Vietnam floods kill 12, capital Hanoi under water

People make their way through a flooded street in downtown Hanoi

People make their way through a flooded street in downtown Hanoi

HANOI (AFP) — Floods have killed at least 12 people in central Vietnam, emergency services said Friday, as heavy rains lashed the capital Hanoi and left many streets under one metre (three feet) of water.

Worst-hit central Ha Tinh province — where muddy waters inundated dozens of homes and hundreds of hectares of rice and other crops — reported seven deaths, said the National Flood and Storm Prevention Committee.

“A 48-year-old man was swept away after feeding his buffalo and a 19-year-old man was killed on the way to husk rice,” said the committee’s online report, adding that three of the victims were children.

More deaths were reported from Nghe An, Quang Ngai and Quang Nam provinces.

A week of heavy rains has swollen rivers and triggered flash floods and landslides in the region, where downpours continued Friday.

In northern Vietnam, the capital Hanoi was also hit by heavy rains that turned streets into rivers and caused traffic chaos, leaving many people stranded as flood waters soaked their motorcycle engines.

Vietnam gets lashed by typhoons, tropical storms and heavy rains every year. According to government figures, floods and landslides in Vietnam last year left 435 people dead and missing.

http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5g8QGl1cb-ohoFjaqA6eoG8tM4k4A

World Bank lends Vietnam 60 mln dlrs to modernise central bank

A Vietnamese flag flutters next to giant advertisement billboard for ATM cards, in Hanoi

A Vietnamese flag flutters next to giant advertisement billboard for ATM cards, in Hanoi

HANOI (AFP) — The World Bank Friday said it was lending communist Vietnam 60 million dollars for a project to modernise its central bank with better training and technology.

The credit would help the State Bank of Vietnam and other institutions “to reform and modernise the financial sector by improving delivery of their main functions in line with international standards,” said the bank.

Much of the loan would be used “to build a modern, centralised information and communications technology platform to support the State Bank of Vietnam’s evolving role as a central bank,” the World Bank said in a statement.

The project would also help the Credit Information Centre and the Deposit Insurance of Vietnam with funding from the International Development Association, the Washington-based World Bank’s concessional arm.

“The project is aimed at contributing to the achievement of the government’s strategic goal of a stable and sound financial sector in Vietnam,” said Xiaofeng Hua of the World Bank’s East Asia and Pacific region.

“This effort is critical in ensuring Vietnam’s sustainable economic growth and continued progress in poverty reduction, especially at a time of global financial turbulence.”

http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5gcvhR3w9-v8vhEvqTqe0R6k_uWdA

Vietnam Communist party takes tough stand against critical journalists

Hanoi: Vietnamese Communist Party authorities are to fire two editors at a national newspaper that published articles critical of the government’s policy, sources at the paper said yesterday.

“We have received the Party’s decision to punish us,” said Dang Ngoc, vice editor-in-chief of the newspaper Dai Doan Ket (Great Unity). “The decision said that we had violated Vietnam’s press law.”
Dai Doan Ket is the voice of Vietnam’s Fatherland Front, a powerful patriotic organisation affiliated with the Communist Party.

Ngoc said he and editor-in-chief Ly Tien Dung had been notified of the decision by Fatherland Front Secretary General Vu Trong Kim.

The decision reportedly says the paper violated the press law by publishing three stories that conflicted with government and Communist Party policies.

In early 2007, the paper published a piece by Christian priest and Fatherland Front member Nguyen Thien Cam advocating making the Front independent of the Communist Party.

In November 2007, the paper ran a letter written by war hero General Vo Nguyen Giap, opposing plans to build a new National Assembly building on a site where archaeological remains of Hanoi’s ancient citadel were discovered, leading to months of dispute over the new building in local media.

Finally, an opinion piece by veteran journalist Thai Duy in February argued that the “foreign” character of Soviet-style socialism embraced by Vietnam’s National Assembly in 1975 had alienated the Vietnamese people from the Party.

Vietnam’s government disclaimed responsibility for the firings, saying it was Fatherland Front’s decision.
“We did not intervene,” said vice minister Do Quy Doan of the Ministry of Information and Communications, which oversees Vietnam’s media.

Fatherland Front official Nguyen Van Vinh refused to comment.

“I don’t think the decisions are fair,” said a Dai Doan Ket reporter who declined to be named. “They just aimed to punish brave journalists who dared to point out Vietnam’s social injustices and government authoritarianism.”

The firings at Dai Doan Ket come two weeks after a Vietnamese court sentenced reporter Nguyen Viet Chien to two years in prison, and fellow reporter Nguyen Van Hai to two years of “re-education without detention,” for reporting on a major corruption scandal. – DPA

Vietnam halts plan to ban short and flat-chested motorists

HANOI (AFP) — Communist Vietnam has suspended a much-criticised plan to ban very short, thin and flat-chested people from driving, state media reported on Wednesday.

The new draft guidelines on motorcycle and car drivers had drawn widespread criticism and ridicule from motorists, newspaper readers and bloggers since they were published by the health ministry two weeks ago.

Under the 83-point plan, people shorter than 1.5 metres (4.9 feet), lighter than 40 kilogrammes (88 pounds) or with a chest circumference of less than 72 centimetres would no longer qualify for new drivers’ licences.

The proposal worried many in this nation of slender people and spurned jokes about traffic police with tape measures enthusiastically flagging down female motorcyclists, and predictions of a run on padded bras.

The justice ministry has asked the health ministry to temporarily suspend and review the plan, the Vietnam News daily reported.

“After receiving public opinion about the decision, the health and transport ministries agreed there had to be changes,” senior health department official Tran Quy Tuong was quoted as saying by the state-run daily.

http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5gyStZ3ojlFERiRMCe8rH_IDMu4TQ

5 killed in Vietnam floods

HANOI – AT LEAST five people have been killed in floods triggered by heavy rains in central Vietnam, emergency services said on Wednesday.

The dead included two children who were swept away when they tried to cross swollen rivers on their way home from school.

Three deaths were reported from Ha Tinh province and one each in Nghe An and Quang Nam provinces, the National Flood and Storm Prevention Committee said.

Dozens of homes have had their roofs blown off, hundreds of hectares of crops are damaged, and landslides have cut roads to two Quang Ngai mountain districts, reported the state-run Vietnam News Agency.

Vietnam’s central region, which suffers a series of typhoons and storms every year, has again been hit by heavy rains since Friday. Rivers were still swollen on Wednesday although the rains had eased, officials said.

Last year, Vietnam was hit by seven major tropical storms or typhoons which triggered floods and landslides that left 435 people dead and missing, the government’s General Statistics Office said. — AFP

http://www.straitstimes.com/Breaking%2BNews/SE%2BAsia/Story/STIStory_296102.html

Crackdown in Hanoi

BY SIMON ROUGHNEEN

Register Correspondent

Posted 10/28/08 at 9:55 AM

SINGAPORE — Vietnam’s communist authorities have upped the ante in an ongoing dispute with the Catholic Church. Now, they’re calling for the removal of Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet of Hanoi.

According to the state-run Vietnam News Agency, Nguyen The Thao, chairman of the Hanoi People’s Committee, told foreign diplomats Oct. 15 that “a number of priests, led by Archbishop Ngo Quang Kiet, took advantage of parishioners’ beliefs and their own low awareness of the law to instigate unrest.”

The unrest he must have been referring to is prayer.

Since late 2007, the archbishop has led prayer vigils across the city, as Vietnam’s 6 million Catholics had been protesting the government’s moves to turn the former apostolic nunciature in Hanoi into a public park.

Last month, however, the government’s reaction to the vigils turned violent, with riot police, stun guns and tear gas used against the gatherings.

Father Peter Khai Van Nguyen is a Redemptorist at the Thai Ha Church in Hanoi, site of one of the vigils and also a location for government-confiscated Church land.

He said that “eight months after promising to restore Church ownership of a building that once housed the office of the apostolic nuncio in Hanoi, Vietnamese authorities suddenly begun demolishing the building, provoking the outrage of Catholic protestors and drawing a heated protest from the city’s archbishop.”

Carl Thayer is a visiting fellow at the Australian National University and is a longtime watcher of Hanoi’s politics. “This land dispute has escalated and turned nasty,” he said. “The state media have vilified and defamed key Catholic leaders. Officials have organized gangs of revolutionary youth and military veterans to attack Catholics holding peaceful prayer vigils and to deface religious statues.”

Secular non-governmental organizations such as Human Rights Watch, which is at odds with Catholic teaching on abortion, have spoken out about the actions of the communist authorities in Hanoi. In a statement released Oct. 4, Elaine Pearson, Human Rights Watch’s deputy director in Asia, said, “This is the harshest crackdown on Catholics in Vietnam in decades.”

Relations between the Church and Vietnam are similar to those in China, where the government, not the Church, determines state-run church appointments. Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung visited the Vatican in early 2007.

The latest persecution of the Church comes soon after Vietnam won plaudits for its relaxation of restrictions on religious expression, presaging the country’s entry into the World Trade Organization.

Hanoi then won a U.N. Security Council seat earlier this year, and it teamed up with China and Russia to veto a Security Council resolution condemning Robert Mugabe’s brutal crackdown on the Zimbabwean opposition after elections were held in the African country in spring 2008.

Nina Shea is a commissioner on the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom, a bipartisan body set up in 1998 to “monitor the status of freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief abroad, as defined in the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ and related international instruments and to give independent policy recommendations to the president, the secretary of state and the Congress.”

She said that “a clear example of how trade trumped concern for religious freedom occurred in 2006 on the eve of President Bush’s visit to Vietnam for an economic summit, when the State Department removed Vietnam from its short list of the world’s worst religious persecutors.”

That move has more to do with diplomatic and economic exigencies as U.S.-Vietnam trade expands than real progress on religious freedom.

And Catholics are not the only religious group under pressure. According to Shea, “Religious organizations that resist government control of their leaders, religious texts, activities and rites are banned and experience harsh oppression.”

The presence of the autonomous Church is likely seen by the Communist Party as an intolerable challenge to state authority at a time of economic weakness. Vietnam’s rulers have taken a path somewhat akin to China, coupling selective free-market reforms with continued political authoritarianism.

“Party conservatives are invariably concerned about reforming too fast and provoking political instability,” Thayer said. “Now that inflation has risen and social problems have arisen, such as record strikes in the garment and textile industries, party conservatives are once again voicing concerns about political stability. Any activism that is pro-democracy or related to religious freedom is viewed as ‘part of the plot by hostile external forces to overthrow the socialist regime.’”

In early October, the Communist Party Central Committee held a summit meeting to discuss the growing economic crisis and gave the party’s Politburo oversight of the economy until the end of this year, taking policy out of the hands of the Dung government.

Protestant missionaries in Vietnam’s north have also worried the Politburo, with conversions evoking the drift to Catholicism promoted by French missionaries in the 1800s, which undermined the then-Confucian elite in the mainly-Buddhist country.

Some Buddhist movements have also been targets of the government’s ire. Arrests of religious leaders continue, and in its most recent report on Vietnam, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom outlined its view “that in all of the most recent cases of arrest, imprisonment and other detention, religious leaders and religious freedom advocates had engaged in actions protected by international human rights instruments.”

And Vietnam is playing hardball not just with the Church. A prominent journalist was jailed for his role in exposing a multimillion dollar corruption scandal in which aid money donated from the World Bank and the European Union, among others, was used by senior and middle-ranking transport officials to bet on soccer matches in England.

Nguyen Viet Chien, a reporter with the daily newspaper Thanh Nien, was sentenced to two years in jail for exposing the scandal, work which the courts declared to be an “abuse of democratic freedoms.”

Other reporters, apparently eager to appease the government after Chien’s incarceration, have begun concocting stories that a majority of Vietnam’s Catholics are at odds with those attending the prayer vigils, even as support gatherings spring up at Catholic churches elsewhere in Vietnam.

Cardinal Jean Baptiste Pham Minh Man, in a pastoral letter sent to all Catholic priests, religious and faithful of the Archdiocese of Saigon, described the state-run media coverage of the vigils as “serving the privileges of the powerful, and of parties, not the common good of the nation.”

Long Le teaches Vietnamese studies at the University of Houston. He outlined the government’s approach to freedom of religion.

“Vietnam promotes the country’s religious traditions to draw foreign travelers to Vietnam’s cathedrals, temples and pagodas, while religious groups are still being persecuted,” he said.

Cardinal Pham Minh Man said in a statement: “There has been distorted or truncated information as in the land dispute at the former apostolic nunciature. Coming from our desire to actively contribute to the country’s stable and sustainable development, we would like to share these thoughts with our fellow Christians and all people of good will and sincere hearts.

“We firmly believe that when we together work to build the country on the basis of justice, truth and love, Vietnam our country will become more prosperous, bring happiness and wealth to everyone and construct a better world.”

Simon Roughneen is based in

Papua, New Guinea.

http://www.ncregister.com/site/article/16359/

Vietnam to ban small-chested drivers

In Vietnam, the skinny and the petite can look forward to getting more exercise after proposed new regulations set a minimum chest size for licensed drivers.

By Thomas Bell, South East Asia Correspondent
Last Updated: 6:58AM GMT 29 Oct 2008

Anyone with a chest under 28 inches will be banned from driving a motorbike – which make up 90 per cent of the traffic on the country’s chaotic roads.

Anyone who is too short, too thin or too sickly will also have to seek alternative transport. Ailments such as enlarged livers or sinusitis will rule out aspirant motorists.

“The new proposals are very funny, but many Vietnamese people could become the victim of this joke,” said Le Quang Minh, 31, a Hanoi stockbroker. “Many Vietnamese women have small chests. I have many friends who won’t meet these criteria.”

The average Vietnamese man is 5 feet, 4 inches (164 centimeters) tall and weighs 121 pounds (55 kilograms). The average Vietnamese woman is 5 feet, 1 inch (155 centimeters) tall and weighs 103 pounds (47 kilograms).

Vietnamese bloggers have been poking fun at the plan, envisioning traffic police with tape measures eagerly pulling over female drivers to measure their chests.

“From now on, padded bras will be best-sellers,” said Bo Cu Hung, a popular Ho Chi Minh City blogger.

“I’m not heavy enough, what am I going to do?” Le Thu Huong asked in a letter to Tuoi Tre newspaper. “And what about people whose chests are small? Most of them are too poor to afford breast implants!”

Vietnamese roads are among the most dangerous in the world but it is not clear why the ruling Communist Party believes banning small drivers will make them safer.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/3277253/Vietnam-to-ban-small-chested-drivers.html

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