Tropical storm kills 3 in central Vietnam

Fishermen move a fishing boat to higher ground ahead of tropical storm Mekkhala in central city of Danang, Vietnam Monday, Sept. 29, 2008. The storm lammed into central Vietnam Tuesday, knocking down trees, electricity poles and forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of people in high risk areas, officials said. (AP Photo/Vietnam News Agency)

Fishermen move a fishing boat to higher ground ahead of tropical storm Mekkhala in central city of Danang, Vietnam Monday, Sept. 29, 2008. The storm lammed into central Vietnam Tuesday, knocking down trees, electricity poles and forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of people in high risk areas, officials said. (AP Photo/Vietnam News Agency)

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Tropical Storm Mekkhala slammed into central Vietnam on Tuesday, killing three people and leaving 10 others missing, disaster officials said.

A 9-year-old girl and her 7-year-old brother were swept away while crossing a stream in Quang Binh province, said disaster official Nguyen Ngoc Dien. Three other people were missing elsewhere in the province, he said.

In neighboring Ha Tinh province, a man died when he was blown off the roof of his home while trying to reinforce it during the storm. Two teenagers in the province were missing after being swept away while crossing a stream, said disaster official Le Dinh Son.

In Quang Tri province, five people were reported missing.

The storm arrived as people in northern Vietnam were still cleaning up following Typhoon Hagupit, which killed 41 people last week and caused damage estimated at US$65 million.

Mekkhala, packing winds of 55 miles per hour (88 kilometers per hour), blew tin roofs off houses in Quang Binh province, Dien said, adding that power blackouts were reported in the provincial capital Dong Hoi.

Tran Minh Ky, vice governor of Ha Tinh province, said 10,000 people in coastal villages had earlier been evacuated. However, some began returning to their homes Tuesday afternoon as the storm moved into Laos and rains stopped, said Son.

Rescue workers in northern Son La province are still struggling to reach isolated villages devastated by floods triggered by Typhoon Hagupit.

Vietnam is prone to floods and storms that kill hundreds of people each year.

Hagupit killed 17 people and left six missing in the Guangxi region of southern China last week, the official Xinhua News Agency reported in a story posted Tuesday. Nearly 700,000 people there were evacuated after heavy rains and flooding destroyed or damaged tens of thousands of homes.


http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5jJ5jMaW4fyQYg2hqvNQ5U0ZJtF3gD93H21C80

Vietnam court jails nine for sex with juveniles

Hanoi – A Vietnamese court in the central province of Binh Dinh sentenced nine people to prison terms for having or arranging paid sex with juveniles as young as 14 years old, a court official said Tuesday. “This is the most serious case relating to sex with juveniles ever in our province,” said judge Le Xuan Hai of the Quy Nhon City People’s Court in Binh Dinh.

He said all nine of the accused had confessed. They were sentenced to prison terms ranging from two to seven years.

Three men, businessmen Tran The Vinh, 47, and Le Van Yen, 56, and post office accountant Nguyen Van Ngoc, 55, were sentenced to seven years each for paying for sexual intercourse with a total of 24 teenagers ranging from 14 to 17.

According to the indictment, Ngoc patronized a restaurant frequented by sex workers who introduced him to Le Thi My Loan, a sex broker who arranged liaisons with the teenagers.

Ngoc brought in his friends Vinh and Yen. The liaisons occurred between 2005 and 2008, with the customers paying at least 150 dollars for each encounter.

Six other teenagers, between ages 17 and 19, received sentences of two to five years in prison for acting as agents to connect the three men and teenage sex workers.

Under Vietnamese law, having sexual intercourse with more than one juvenile under the age of 16 is punishable by 12 years to life imprisonment. Paying for sexual intercourse with juveniles under 18 is punishable by up to five years in prison, as is acting as a broker to manipulate juveniles into engaging in paid sex against their will.

http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/show/234764,vietnam-court-jails-nine-for-sex-with-juveniles.html

Vietnam charges 2 journalists over false reports

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Two journalists will go on trial after being charged with reporting false information about one of Vietnam’s most high-profile corruption cases, state media reported Tuesday.

Reporters Nguyen Van Hai and Nguyen Viet Chien were charged formally with “abusing freedom and democracy,” an offense that carries a maximum jail sentence of seven years. The two are known for aggressive reporting on corruption at two of the country’s largest and most respected dailies.

Two police officers who provided information to the journalists will also be tried on charges of “deliberately revealing state secrets,” the Nguoi Lao Dong (Laborer) newspaper said.

The trials could start within two weeks at the Hanoi People’s Court, it said.

Security agents jailed the two journalists on May 12 citing unspecified inaccuracies in their reporting on a major scandal at Vietnam’s transportation ministry that erupted in 2005.

The case led to the conviction of nine people accused of illegally betting millions of dollars on European football matches with money embezzled from a unit of the ministry that managed major road and bridge building projects.

The unit received substantial funding from the World Bank and the Japanese government.

The case prompted the transportation minister to resign and led to the arrest of the deputy minister, although the charges against him were dropped in March.

The Nguoi Lao Dong report said one of the policemen charged with revealing state secrets is Gen. Pham Xuan Quac, the scandal’s chief investigator.

Prosecutors and officials at Vietnam Journalists Association were not available for comment Tuesday.

Source: AP

Vietnam: Authorities Bulldoze Building in Land Dispute

Compass Direct News

September 30, 2008

HANOI (Compass Direct News) – Authorities in Hanoi have responded to months of Catholic prayer vigils and demonstrations over disputed land by destroying the one-time residence of the papal nuncio in central Hanoi.

In suddenly bulldozing the land that once served as the Vatican embassy and residence near St. Joseph’s Cathedral last Friday (Sept. 19), the government broke its promise to Catholic leaders in February to negotiate a settlement concerning the property.

The destruction of the building held sacred by Catholics is the latest blow to Christians’ long struggle to get the government to return confiscated church properties. Catholic, Protestant and other religious leaders deemed the government response to peaceful Catholic pressure a serious setback for religious freedom.

Authorities cite Vietnamese law stipulating that lands subject to “land management and socialist land reform policies in place before 1991” cannot be considered.

On Monday (Sept. 22) the Vietnam News Agency reported that the Catholic Church ceded the Nha Chung Vatican Embassy property to the state in 1961 and that it would be turned into a library and park.

“Bookworms will soon be able to enjoy the facilities offered by a brand-new library, located at 42 Nha Chung Street, in Hoan Kiem District,” the state reported. “In addition to all of the services usually offered by a library, situated on the premises of an existing three-story, French-designed building surrounded by greenery and including a childrens’ playground, the renovation, which began last Friday, aims to better meet Hanoians’ demands for relaxation.”

Sources said Vietnam’s frequent pronouncements of new openness to religion, and the formation of a joint Catholic/government working committee regarding relationships with the Vatican and other outstanding matters, may have led Catholics to test the waters. Late last year Catholics began to hold prayer vigils outside the fence of the long-vacant Vatican Embassy seized by the government in the mid-1950s.

The historic building property on Nha Chung Street is adjacent to the Hanoi archbishop and cardinal’s residence and only a half block away from St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Hanoi’s Old Quarter.

The daily morning and evening prayer vigils began to draw large crowds, especially on Saturdays and Sundays, when thousands came to Masses at the cathedral. Authorities in a country where demonstrations are not allowed became seriously worried when warnings to stop went unheeded.

In discussion with Catholic leaders in late February, the government agreed to negotiate a settlement in good faith on the condition that Catholic leaders would call a halt to the prayer vigils. Archbishop of Hanoi Ngo Quang Kiet told Compass in April that after agreeing to a joint working committee, the government showed no sincerity in building relationships or in settling grievances.

In late August an aide to the archbishop told Compass in Hanoi that the twice daily prayer vigils had resumed. At that time about 100 people participated each time, but the number and intensity was growing. Catholic leaders made no secret of their appeal to prayer and assembled people as their only tools in their struggle with the government for redress on confiscated properties.

In recent weeks the Redemptorists at Thai Ha, also in Hanoi, also began prayer vigils to recover some of their large property. Over the years their part of an original plot of 60,000 square meters had been reduced by government confiscation to less than 2,000 square meters.

According to observers, the Catholics conducted themselves during their vigils with decorum and order as they reverently marched, prayed and sang. The government’s response however, quickly escalated from accusing the Catholics of interfering with traffic to accusing them of all night public disturbances – and then accusing Catholic leaders of inciting riots and breaking religion laws.

Catholic Leaders Warned

Authorities this week delivered a written warning to Archbishop Kiet warning him of “extreme action” if he did not stop the daily prayer vigils. They also issued a warning to four priests at a Hanoi church locked in the land dispute. The archbishop and priests are accused of “stirring the population” and encouraging illegal religious activity.

State and Hanoi city media releases and radio and TV coverage during September painted the Catholics in the worst possible light; sources said the media fabricated stories and paid people to speak against the Catholics. With no opportunity to make their side of the story known through Vietnam’s state-controlled media, Catholics are reporting events through VietCatholic News, Zenit and other overseas news sites.

Catholic calls for media to retract specific, demonstrably false stories and appeals to press laws have gone entirely unheeded. Rather, sources said, improbable accusations and vicious slander against Catholics sharply escalated.

Vietnam Cardinal Jean Baptiste Pham Minh Man, archbishop of Saigon, wrote a letter to all priests, religious and faithful on Monday (Sept. 22) denouncing the state’s media lies. Unrest is spreading throughout Vietnam’s Catholic community, believed to number more than 7 million, as the letter by the cardinal and others by bishops are read in the churches.

Thugs Bussed In

Demonstrations escalated this week with estimates of 7,000 to 10,000 people, including students gathered at Thai Ha on Wednesday night (Sept. 24). It was said to be the largest public demonstration since the Communist unification of Vietnam 33 years ago.

Wednesday afternoon (Sept. 24), hundreds of police and plainclothes officers tried to control an upset crowd of Catholics as a statue of the Virgin Mary was removed from the Vatican Embassy area under police protection and taken to an unknown location. The next day, sources said, authorities recruited gangs that included uniformed Communist youth league members and others and bussed them to the site, where they attacked Catholic protestors outside the archbishop’s residence.

Similar gangs destroyed property, including sacred items at Thai Ha, the same day.

The state media also announced that the 17,000-square meter Thai Ha Redemptorist property in Hanoi is also to be turned into a public park.

The reversion to old-style, default Communist repression involving violence cloaked in lies is also worrying to Vietnam’s Protestants, some of whom have joined Catholics in the prayer vigils.

Protestant leaders contacted by Compass were united in their disappointment in and condemnation of the government’s belligerent response to peaceful prayer vigils.

“Sadly, the government has again shown its true attitude toward religions,” said one Protestant leader. “We have doubted the sincerity of recent improvements, and now they have clearly shown everyone what is still in their hearts.”

Some Vietnam observers fear the government’s belligerence may be evidence of hard-liners’ ascendance in an ongoing struggle with more moderate reformers. The timing of this property destruction, some Vietnamese church leaders said, is calculated to take advantage of uncertainty in the United States, especially as elections draw near.

http://www.crosswalk.com/news/religiontoday/11582355/

Vietnam’s GDP in first nine months lags behind target

AFP , HANOI
Tuesday, Sep 30, 2008, Page 11

Vietnam’s economy grew 6.5 percent in the first nine months of the year, lower than its target but still “encouraging” in the “context of a deteriorating world economy,” the government said yesterday.

To reach the official aim of 7 percent growth for the whole year, “the GDP growth for the remaining three months must be 8 percent,” said an official report from the state-run General Statistics Office (GSO).

Amid double-digit inflation, Vietnam had to lower its growth target for this year after recording 8.5 percent growth last year.

But some parts of the media estimate the economy will grow at less than the 7 percent target, while the government says it has changed its focus from high growth to containing inflation to ensure stability and social security.

Vietnam’s inflation rate this month reached 27.9 percent compared with a year ago.

In terms of foreign direct investment (FDI) between January and September, the value of licensed projects reached US$57.1 billion, the GSO said.

Malaysia topped the list of leading investors, with US$14.9 billion for 37 projects. Then came Taiwan, Japan, Brunei and Canada.

According to the GSO, the FDI figure increased sharply because of the granting of licenses for a number of multibillion dollar projects to build steel factories, oil refineries and residential areas.

Disbursed FDI for this period reached US$8.1 billion, up 37.3 percent from a year ago.

The GSO also said industrial production in the first nine months of the year reached more than 493,000 billion dong (US$29.7 billion), up 16 percent year-on-year.

Source: Taipei Times

Vietnam Evacuates Coastal Areas as Storm Approaches (Update1)

By Nguyen Dieu Tu Uyen and Aaron Sheldrick

Sept. 30 (Bloomberg) — Vietnam started evacuating coastal areas and ordered local authorities to prepare for Tropical Storm Mekkhala, which strengthened from a depression overnight and is forecast to make landfall today.

Mekkhala was expected to cross the coast near the city of Dong Hoi after 10 a.m. Vietnam time, the U.S. Navy Joint Typhoon Warning Center said on its Web site.

Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai sent an urgent directive to ministries, provincial authorities and national rescue and relief teams to prepare for the storm. Evacuations were ordered in low-lying coastal areas.

The country’s weather office forecast heavy rains and warned of flooding and landslides, the government said.

Mekkhala’s maximum sustained winds were at 102 kilometers (64 miles) per hour, with gusts to 130 kph, at 7 a.m. when it was located about 58 kilometers east of Dong Hoi. Mekkhala was moving west-northwest at 24 kph.

Mekkhala is the 20th storm of the northwest Pacific cyclone season and means the angel of thunder in Thai, according to the Hong Kong Observatory, which lists cyclone names in use in the Pacific.

At least 41 people were killed and five were missing in Vietnam after the remnants of Typhoon Hagupit crossed into the country from China on Sept. 25, Vietnam’s National Committee for Flood and Storm Control said yesterday.

Hagupit damaged or destroyed almost 11,700 houses and spoiled 19,500 hectares (48,185 acres) of rice and other crops, according to the committee.

To contact the reporters on this story: Nguyen Dieu Tu Uyen in Hanoi at Uyen1@bloomberg.net; Aaron Sheldrick in Tokyo at asheldrick@bloomberg.net.

Source: Bloomberg

Vietnam Shows ‘Disturbing’ Disregard for Human Rights, Says U.S. Agency

A U.S. government body denounced Vietnam this past week for what it described as the continuation of a “disturbing” disregard for basic human rights.

Sun, Sep. 28, 2008 Posted: 09:28 AM EDT


A U.S. government body denounced Vietnam this past week for what it described as the continuation of a “disturbing” disregard for basic human rights.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)’s comments come as police in Vietnam continue to inflict violence against protestors at peaceful vigils on properties formerly owned by the Catholic Church of Vietnam.

Also, authorities had arrested religious freedom advocates and detained pro-democracy activists earlier this month.

“Too often in Vietnam, individuals who peacefully organize and express views about religious freedom and human rights – and the freedoms required to protect them – are detained, arrested, or intimidated,” said USCIRF Commission Chair Felice D. Gaer.

“As a member of the U.N. Security Council, Vietnam should be upholding human rights fully and should not view peaceful actions to advance religious freedom as a security threat,” she stated.

Since December, Catholics in Hanoi have been holding prayer vigils at Catholic church properties to demand they be return to the Church. The properties were seized by the communist government in the mid-1950s.

There have been brief clashes with police, but over the past three weeks police have detained as many as eight protestors at a former monastery, according to reports. Security personnel also used batons to break up a silent vigil seeking the release of those arrested.

At least 12 people were briefly detained following the vigil and one priest had serious injuries.

USCIRF said it received “disturbing” reports of the Vietnamese government’s accusations against Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet, who it claims incited protests, and its threats to take “extreme actions” to end the peaceful vigils.

The U.S. agency in particular highlighted the case of Li Thi Cong Nhan, who met with USCIRF late last year.

“It is outrageous that Li Thi Cong Nhan was ever arrested in the first place, and that she hasn’t been released,” Gaer said. “She and all prisoners of concern in Vietnam should be released immediately, without conditions, and without the frequent follow-on sentence of house arrest that Vietnamese authorities use to restrict the freedom of rights advocates.”

The U.S. Commission calls on the State Department to re-designate Vietnam as one of the worst violators of religious freedom by labeling it a Country of Particular Concern, and to release unconditionally all prisoners of concern.

Ethan Cole
Christian Post Reporter

Vietnam Shows ‘Disturbing’ Disregard for Human Rights, Says U.S. Agency| Christianpost.com

Archbishop of Hanoi: freedom of religion is a right, not a concession from the authorities

by J.B. An Dang

With a new campaign in the media, the authorities are trying to eliminate popular support for the Catholics. A gang of thugs threatens the faithful going to pray at Thai Ha, and even bursts into the church, shouting obscenities. Expressions of solidarity from the other dioceses of Vietnam, and also from the United States.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) – Freedom of religion is a human right, and not a favor granted by the government. This principle has been reiterated by various sources, in reply to the authorities of Hanoi which, as they continue their campaign of intimidation and abuse against the Catholics over the status of the former apostolic delegation and the parish of Thai Ha, are also seeking to eliminate popular support for them. This solidarity is arriving from outside of Hanoi, from other dioceses of the country, but also from abroad. The Vietnamese bishops are having the complete text of the statements by the archbishop of Hanoi read at every Mass. A prayer vigil has also been held in the United States, in California.

The campaign of violence and threats, meanwhile, has grown more severe. On Saturday, a gang of “state thugs” attacked the monastery of the Redemptorists in Hanoi. “In the afternoon”, says Fr Joseph Nguyen, “about 100 thugs began to threaten the people coming to pray at the church of Thai Ha. Then they entered the church shouting obscenities at those who were praying”. “This happened in broad daylight”, he adds, “right in front of a large number of policemen. When the parishioners asked the officers to intervene, they refused”. The Redemptorists were thus forced to shut the main entrance and cancel some of the scheduled activities.

That morning, Hanoi police officers had gone to Thai Ha to threaten “extreme actions”. “The police”, the priest says, “said that they are examining legal action against the Redemptorists, whom the authorities accuse of inciting and organizing protests among the faithful, to gain popular support for their cause”.

Precisely in order to oppose this “support”, the head of the people’s committee of Hanoi has recalled that Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet – who had gone to the committee to present a protest – “facilitated the religious activities of Catholics, especially at Christmas”. This has been presented by the state media, especially on television, as proof of the ingratitude of Catholics, who are subjected to a sort of public trial. “We knew”, the archbishop comments, “that the relaxation of restrictions on religious activities would come with conditions. But there seems to be a psychological attitude according to which, in response to a request, I grant you a favor. But religious freedom is a natural human right, and everyone has the right to enjoy it. A government ‘for the people’ must feel the responsibility of allowing everyone the means to enjoy it. It is not a favor granted upon request”.

On another front, the people’s committee of the district of Hoan Kiem, where the former apostolic delegation is located, has notified the archbishop of Hanoi that it has confiscated the statue of the Pietà, saying that it was brought inside the building for the first demonstration, before Christmas. In reality, the statue has been kept inside the building since before it was confiscated by the communists in 1959.

In many Vietnamese dioceses, solidarity is being shown with the Catholics of Hanoi, especially after the statement from the bishops’ conference in support of Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet. In Haiphong, for example, the chancellor, Fr Paul Vu Dinh Viet, has provided for “the reading of the complete statement from the archbishop during the Sunday Masses, together with the necessary explanations”. in Ho Chi Minh City, where every parish carries out pastoral and social activities to advance the traditions of the local Church, the parish of Binh Thuan is organizing monthly meetings for young people. This month, about fifty of them gathered to talk about “the lives and faith of the young people of our time”.

The small groups examine and present the expectations of the young people to the parish. “This month”, the leader of one group tells AsiaNews, “we prayed for Church leaders, asking God to grant them peace and to help the bishop of Hanoi, the priests of Thai Ha, and the people there”. All of the groups have expressed their hope “that there may be peace in our lives, and that religion may not be discriminated against, that the human rights of all people be respected”.

Abroad, in California, in Orange County, Buddhists, Catholics, and representatives of other religious groups led hundreds of people in a prayer vigil (in the photo) for the Catholics of Hanoi, and called upon the Vietnamese government to put an end to the persecution against them. They were joined on Friday evening by numerous political representatives, like Senator Lou Correa, assemblymen Van Tran and Jose Solario, and other members of the Senate and assembly of the state of California, and others from Westminster, Garden Grove, and Santa Ana.

Fr John Tran Cong Nghi of the VietCatholic News Agency illustrated the developments in the situation of the former apostolic delegation of Hanoi and in Thai Ha, asking for “justice for illegally expropriated property”. “In Vietnam” he added, “many farmers and poor people have asked in vain for the restitution of their property. The authorities prefer to persecute them rather than caring for them. The right to private property is not taken into consideration, and moreover there is corruption and bribery, which have worsened the situation. The Church of Vietnam has always stood beside those who suffer injustice, to raise them up from their frustration and pain”.

“I am here with you tonight”, said Senator Lou Correa, “to ask the Vietnam communist government to respect human rights and justice, and to stop immediately all repression.”

J.B. Vu and Anthony Vu contributed to this report.
VIETNAM Archbishop of Hanoi: freedom of religion is a right, not a concession from the authorities – Asia News

Death toll from Vietnam floods rises to 41

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — The death toll from floods triggered by Typhoon Hagupit rose to 41 as rescue workers began to reach isolated villages devastated by a storm that has caused at least $65 million in damage, officials said Monday.

At least five people were still missing and feared dead in the storm, which washed away more than 1,000 houses and damaged 10,000 more, according to Vietnam’s committee on floods and storm control.

The storm has caused at least $65 million in damages, the committee said Monday.

In the worst-hit province of Son La, two more bodies were found Sunday, bringing the toll there to 16. Three people were still missing, said provincial disaster official Trinh Ngoc Bao.

Some areas are inaccessible by cars or trucks, complicating rescue efforts, he said.

“Rescue workers have to walk to stranded areas to get aid to people,” Bao said. “In many villages people have had no food for several days.”

The torrential downpours have eased and floodwaters have receded in most areas. On Sunday, Vietnamese television broadcast images of villagers returning to survey the damage, cleaning mud and debris from their property.

The storm slammed into northern Vietnam on Thursday after killing 10 people in China.

The Associated Press: Death toll from Vietnam floods rises to 41

Vietnam economic growth at 6.5 percent in first nine months

A rice cart being pulled in Ho Chi Minh City

A rice cart being pulled in Ho Chi Minh City

HANOI (AFP) — Vietnam’s economy grew 6.5 percent in the first nine months of the year, lower than its target rate but still “encouraging” in the “context of a deteriorating world economy”, the government said Monday.

To reach the official aim of 7 percent growth for the whole year, “the GDP growth for the remaining three months must be 8 percent,” said an official report from the state-run General Statistics Office (GSO).

Amid double-digit inflation, Vietnam had to lower its growth target for 2008, after recording 8.5 percent growth in 2007.

But some parts of the media estimate the economy will grow at less than the 7 percent target, while the government says it has changed its focus from high growth to containing inflation to ensure stability and social security.

Vietnam’s inflation rate in September reached 27.9 percent compared to a year ago.

In terms of foreign direct investment (FDI), between January and September, the value of licensed projects reached 57.1 billion dollars, the GSO said.

Malaysia topped the list of leading investors, with 14.9 billion dollars for 37 projects. Then came Taiwan, Japan, Brunei and Canada.

According to the GSO, the FDI figure increased remarkably due to the granting of licences for a number of multi-billion dollar projects to build steel factories, oil refineries and residential areas.

Disbursed FDI for this period reached 8.1 billion dollars, up 37.3 percent against the same period last year.

The GSO also said industrial production in the first nine months of the year reached more than 493,000 billion dong (29.7 billion dollars), up 16 percent year-on-year.

AFP: Vietnam economic growth at 6.5 percent in first nine months