Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Catholic committee celebrates 50th anniversary

The Catholic Solidarity Committee of Vietnam observes its 50th anniversary this year. Originally founded in 1955 in North Vietnam as the Liason Committee of Patriotic and Peace Loving Vietnamese Catholics, it has served the purpose of mobilizing Catholics in support of government policies. Its president Nguyen Tan Khoa noted Catholic contributions to the society, including military enlistment, and charitable and social work. (VNA, Thai Press Reports March 29).

Party chief concludes Laos visit

Party General Secretary Nong Duc Manh returned to Hanoi March 26, concluding his three-day official visit to Laos. While in Laos he met with various officials and signed a joint declaration on bilateral cooperation. (VNA, Viet Nam News March 28).

90,000 young ethnic minorities jobless

Vietnam each year reports around 90,000 young unemployed ethnic minorities, according to figures released at a Hanoi seminar March 28. The seminar, organized by the Committee for Ethnic Minorities and the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union, aims to generate more jobs for young ethnic minorities, who account for 50-60% of the ethnic minority workforce. (Vietnam News Briefs March 29).

Denmark pledges $60 million in aid

Danish Under Secretary of State for Bilateral Affairs Ib Peterson pledged his country will grant more than $60 million in non-refundable aid to Vietnam for the 2006-2010 period, during a high-level conference with Vietnam in Hanoi recently. Denmark advised Vietnam to focus its efforts on reducing poverty in the ethnic communities. The two sides also discussed environmental protection, anti-corruption efforts and human rights. (VNA, Thanhniennews.com, March 26).

Thich Nhat Hanh meets with PM Phan Van Khai

PM Pham Van Khai affirmed Buddhism’s close links with the Vietnamese nation in a Hanoi meeting (March 25) with overseas Vietnamese zen master Thich Nhat Hanh, visiting the country at the invitation of the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha. Ven. Nhat Hanh said he hoped the government will continue to promote Buddhist cultural values. (Viet Nam News March 26).

Bird flu hits family of five

A family of five in a rural district of Haiphong have tested positive for the bird flu virus. The two parents and three children, aged for months to ten years -- are reported in stable condition at Viet Tiep hospital. The family had been raising over 400 poultry, all of which have been culled. Two other Vietnamese tested positive last week, including a 17-year-old girl who died. The virus has killed 34 Vietnamese, 12 Thais and two Cambodians over the last two years. The Ministry of Health said Saturday that it will launch a major campaign next month to clean up poultry farms and cages throughout the country in order to stop the virus. (Agence France Presse, March 29, Associated Press, March 29).

Monday, March 28, 2005

Drought hardships in central Vietnam

An estimated 1.12 million people in central Vietnam and the Central Highlands face water shortages, while more than 524,000 people suffer from hunger as a result of the severe drought which has struck the country. At least nine provinces in the Mekong Delta have had their land contaminated by seawater in recent days. Dak Lak province will allot $1 million to help localities dig or drill water wells. Earlier the Prime Minister had allocated around $6.3 million and 15,000 tons of rice to help residents of drought-stricken provinces. (Vietnam News Briefs March 24).

Secret war documents to be released

Some previously undisclosed secret documents on the Vietnam war will soon be published, according to a Ministry of Defense announcement made in Hanoi last Wednesday (March 24). The documents, likely to be released for the 30th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, will apparently include information about PAVN soldiers and military support from China and the Soviet Union. (Voice of Vietnam, BBC Monitoring March 24).

Serious food shortage looms

Severe drought could cause a major food shortage in Vietnam this year, agricultural officials said at a seminar of southern provinces last week. "The threat of a five million ton rice shortage is very serious," said Bui Ba Bong, deputy agricultural minister. He said there is no way to predict the summer-autumn rice harvest for the drought-stricken north, so "the Mekong Delta has to produce for the whole country in this crop." (Thanhniennews.com March 24).

Labor shortage in HCMC

Ho Chi Minh City faces a serious shortage of laborers to work abroad or in local industrial parks, despite its high unemployment rate. City residents interested in working overseas are discouraged by the high unemployment rate of returning workers, only 20% of whom find work after their return, according to a recent survey. (Vietnam News Briefs March 24).

Friday, March 25, 2005

NA chairman meets WTO director

World Trade Organization General Director Supachai Panitchpakdi commended recent legislation in Vietnam to enhance its entrance into the WTO. The remarks were made during a Geneva meeting Wednesday (March 23) with Vietnam National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Van An. The WTO director urged Vietnam to further revise its regulations on taxes, trade, investment, intellectual property and services, in order to make it more investment friendly. An replied that Vietnam's entrance into the WTO is a top priority for the country and that the National Assembly is completing laws for its WTO entry. An also met with E.O. Christine, Swiss Parliamentary Deputy Speaker, to discuss relations between the two countries. An's visit is a part of his European tour begun March 12, he has also visited Italy, Belgium and the United Kingdom. (VNA, Thanhniennews.com, March 24).

Australian sentenced to death on drug charges

The Ho Chi Minh City Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal from an Australian man of Vietnamese origin, Tran Van Thanh, 40, who was sentenced to death on drug smuggling charges. His two accomplices, Tran Van Viet, 30, and Pham Martin, 48, both also Australian citizens, received life sentences; while a delivery man was sentenced to 16 years. They were tried in Nov. 2004, convicted of attempting to smuggle in June 2003 nearly 700 grams of heroin ($30,000 worth) from Vietnam to Australia. Thanh has until next Monday to appeal for clemency from Pres. Tran Duc Luong. Australia says it will appeal for Thanh's clemency because it strongly opposes the death penalty. (AAP March 24)

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

French magazine special issue on Vietnam

The French magazine Geo devotes a speical 164-page edition to Vietnam, with five topics -- memory, people, beliefs, renewal and tourist guide. The editor notes that about 70% of Vietnam's population were born after 1975, giving the country a big advantage on its way to development. (VNA, Thai press reports, March 22; GEO no. 15).

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

TB conference held in Hanoi

A conference on the battle against tuberculosis was held in Hanoi, March 18, to review the fight against TB and support International Tuberculosis Day (March 24). TB is currently one of the five leading killers in Vietnam, placing the country third in the region, and maong the 22 countries in the world with the highest rates of TB infection. Nearly 100,000 active TB cases were reported in 2004 in Vietnam, an increase of 6.7% over 2003. (VNA, Thai Press Reports March 22, Xinhua March 22)

NA drafting legal documents for WTO

Vietnam's National Assembly is drafting 30 legal documents for the negotiations on Vitenam's entrance into the World Trade Organization (WTO). The 26 laws and codes, and four ordinances are being drafted to revised and supplemented to carry out duties which will arise during bilateral and multilateral WTO talks. Vietnam has so far concluded WTO negotiations with six partners, but has 21 others to complete before July 2000 if it it to join the trade body this year. (VNA March 14, Thai Press reports, March 23).

Vietnam, China security accord signed

Vietnam Mininster of Public Security Le Hong Anh and visiting China Minister of State Security Xu Yongyue signed a cooperation agreement after their talks in Hanoi March 21. The two ministers discussed mutual concerns, including the supposed threat that "peaceful evolution" and human rights and democracy movements pose to the two countries. They also discussed intensifying cooperation in exchanging information on combatting terrorism, smuggling and other crimes. Yuongyue is in Vietnam from March 20-24. (VNA March 21, BBC Monitoring March 22).

Vietnam tightens control over demonstrations

Vietnam enacted a new decree March 18, tightening controls over demonstrations and banning unauthorized gatherings. It requires that all gatherings not organized by government organizations or the Communist Party receive advance government approval. It also allows local people's committees to cancel such gatherings if they are considered a threat to public order. It also bans gatherings in front of government buildings, international conferences, and the National Assembly. (Agence France Presse, March 22, ABC Radio Australia, March 23).

PM visit to U.S. planned

U.S.-Vietnam talks are underway for Prime Minister Pham Van Khai to visit the U.S.in May or June this year, a Vietnamese diplomatic source told Agence France Presse. His visit would be the first such official tour of the U.S. since the war ended 30 years ago, and would reciprocate the Nov. 2000 visit to Vietnam of Pres. Bill Clinton. Vietnam academic specialist Carl Thayer suggested the visit could see a quid pro quo between U.S. business negotiations in return for Vietnam's willingness to respond to U.S.concerns on human rights and religious freedom. (Agence France Presse, March 22).

Monday, March 21, 2005

Bird flu hits commune in Quang Binh province

Two children, siblings from Chau Hoa commune of Quang Binh province, tested positive for the H5N1 strain of bird flu, while 195 other local residents have shown symptoms of the flu, reported Mai Xuan Thu, vice chairman of the provincial People’s Committee on March 20. The province is currently trying to stop the spread of the influenza by culling all poultry in the commune. (Thanhniennews.com, March 20).

Human rights record defended

Human rights in Vietnam are not guaranteed simply in words but through action, said Dr Cao Duc Thai, Director of the Centre on Human Rights Research of the Ho Chi Minh National Politics Institute, in the March issue of Tap Chi Cong San. Dr. Thai highlight changes in Vietnam's legal system, including the passage of the 1992 constitution, and some 40 laws, including the Civil Code, the Labour Code, the Law on Investment, the Law on Child Care, Education and Protection, and the Worshipping and Religious Ordinance. (VNA, Vietnamnet March 21).

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Vietnam war conference at Texas Tech

The Vietnam Center at Texas Tech University opened its triennial conference last week on Vietnam, bringing together a wide diversity of academics, Vietnam veterans, doctoral students, government officials and others. Much of the discussion at the conference focused on improved U.S.-Vietnam relations, with the current ambassador to Vietnam Michael Marine and his predecessor Amb. Raymond Burghardt both noting cooperating between the two countries in the business, humanitarian, defense and other sectors. High-level diplomats from Vietnam were invited, including the Deputy Foreign Minister, but they cancelled at the last moment. (Ft. Worth Star Telegram, March 18).

Vietnam-U.S. talks on WTO

Representatives from Vietnam and the U.S. met in Washington, D.C. March 14-16 to discuss Vietnam’s entrance into the World Trade Organization. (Vietnam Ministry of Foreign Affairs webiste March 18, BBC Monitoring, March 18).

Overseas Vietnamese aid welcomed

Overseas Vietnamese, once shunned, are now welcomed with open arms when they return to Vietnam, reports Bill Bainbridge of the International Herald Tribune. Twenty years ago, Vietnamese hid their relationship with relatives living abroad, and overseas Vietnamese remittances to Vietnam amounted to the mere thousands. Now their remittances outstrip foreign direct investment and Vietnam’s annual development aid. Last year, they came to $3.8 billion, up 23% from $3.1 billion the previous year. (International Herald Tribune, April 18).

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Japan aid discussed during FM Nien's visit

Visiting Vietnam Foreign Minister Nguyen dy Nien urged Japan to maintain its official development aid (ODA) at the present level, in a meeting with Japan Prime Minister Junichero Koizumi last Wednesday (March 9). Nien also urged Koizumi to accelerate bilateral talks between the two countries on Vietnam's admission to the World Trade Organization. Koizumi responded that the issues should be discussed at the working level. (Japan Economic Newswire March 9).

Scientific research center planned

Vietnam plans to build a $25 million center to support scientific research and technological development, the SRV Ministry of Science and Technology announced. The ministry has not yeet released the site of the planned center, or the schedule of construction.

Vietnam invested $12 million last year in training personnel involved in science and technology abroad. It plans to spend an additional $33 million over the next five years, most of the funding going to students studying for bachelors and masters degrees. (Saigon Giai Phong, March 10, Vietnam News Briefs March 11).

Hanoi sinking fast

Hanoi is sinking due to the city's fast rising demand for water, reports South China Morning Post correspondent David Marsh. He says Hanoi is set to increase water demand by 20% this year alone, and this is drawing down the underground water table, causing surface instability, road damage, drainage problems and construction risks. The water table is now as much as 35 meters below the ground, compared to three or four meters 40 years ago. Marsh describes one tenant's apartment, which has sunk 80 cm. into the earth over the last ten years. (South China Morning Post, March 11).

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Vietnam's religious policy status delayed

The U.S. State Department has requested Congress allow it more time to finalize the required actions under the International Religious Freedom Act. This would apply to Vietnam as it was one of three countries designated last September as a "Country of Particular Concern" for its poor religious policy (Eritrea and Saudi Arabia being the other two nations). Under this act, the Bush administration was required to impose some kind of sanctions by today (March 15) if Vietnam was judged not to have made significant improvement in this area. A senior U.S. diplomat said important progress has been made with Vietnam, noting the release of some high profile religious prisoners, the visit last week of U.S. ambassador-at-large for religious freedom John Hanford; and the new directive that allows Protestant house churches to carry out their worship in the Central Highlands, if they cut ties with FULRO. .(U.S. State Dept. daily press briefing, March 15; VOA news March 15)

NA chairman to tour Europe

National Assembly chairman Nguyen Van An will visit Italy, Belgium, the European Parliament (EP), Britain and Switzerland during his March 11-25 tour of the region. The European Union is now Vietnam's largest trading partner, bilateral trade increasing 15-20 percent annually to reach $7.3 billion in 2004. (VNA, Thanhniennews.com, March 10).

Egypt-Vietnam economic forum

An economic forum on Egypt-Vietnam cooperation opens Wednesday, sponsored by the Egyptian Businessmen Association, expected to be attended by some 100 businessmen and investors. Egypt and Vietnam will sign this week a data exchange agreement during the visit of the Vietnam Minister of Trade. (InfoProd March 10).

China concerned over Philippines-Vietnam sea exploration

China has expressed concern over plans of Vietnam and the Philippines to jointly conduct scientific research in the area of the South China Sea where the Spratly islands are located. China foreign ministry spokesman Kong Quan said China hopes the two countries will “strictly follow the established principles” of a 2002 agreeement by rival Spratlys claimants to refrain from actions that could disturb the peace of the area. The joint expedition will take marine science experts to some 26 marine stations in the South China Sea from April 6-9. (Agence France Presse, March 10).

Monday, March 14, 2005

Monorail to connect HCMC to Highway 1

Japanese experts this week will submit to Vietnamese authorities a feasibility study for a $474 million project to build a monorail that would connect central Ho Chi Minh City to the North-South Highway on the city's outskirts. The study, prepared by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), plans for the monorail to follow the same route as JICA's proposed Railway 4. A HCMC official said local authorities might ask Japan for soft loans to cover 85% pf the investment for the project. If the plan proceeds, work on the monorail is expected to begin in 2009 and be completed by 2013, able to transport between 20,000-30,000 people an hour. (Saigon Daily Times, March 10, Vietnamese Panorama, Vietnam News Briefs, March 11).

Second nurse with bird flu

A 46-year-old female nurse apparently contracted the H5N1 virus (bird flu) , after taking care of a 26-year-old victim of the disease. She is the second nurse in less than a week to have contracted the disease, and both come from Thai Binh province in northern Vietnam. Vietnam officials claim the disease is subsiding, but World Health Organization officials and other health experts fear a major pandemic will occur, killing millions of people, if the disease mutates to become spread from humans to humans. Since January this year, more than 1.5 million poulty have been culled in 35 cities and provinces of Vienam. (Xinhua March 12)

Update: The nurse subsequently tested negative for the bird flu virus. She had been admitted last Thursday to Hanoi's Bach Mai Hospital with typical bird flu symptoms - a high fever, coughing and a lung infection. (Associated Press March 15).

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Mennonite Christian released from prison

Mennonite Christian Nguyen Van Phuong was released March 3, five months after a trial in which he and five other Mennonites were tried and sentenced for “inciting people to obstruct officials from carrying out their duties.” Phuong, who had been sentenced to a year, appeared to be in fair health. He is the third of the group to have been released since the trial. (The Christian Post, March 10).

Vietnam official denies religious persecution

Vietnam Deputy Police Minister Lt. Gen. Nguyen Van Huong met with U.S. State Department roving ambassador on religious issues John Hanford.in Hanoi March 6, to discuss the religious situation in Vietnam and the U.S. designation of Vietnam as a "Country of Particular Concern" for its religious policy. Huong claimed there are no religious prisoners in Vietnam, and that the U.S. has collected wrong information about Vietnam's religious situation. He described improved policies toward Protestant Christians. Hanford agreed on U.S. help in gathering more information about an anti-communist resistance leader, Nguyen Huu Chanh. President Bush has until March 15 to decide whether to impose sanctions on Vietnam because of its designation as a "Country of Particular Concern." (Vietnam News Briefs, March 8).

ECAP II program started in Vietnam

The European Commission (EC)-ASEAN Intellectual Property Rights Cooperation Program (ECAP II) in Vietnam was officially inaugerated in Hanoi on March 4. Vietnam will become the largest recipient of ECAP II with the pledged sum of 1.5 million EUR for more than 50 intellectual property operations in the country. It will focus on finalizing the legal framework for the management and enforcement of intellectual property rights. (VNA, Thai Press Reports March 8).

Vietnam-India military talks

A military delegation led by Defense Minister General Pham Van Tra arrived in New Delhi March 5 on a five-day visit to discuss improved bilateral military cooperation. Gen. Tra thanked Indian Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee for India’s military aid and met with officials for working sessions on bilateral cooperation. (VNA, Thai Press Reports March 8).

Professor sues for access to LBJ briefings

Professor Larry Berman of the Univ. of California at Davis has filed a lawsuit against the CIA for access to three different days of the president's daily briefings (PDBs) of the Johnson Administration. He says access to these briefings would shed light on the Tet Offensive and other aspects of the Johnson administration. The CIA argues the briefings contain sensitive information, and furthermore maintains a blanket policy of not declassifying any PDBs. (The Recorder, New York Lawyer, March 9).

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

More songs approved for public use

The Vietnamese music authorities announced that 99 songs composed by musicians in pre-75 South Vietnam will now be allowed for public consumption. Included in the list are two songs by famed composer Trinh Cong Son. This decision brings to 850 the number of songs approved by the Performance Arts Department of the Ministry of Culture and Information. Head of the department Le Ngoc Cuong acknowledged that this is only a small fraction of some 30,000 songs composed in south Vietnam before 1975, along with thousands of others composed by overseas Vietnamese. Cuong said that songs with anti-government or “unhealthy” content will not be allowed for publication; also banned from publication are biographies of musicians and song composers of pre-75 South Vietnam, as well as the work of overseas Vietnamese whose political stance is not clear. (Pioneer, March 7, Vietnamese Panorama, Vietnam News Briefs March 8).

Nguyen Dan Que interviewed

In a telephone interview with Claudia Rosett of the Wall Street Journal, the recently released dissident Dr. Nguyen Dan Que, 63, urged the Vietnamese Communist Party to set a timetable for free elections in the country. While describing his release as being “transferred from a smaller prison to a bigger one,” he nevertheless expressed hope of a democratic future, because “The world is changing. There are more opportunities than ever.” (Wall Street Journal, March 9).

Agricultural exports up

Vietnam earned $611 million from agricultural and forestry product exports during the first two months of this year, an increase of 13% over the same period last year. Of the total export turnover, $449 was from agricultural products while the remaining came from forestry products. Major agricultural exports for the period include: coffee ($125.5 m.), rice ($125.3 m.), cashew nuts ($50.8 m.), fruits and vegetables ($29 m.), and tea ($15 m.) Total agricultural and forestry product exports last year amounted to $4.2 billion. (VNA March 8).

Vietnam delegation in Bulgaria, Romania

Expanded bilateral cooperation in seafood exports and tourism were among the topics discussed by Vietnamese and Bulgarian officials in a session held in Sofia Feb. 23-26. The Vietnamese delegation, led by Deputy Industry Minister Bui Xuan Khu, then traveled to Romania to discuss trade and investment. Both countries support Vietnam’s entry into the World Trade Organization. (VNA, Thai Press Reports, March 8).

Vietnam Protestant congress concludes

Pastor Thai Phuoc Truong was elected President of the General Confederation of Vietnam Protestant Church (Southern region), and Pastor Le Van Thien its General Secretary, as the 2nd General Assembly of the church concluded a four-day meeting in Ho Chi Minh City March 4. The conference reviewed the 2001-2005 period and set goals for the next five years. (VNA, March 4, Thanhniennews.com, March 1; see also VNA March 1)

Top Buddhist dignitary passes away

Venerable Thich Tam Tich, chairman of the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha, passed away March 6 in Hanoi at the age of 91. He was a member of the Central Executive Board of the United Vietnamese Buddhist Church of north Vietnam when the church was established in 1958. After the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha was created under government auspices in 1981, he became a member of the VBS Sangha Council and since 1997 served as its chairman. (Vietnam News Briefs, March 8).

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Reporter faces prosecution

The Ministry of Public Security indicated yesterday that Tuoi Tre health reporter Nguyen Thi Lan Anh may face prosecution for revealing state secrets in an article she wrote eight months ago. She is alleged to have quoted from an as yet unreleased dispatch from the Ministry of Health in an article about a pharmaceutical company that was dominating the imported medicine market. Tuoi Tre says the contents of the dispatch did not differ from what Health ministry officials had told the press earlier. (Thanhniennews.com, March 9).

Nixon-Vietnam war conference cancelled

A conference on President Nixon and the Vietnam war, sponsored by the Nixon library and to be held April 28 -29, has been cancelled due to lack of interest. Library officials said only seven people registered out of a mailing of 10,500 invitations. They would need at least 200 attendees' paying $180 in order to sustain the event. Organizers say they might try to reschedule the conference for next year. The cancellation comes at a time when the library is preparing to accept 46 million pages of records and 3,700 hours of recordings of the Nixon presidency from the National Archives and Records Administration. (Chronicle of Higher Education, March 8).

Monday, March 07, 2005

Vietnam and China agree on land border markers

Vietnam and China agreed to plant more land border marker posts in eleven border gate areas this year, at the 11th round of talks on this issue, held in Hanoi from Feb. 25-March 4. The 12th session will be held in China in April. (Vietnam News Briefs, March 7).

Foreign Minister visits Japan

Foreign Minister Nguyen Dy Nien arrived in Japan yesterday (March 6), on a four day visit to discuss improving bilateral relations and seek Japan’s support for Vietnam’s accession to the World Trade Organization. The two countries agreed on most favored nation status in 1999, and last November signed an agrement on investment promotion and protection. (Vietnam News Briefs March 7).

Vietnam photographers conference

The Vietnam Photographers Association (VPA) will open its sixth congress on March 14 at Ha Noi's Ba Dinh Hall. It is expected that more than 370 photographers, representing almost 700 members, will attend the two-day congress. (VNA March 7).

U.S. servicemen remains repatriated

Three boxes of the remains and personal effects of what is believed to be U.S. servicemen were handed over to U.S. officials at a ceremony at Danang International Airport March 3. At the ceremony were representatives from the Vietnam Office for Seeking Missing Persons (VNOSMP), the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), and the US Embassy in Ha Noi. This was the 95th handover of missing American servicemen's remains since 1973, bringing the total number of repatriated MIA's remains to 829; it was also the 79th joint Vietnam-US search in northern Vietnam for MIA remains. (VNA, March 4).

Vietnamese nurse has bird flu

A 26-year-old Vietnamese nurse who cared for a patient with bird flu in northern Vietnam has contracted the deadly virus, doctors said today. It is not yet clear if he contacted the virus from the patient for sick poultry. If he did contact if from human transmission, then the ramifications would be disastrous, as human-to-human transmission of the disease could cause a major pandemic in the region. However, local doctors downplayed the possibility, noting that the nurse lived in a commune heavily impacted by bird flu. Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture says bird flu has abated, with 17 out of 35 hit provinces reporting no new outbreaks for at least 21 days. (Agence France Presse March 7).

Forestry development project launched

A six-year Forestry Sector Development Project has been launched for Vietnam, to support sustainable forest plantation managment and conserve biodiversity in special use forests, with the aim of increasing income for poor households. It is supported by Vietnam, Finland, the Netherlands and the World Bank. (United Nations Development Business Unit Print Edition: Issue No. 651, 31 March 2005; Asia Pulse March 7).

EC aids intellectual property protection in Vietnam

The European Commission has announced EUR1.5 million to Vietnam to promote the protection of intellectual property, to help implement some 50 intellectual property activities in Vitenam under the EC-ASEAN Intellectual Property Rights Cooperation Program (ECAO II), launched in Hanoi on Friday. It will focus on improving the legal system, strengthening managment and implementation of intellectual propety rights, and improving public awareness. (Vietnam News Briefs, March 7).

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Dengue fever treatment saves lives

A new strategy has been perfected, protecting more than 380,000 villagers from dengue fever in Vietnam, said a report in the Feb. 12 Lancet, by Brian Knight (Brisbane hospital) and Vu Sinh Nam (SRV Ministry of Health). It involves innoculating large water storages with crustaceans called Mesocyclops, which feed on mosquito larvae. No cases of dengue fever have been reported in any of the test villages since 2002.

Oil storage reservoir to be built

Vietnam's largest ever bonded petroleum storage reservoir will be built at My Giang Island in Van Phong Bay of Khanh Hoa province, under a contract signed in Hanoi Feb. 25 between various companies. The $100 million reservoir is expected to hold 5-6 million cubic meters of petroleum a year. (VNN March 3).

Road accidents leading cause of deaths

Road accidents are the leading cause of death in Vietnam among the 18-50 age group, experts said Friday (March 4) at a two-day seminar in Hanoi. Over the past decade reported road deaths increased four-fold, from 3,000 to 13,000, but the actual number of death could be much higher as many victims die later in the hospital from complications. The economic cost of the accidents represent 2% of the GDP, according to UNICEF. (Agence France Presse March 4).

Environmental priorities set

Priorities for sustainable development of Vietnam's natural resources and the environment were set forth at the annual meeting of the International Support Group for Natural Resouces and the Environment, held in Hanoi recently. Pham Khoi Nguyen, Vietnam's Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment, said these priorities include:

- making full use of donor support,
- establishing an international institute on natural resources and the environment,
- disbursing internatianl aid to urgent national environmental issues, and
- integrating management of river basins, riverbanks and coastlines, with an overall survey of natural resources and management as the first step.

Donors provided $97 million last year to projects carried out by the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment. (VNA March 4)

Legal cooperation with France discussed

Legal officials from Vietnam and France met in Hanoi March 2-3 to discuss cooperation in developing Vietnam's legal system along with economic development. It was the 12th working session of the Orientation Committee of the Vietnam-France Legal Home (VFLH), which has as so far opened training courses for over 2,000 Vietnamese lawyers and held almost 400 professional symposiums. VFLH co-president Nicole Guedj said France is willing to help Vietnam strengthen its legal system to improve its regional and international position without having to change its ideology and identity. (VNA March 4).

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Agent Orange lawsuit

A lawsuit has been filed in a Brooklyn, New York court, seeking possibly billions of dollars in compensation from U.S. chemical companies for the Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange. The U.S. Justice Department has joined the chemical companies in challenging the lawsuit, arguing that opening the US court system to former wartime enemies could threaten presidential power to wage war. (Associated Press March 2, The Telegraph, March 2).

Update: The case was dismissed Thursday, March 10, by Judge Jack Weinstein, who said, "There is no basis for any of the claims of plaintiffs under the domestic law of any nation or state or under any form of international law." In his 233- page ruling, he also stated that the evidence was presented in"brief anecdotal form;" and that "the fact that diseases were experienced by some people after spraying does not suffice to prove ... that the harm resulted to individuals because of the spraying... No study or technique presented to the court has demonstrated how it is now possible to connect the herbicides supplied by any defendant to exposure by any plaintiff to dioxin from that defendant's herbicide." The plaintiffs' lawyers plan an appeal. (Reuters March 10, Thanhniennews.com, March 10).

Vietnam rejects U.S. criticism

"Although recognizing Vietnam's positive progress, the US State Department's human rights report 2004 contains partial comments, which we totally reject," said Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Le Dzung. Dzung denied that there is religious repression, racial discrimination, or that anyone is jailed for their dissident political opinions. He said Vietnam is striving to improve its legal system. The comments were not surprising, as Vietnam annually denounces the U.S. State Department report on worldwide human rights practices, as well as other international human rights reports that include criticism of Vietnam. This year's response seemed milder than in previous years. (Thanh Nien, March 1).

Protestant Congress opens in HCMC

The Second Congress of the Vietnam Protestant Church of the southern region opened at the Saigon Protestant Church this morning, attended by "over 800 dignitaries and delegates from dioceses from Quang Tri province to Ca Mau province, Evangelical Missionary United Society, Governmental offices, Vietnamese Fatherland Front as well as international visitors." Pastor Thai Phuoc Truong, General Secretary of the southern Protestant Church, told journalists that one of the purposes of the congress was to promote greater church-state cooperation, with the motto, "living the gospel, serving God, the Fatherland and the Nation." (Thanh Nien, March 1).

Human Rights Watch sets benchmarks for Vietnam

Asia director of Human Rights Watch Brad Adams wrote an open letter to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Feb. 28, urging her to set forth several specific actions required by Vietnam in evaluating its progress in its religious policy. Vietnam has been declared by the U.S. State Department to be a "Country of Particular Concern" for its violations of religious rights, and must show significant progress on this front by March 15 if it is to avoid the imposition of U.S. sanctions. (Open letter of Brian Adams, Feb. 28; HRW press release Feb. 28).