Vietnam must free Catholics: Rights group

AFP Published:Oct 05, 2008

Hanoi – Communist Vietnam should free Catholics arrested for holding peaceful prayer vigils and hold police and others accountable for attacking parishioners, a US-based human rights group said.

At least eight Hanoi parishioners had been arrested since mid-August when Catholics started their latest round of protests for the return of church lands confiscated by the state since the 1950s, said Human Rights Watch (HRW).

The group said authorities had used tear gas and electric batons to disband protesters and that “hundreds of unidentified thugs, some in the blue shirts of the Communist Youth League” had harassed and spat at parishioners.

“This is the harshest crackdown on Catholics in Vietnam in decades,” said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch.

“Sadly, religious repression and violent crackdowns by the Vietnamese authorities against peaceful protesters are nothing new.”

The New York-based group also urged the government “to end the harassment, threats and restrictions on the movement of the Archbishop of Hanoi, Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet,” who has been at the centre of the protests.

The government was running “an intense smear campaign against Archbishop Kiet” in the state-controlled media, accusing him of illegal and unpatriotic acts by instigating the prayer vigils, HRW said.

The government has in recent weeks sought to end the disputes by building public parks at the two disputed Hanoi sites, the Vatican’s former embassy near Hanoi’s main St. Joseph Cathedral, and the Thai Ha Redemptorist church.

Last week Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung met Catholic bishops and warned them the government would not tolerate the mass vigils in which Catholics had broken the law and illegally entered the disputed properties.

Vietnam, a unified communist country since the war ended in 1975, has Southeast Asia’s largest Catholic community after the Philippines – at least six million out of a population of 86 million.

Religious activity remains under state control, but Hanoi’s relations with the Catholic Church had improved, leading to Dung making a landmark visit to the Vatican in 2007, before the recent wave of protests.

HRW’s Pearson said: “The government should support religious tolerance and peaceful assembly instead of using the media to vilify religious leaders and paint peaceful religious protesters as a menace to the public.”
The Times – Vietnam must free Catholics: Rights group

Vietnam economy back from brink, global crisis spells new worries

Vietnams economy, which started overheating months ago, has begun to stabilise experts have said

Vietnam's economy, which started overheating months ago, has begun to stabilise experts have said

HANOI (AFP) — Vietnam’s economy, which started overheating months ago, has begun to stabilise, but experts warn the government must stay the course as the global financial system is plunged into crisis.

The communist nation, a World Trade Organisation member since 2007, has battled galloping inflation and a ballooning trade deficit, but also managed to slow the macroeconomic imbalances and eased fears of a meltdown.

Inflation reached 27.9 percent year-on-year in September, but the monthly increase in consumer prices had dropped to just 0.18 percent, said the state-run General Statistics Office.

The trade deficit over the first nine months grew to 15.8 billion dollars, but the widening of the trade gap had also levelled off.

“Compared to two or three months ago, economic conditions have definitely improved,” said the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) country representative Benedict Bingham. “The government is to be commended for stabilizing the situation and breaking the negative sentiment.”

Bingham also praised the central bank for restoring trust in the dong currency and fighting inflation and credit growth through tightening liquidity with higher interest rates and other measures.

Sin Foong Wong, country chief of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), an arm of the World Bank, also praised Vietnam’s recent efforts.

“Things have become better compared to the situation in the middle of the year when people were talking about a crisis, about a Vietnam that could become the next Thailand,” he said, referring to the start of the 1997 Asian crisis.

“Now inflation has trended down, Vietnam had its lowest month-to-month increase in September, and most important, food prices have also come down, especially rice,” he told AFP.

“If we look at the trade deficit, we begin to see the alarming trend to be mitigated on a monthly basis as the measures taken to cool the economy begin to have an impact on imports,” Wong said.

Other observers said Vietnam’s leaders had not gone far enough, especially in cutting the fiscal deficit and reducing the role of inefficient state owned enterprises (SOEs) that still dominate major economic sectors.

“We need real cutting in expenditures,” said Nguyen Quang A, president of the Institute of Development Studies. “We are awaiting some very concrete measures from the government and the SOEs.”

Experts cautioned against a slackening of economic discipline, especially when inflation remains so high and while the financial crisis is sweeping through the United States and Europe, Vietnam’s main export markets.

Vietnam’s young and insulated financial sector is not directly exposed to the factors that drove the US banking meltdown, such as the subprime crisis, but the economy is sure to feel the wider effects of the turmoil, they said.

“The (Vietnam) trend seems to be positive but one issue is: what will be the local impact of the global turmoil?” said the IFC’s Wong.

“Things are hard to quantify. Exports might be impacted if there is a recession in the US and Europe, and FDI (foreign direct investment) could be pulled back, but you can make those comments on many other countries.”

Vietnam’s leaders, long focused on economic growth targets, have shifted to fighting inflation first and prepared public opinion for a sharp drop in gross domestic product growth from last year’s 8.5 percent.

The rising prices have driven a wave of strikes this year and fuelled public anger.

Experts warn they threaten to reverse some of Vietnam’s development successes, which have lifted millions out of dire poverty.

Last month the government reported that the number of households who have reported food shortages so far this year had shot up by 60 percent from the same period in 2007, to 3.6 million people.

AFP: Vietnam economy back from brink, global crisis spells new worries

Group: Vietnam should release Catholics

NEW YORK, Oct. 4 (UPI) — The Human Rights Watch in New York said Saturday the Vietnamese government should release a group of imprisoned Roman Catholics.

Human Rights Watch Deputy Asia Director Elaine Pearson alleged in a news release that the Catholic prisoners were specifically targeted for their religious beliefs.

She accused the Vietnamese government of targeting peaceful prayer vigils in cities such as Hanoi and arresting at least 20 people during an Aug. 28 event.

Similar events allegedly were disrupted by tear gas attacks by authorities or large groups of men who harassed Catholic parishioners and priests, Pearson added.

“This is the harshest crackdown on Catholics in Vietnam in decades,” Pearson alleged. “Sadly, religious repression and violent crackdowns by the Vietnamese authorities against peaceful protesters are nothing new.”

“The government should support religious tolerance and peaceful assembly instead of using the media to vilify religious leaders and paint peaceful religious protesters as a menace to the public.”

Group: Vietnam should release Catholics –

Vietnam finds tainted milk from China

The Associated Press
Friday, October 3, 2008

HANOI, Vietnam: Vietnam’s health ministry has discovered the toxin at the heart of China’s tainted milk scandal in 18 products and has ordered importers to recall and destroy them, officials said Friday.

Recent tests found the industrial chemical melamine in dairy products and biscuits imported from China, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, according to a statement on the Ministry of Health’s Web site.

Milk containing melamine has been blamed for killing four babies and sickening more than 54,000 others in China, sparking global concerns about food products made with Chinese milk or milk powder.

The Vietnamese statement did not list all the brand names that tested positive for melamine, but among them were five different varieties of Yili milk from China.

“We will intensify our inspections for melamine contamination to ensure the safety of consumers,” said Nguyen Thi Khanh Tram, vice director of Vietnam’s food safety administration.

Most of the contaminated items were milk and dairy products from China, the ministry said.

However, they also included biscuits imported from Malaysia and Indonesia as well as a powdered dairy creamer imported from Thailand. It was not clear whether the products had been produced in those countries or simply shipped to Vietnam from warehouses there.

Even before the test results were announced, retailers across Vietnam had begun removing tons of Chinese dairy products from their shelves and importers have been destroying them, according to Vietnamese media reports.

Vietnamese authorities have also said they will require all milk products to be tested before they can be imported into the country.

The milk scandal has sparked global concern about Chinese food imports and recalls in several countries of Chinese-made products.

Vietnam finds tainted milk from China – International Herald Tribune

Vietnam Faces Serious Shortage Of Internet Security Experts

HANOI, Oct 3 (Bernama) — While the information technology industry is developing strongly and internet security is becoming more of a necessity, Vietnam is facing a serious shortage in order to meet public demand in both quantity and quality.

Even if each individual agency requires just one network administration and security expert, the country is estimated to lack tens of thousands of qualified people in this field, the Vietnam news agency (VNA) said in its report.

According to recent research on expert demands and an IT human resource shortage in the Asia-Pacific region conducted by the market study company IDC with the assistance of Cisco Systems, Vietnam currently lacks about 800 professional internet experts. This figure is expected to increase to 1,900 people by the end of 2009.

This shortage is attributed to the fact that Vietnamese universities do not currently offer degrees in information security and, as a result almost all IT graduates do not have the skills to meet businesses information security demands.

To address this problem, many IT training centres have actively launched internet security courses.

The Hanoi University of Technology’s Bach Khoa Internet Security Centre (BKIS) is now offering training courses for all members of the public, instead of only for officers of Ministries of Defence and Public Securities as before.

The Hanoi-Aptech Centre has officially launched an advanced network administration programme for those who want to become senior internet security experts in large organisations and business enterprises.

The establishment of the Vietnam Information Security Association (VNISA) and VNISA’s southern branch recently, aims to offer information on security training to the staff of organisations and businesses.

It also trains individuals, which is considered one of the effective measures being taken to address the shortage of internet security professionals.

In order to raise awareness of the importance of information security among enretprises, VNISA will organise the 2008 Vietnam Information Security Day in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City on November 11.

The event is expected to strengthen the contact between the State, society and enterprises in this field.

According to BKIS, in 2007, Vietnam had over 33 million computers infected with viruses and hundreds of websites hacked, causing a total estimated loss of 2.3 trillion VND (US$140 million).