Vietnamese government approves country’s first privately owned airline 

HANOI (Thomson Financial) – Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has authorized the creation of his country’s first privately owned airline, Vietjet, the company said Friday.

‘The prime minister signed the approval on Thursday and we are waiting for an official license from the transport ministry, which will be available in two weeks,’ Vietjet spokeswoman Pham Thi Yen said.

The airline will be based in Hanoi, with start-up capital of 600 billion dong, she said.

Vietjet is 100 percent owned by Vietnamese and is expected to operate on domestic routes from December, she said.

According to the Lao Dong newspaper, it will use 10 planes to begin with.

Vietnam has two state-owned or partly privatized carriers: Vietnam Airlines, which is expected to be partly privatized, and budget carrier Pacific Airlines, which includes Qantas Airways of Australia among its shareholders.

The prime minister recently allowed Vietnam Airlines to establish a partly private company by reorganising subsidiary Vietnam Air Service Co (VASCO). Industry sources have said Vietnam is planning to turn VASCO into a low-cost carrier.

(1 US = 16,216 dong)


Vietnam sentences heroin traffickers to death: report

The Vietnamese Government says 12 people have been sentenced to death after being found guilty of trafficking more than 70 kilograms of heroin.

The ruling Communist Party’s daily newspaper, Nhan Dan, says another eight people got life sentences, while nine more were given jails terms of 18 months to 30 years.

The defendants, several of whom were related, were convicted of trafficking the heroin from several northern provinces between 2005 and May 2006.

Judges in the five-day trial in the northern province of Quang Ninh also handed life prison terms to eight others, while another nine members of the same gang were jailed for between 18 months and 30 years, newspaper said.

On Thursday, 15 people were sentenced to death for drug trafficking in two different trials in Hanoi and the central province of Nghe An. Another 10 were jailed for life.

Possession of more than 600 grams of heroin or more than 20 kilograms of opium is punishable by death in Vietnam.

At least 90 people have been sentenced to death since the start of the year, mostly for drug trafficking and murder, according to figures compiled by AFP from officials and state media.


Isle groups push to free activist

The daughter of a Honolulu man being held in Vietnam for preparing pro-democracy leaflets and Vietnamese organizations in the United States are trying to apply pressure to win his release.

Leon Truong, 53, was arrested on Nov. 17, along with six other activists, at a home in Ho Chi Minh City.

Truong’s daughter, Lauren Truong, will travel to Washington, D.C., in December to join a rally in hopes of bringing attention to her father’s plight.

Meanwhile, local Vietnamese say they support what Truong was doing as a member of the pro-democracy group Viet Tan and are trying to get members of Congress to protest Truong’s arrest.

“He was (going) home with the spirit of human rights and democracy,” said Thomas Bui, vice president of the Vietnamese Community of Hawaii.

The Associated Press reported he was arrested by authorities who said they were investigating terrorism.

Lauren Truong hopes that her father will be freed from arrest in Vietnam as a pro-democracy activist so he can spend Christmas in Honolulu with her.

Leon Truong, an American citizen and Honolulu resident, was arrested in Vietnam on Nov. 17 along with five other activists for Vietnamese democracy, including another American, a French citizen, two Vietnamese citizens and a Thai citizen, according to the pro-democracy group Viet Tan.

Truong and four others were arrested while stuffing envelopes with pro-democracy fliers in a Ho Chi Minh City home, according to a Vietnamese newspaper. Nguyen Thi Thanh Van, a mathematician and resident of Sacramento, Calif., was arrested at the same time.

State media said the government has opened a terrorism case against them.

Duy Hoang, a spokesman for California-based Viet Tan, said the group seeks change through “peaceful nonviolent means” and is pushing to modernize Vietnam through democracy. He added that Truong was helping to prepare 7,000 copies of a leaflet when he was arrested.

“He was (going) home with the spirit of human rights and democracy,” said Thomas Bui, vice president of the Vietnamese Community of Hawaii. Bui said the group will ask members of Congress to apply pressure to release Truong or bring him to trial.

“We are concerned for his safety because they are well known for beating up people during their interrogation,” Bui said. “They have many ways of harming people, physical abuse or mental abuse.”

Said Lauren Truong, 28, of Hawaii Kai, “I’m really proud of him. What he did, in my eyes, he’s a hero. All I want right now is for him to come home.”

She added, “My first concern is his health. It may cause a stroke due to the interrogation by the government.”

Truong, a business student at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, returned from San Francisco earlier this year to spend time with her father. She is communicating daily with the American Citizen Services Section of the U.S. Embassy in Vietnam.

“So far, there’s no contact with him. There’s no visitation rights with the activists,” she said, adding that she will go to Vietnam if authorities allow her to visit him.

Truong has been trying to gather support from the members of Hawaii’s congressional delegation, and some have responded, while Vietnamese locally are also showing support.

U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie sent a letter, also signed by Reps. Loretta Sanchez and Zoe Lofgren of California, to the State Department asking for an investigation and the return of the two Americans.

Leon Truong came to Honolulu on Oct. 24, 1979, the same day his daughter was born. He joined Viet Tan in 1980.

Truong left Hawaii Nov. 2 to visit his family, his daughter said.

The communist party rules Vietnam’s government and forbids other parties. Since 2006 the Vietnamese government has arrested about 40 people and sentenced at least 20 to prison, several under anti-government propaganda laws, according to the New York-based Human Rights Watch.

On Dec. 10, Lauren Truong will go to Washington, D.C., to join a rally pressuring Vietnam to free the activists. A petition to free the Americans can be found at