea or Sea of Cham, according to the petition. The name came from the maritime Kingdom of Champa that flourished in Vietnam between the 7th and 16th centuries.

The petition then stated that since the 20th century, the region encompassing Burma, Brunei, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, and Vietnam became officially referred to as Southeast Asia. According to the petition writers, the population of Southeast Asia is over 600 million.

The authors of the petition then listed what they described as "three facts" to justify the name change. First, the UN has already officially recognized the name of the region to be "Southeast Asia."

Second, a total of 130,000 kilometers of coastline of Southeast Asian nations touches the South China Sea, while a mere 2,800 kilometers of China's coastline comes in contact with the body of water. Third, the authors emphasized the importance of freedom of navigation and said that the sea is a "common heritage of mankind" used by the international community for centuries and is the "second most important water channel in the world."

The authors called on the leaders of 11 Southeast Asian countries, the UN, and CEOs and presidents of 12 geographic organizations around the globe to change the name from "South China Sea" to "Southeast Asia Sea." Thus far, 89,749 have signed the petition, with a goal of reaching 500,000.