Vietnamese police detain Viet Tan members for visiting imprisoned colleagues

Security police in Vietnam detained three members of Viet Tan as they went to visit colleagues who have been held for over four months at a Ministry of Public Security detention center in Saigon.

The three recently detained Viet Tan members are:

  • Ms. Nguyen Thi Xuan Trang, 35-year-old medical doctor and Swiss citizen. Dr. Nguyen is also a member of the Comité Suisse Vietnam (COSUNAM).
  • Mr. Mai Huu Bao, 38-year-old electrical engineer and American citizen. Mr. Mai is a past Executive Board Member of the Union of Vietnamese Student Associations of Southern California and past President of the Phan Boi Chau Youth for Democracy.
  • Mr. Nguyen Tan Anh, 28-year-old manager of a health-care non-profit and Australian citizen. Mr. Nguyen is a past president of the Vietnamese Students Association of New South Wales.

The three traveled to Saigon at the end of March with the goal of visiting Dr. Nguyen Quoc Quan, Mr. Somsak Khunmi, Mr. Nguyen The Vu, and Mr. Nguyen Viet Trung — held since November 17, 2007 at the Ministry of Public Security detention center located at 237 Nguyen Van Cu street, district 1, Saigon — and later with other democracy activists.

On the morning of April 3, Mai Huu Bao, Nguyen Tan Anh and Nguyen Thi Xuan Trang brought medicine and food to the detention center. After entering the facility at 10:00 a.m., they have not had any further communication and have gone missing. It has been over 24 hours since anyone has heard from them.

Acute diarrhea epidemic ravages northern Vietnam

Acute diarrhea outbreaks have occurred in 10 northern localities, with Hanoi being the hardest-hit area, a local health agency reported.

Preventive Health Department Head Nguyen Huy Nga said on Wednesday that 85 patients had tested positive for cholera, with 44 cases reported in Hanoi alone.

Tran Thi Phuong Thuy, a doctor from the Hanoi-based National Institute for Tropical and Infectious Diseases, said 103 patients with acute diarrhea are currently being treated on site.

Three other Hanoi general hospitals – Xanh Pon, Bach Mai and Dong Da – also admitted a total of 110 cases of acute diarrhea.

Recent tests conducted by the institute revealed the presence of the bacterium Vibrio cholerae, which causes the cholera disease, in water from canals and lakes in Hanoi and other northern provinces.

Warmer temperatures associated with the changing of the season heighten the bacterium resistance and increase the potential for the disease to proliferate.

Nga said water sterilization measures have been implemented at infected canals and lakes.

Last December, the Ministry of Health announced a 40-day acute diarrhea epidemic in 13 northern localities had been controlled.

That outbreak totaled 1,991 reported cases, of which 295 tested positive for cholera.

Nike contract plant in Vietnam remains closed for fear of violence

HANOI, Vietnam: A Taiwanese-owned factory that makes sneakers for Nike Inc. remained closed Thursday following a two-day strike as union officials worked to convince unsatisfied Vietnamese workers that a fair deal had been reached with the company.

Dozens of union and government officials were sent to talk to workers of the Ching Luh factory to persuade them to accept the terms offered by management amid fears of violence at the plant, said Nguyen Van Thua, an official with the Long An provincial trade union.

It remains unclear when the 21,000 employees will return to the job.

On Tuesday, the company agreed to increase monthly wages by 10 percent, or 100,000 dong (US$6), and provide free lunches to employees in a settlement reached with union officials and worker representatives.

About 17,000 workers at the plant reported for work Wednesday, but a brawl broke out following a spat between a former worker and a security guard, causing the factory to shut down.

Thua said many workers did not agree with the deal, insisting on monthly raises of 200,000 dong (US$12). The plant remained closed for the safety of workers and equipment, as fears rose of further violence, he said.

“One hundred thousand dong is nothing, given that everything is a lot more expensive now,” said a worker that declined to give her name for fear of losing her job. “But I want the job, and I will go back to the factory Monday.”

Some workers distributed leaflets in front of the plant on Thursday calling for others to continue the strike.

Nike said the factory would be closed until management is confident that all workers support the negotiated settlement.

“We hope that the trade union can facilitate a safe return to work for all factory employees based on an agreed-upon settlement,” said Nike’s spokesman, Chris Helzer.

Consumer prices in Vietnam are 19 percent higher than they were a year ago, according to government figures. The skyrocketing inflation has led to a wave of recent nationwide strikes. Hanoi responded in January by increasing the minimum wage foreign-owned companies are required to pay by roughly 13 percent.

Nike said the Ching Luh plant has been operating since 2002. It is one of 10 factories that contact with Nike to produce about 75 million pairs of shoes a year in Vietnam. The Ching Luh plant accounts for about 12 percent of the total.