Floods kill 11 people in central Vietnam

Sunday, October 19, 2008

HANOI, Vietnam: Floods triggered by heavy rain have killed 11 people and damaged hundreds of homes in central Vietnam.

Officials in Vietnam’s old capital of Hue and Quang Ngai province say the bodies of an 1-month-old baby and three men were recovered Saturday after being swept from their homes by floodwaters.

Disaster response official Le Van Thu says seven people including two children have drowned over the weekend in the hardest-hit province of Quang Nam. Hundreds of homes have been damaged.

Authorities say they are rushing food and medicine to the affected areas.

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

Floods kill 11 people in central Vietnam – International Herald Tribune


Seven die in Vietnam flash floods

Residents in Lang son after floods caused by Typhoon Hagupit, 26/09/08

Floods are a common occurrence in Vietnam

At least seven people have died in flash floods triggered by heavy rains in central Vietnam, officials say.

Thousands of houses have been submerged in the provinces of Thua Thien Hue, Quang Nam and Quang Ngai. A baby and two children are among the dead.

More floods and landslides are expected and residents in the mountainous areas being urged to leave their homes.

The government is sending food and medical aid.

Last month, floods triggered by Typhoon Hagupit killed at least 25 people in northern Vietnam.

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Seven die in Vietnam flash floods

On Vietnam factory floor, worries grow about global downturn

VAN LAM, Vietnam (AFP) — The whirr of 200 sewing machines fills a Vietnamese factory hall, where workers and bosses hope desperately that the wheels will keep spinning once the global downturn hits home.

Row upon row of workers, most of them women, are busy making handbags, backpacks and briefcases for customers as far away as Germany, Hungary and Mexico in this plant, set amid rice fields on the outskirts of Hanoi.

They are the backbone of Vietnam’s post-war success story, part of an army of low-wage labourers who have transformed a poverty stricken command economy since Vietnam in the 1980s embraced the Asian model of export-led growth.

For more than a decade, textile and apparel exports have helped drive national economic growth rates above 7.5 percent — lifting the fortunes of businesses such as the Ladoda Company, whose staff grew to 400 from 15 in 16 years.

But now — with the dark clouds of recession gathering over the United States, Europe and many of Vietnam’s other export markets — many of the workers here have started to worry that tougher times may lie ahead.

“I heard on TV and the radio that the world economy is in bad shape,” said 33-year-old Nguyen Thi Thuy, who supports two children with her performance based wage of around 1.7 million dong (100 dollars) a month.

“I am sure it will affect Vietnam and our company in some way.”

It is a concern shared by the management of the company, although both Thuy and her boss said that through hard work and innovation this family-run business hoped to dodge the bullet of a global downturn.

“We are worried,” admitted deputy director Dinh Tuan Anh, the owner’s son. “The crisis has really affected our business plans.”

Orders from some overseas clients had started falling months before the Wall Street meltdown, Anh told AFP, while domestic woes, including double-digit inflation and expensive bank loans, had piled pressure on the company.

“In June our Czech client placed an order for only 2,000 to 3,000 backpacks,” he said. “They used to order 5,000.

“A US client used to place orders for up to 300,000 dong (18 dollars) per backpack. Now they want backpacks for 60,000 dong. They have told us to reduce the detailing on the products to make them cheaper.”

Adam Sitkoff, executive chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hanoi, expects things could get worse before they get better.

“There’s no question you’re seeing a slowing in worldwide growth,” he said.

“Economies aren’t expanding, businesses aren’t expanding, the value of assets is going down. People are going to be more fearful and have less money to spend. That affects exports from emerging markets.”

Vietnam — which weathered the 1997-98 Asian crisis better than many neighbours because of its relative isolation — has since become far more globally integrated and last year joined the World Trade Organisation.

“Vietnam’s single largest export market is the United States,” said Sitkoff. “Almost 45 percent of Vietnamese exports to the US are clothing and shoes.

“It’s difficult to believe that Vietnam won’t be impacted negatively by what’s going on in the credit crisis everywhere. Vietnam is not immune to what’s going on around the world.”

It is a threat Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung acknowledged Thursday when he warned legislators that a “global economic recession… would negatively influence our economy, making it difficult to stabilise the macro-economy and maintain growth”.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Hanoi is now studying just how the global shockwaves might be felt in the country of 86 million.

“In looking at the impact of the global turmoil here, you have to look at what exporters and investors feel and take the pulse of the people involved in remittances,” said IMF country representative Benedict Bingham.

“The channels are reasonably clear. The question is what is going to be the magnitude, taking into account that Vietnam has built up this very positive profile of an attractive long-term investment destination.”

Bingham said manufacturing exports were likely to be affected, but Vietnam may also be hit by a downturn in global commodity markets.

“Fifty percent of Vietnam’s exports are commodity exports — crude oil, coal, seafood, rice, coffee and so on — and there may well be a price effect as well as a volume effect,” he said.

“This is going to be quite a big change for Vietnam. In the past few years Vietnam had a double-positive: export volume growth and price growth were strong. In 2009 those two factors could go the other way.”

Bingham said robust export growth and foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows to Vietnam had “kept the ship steaming along” so far this year”.

“The question is,” Bingham said, “if we go through this financial turmoil affecting business plans, will that affect FDI, or is Vietnam’s inherent long-term attractiveness as an investment destination, and the fact that it’s still relatively small as a global client, going to see it through?”
AFP: On Vietnam factory floor, worries grow about global downturn

Vietnamese Catholics respond to Hanoi official’s call for archbishop’s transfer

Hanoi, Oct 18, 2008 / 01:39 pm (CNA).- The ongoing property dispute between the Catholic Church in Vietnam and government officials has continued with the Chairman of the People’s Committee of Hanoi asserting that the Archbishop of Hanoi must be transferred.

The chairman, who could become Vietnam’s next prime minister, claimed the prelate lacks a “good reputation” and credibility with the faithful. Catholic leaders quickly responded by insisting that the archbishop is “an outstanding leader of the Church in Vietnam.”

Over the past year, Catholic clergy and laity have sought the return of church properties confiscated by communist government officials. Catholic protesters have faced harassment and attacks by government-backed gangs, while an Associated Press reporter was detained and beaten by police when he tried to report on a September demonstration held at the former papal nunciature.

Nguyen The Thao, Chairman of the People’s Committee of Hanoi, on Wednesday met with foreign diplomats to defend the attacks on the Church and to probe their reactions on further potentially extreme actions, J.B. An Dang tells CNA.

Speaking to ambassadors, deputy ambassadors and heads of diplomatic missions, Chairman Thao claimed that the main reason behind the property disputes in Hanoi was “a poor awareness of the law amongst the Catholic demonstrators.”

Attacking the Catholic leadership, he added: “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, intentionally breaking the law and acting contrary to the interests of both the nation and the Church.”

According to J.B. An Dang, the Saigon Liberated newspaper incorrectly reported that foreign diplomats thanked the chairman for the information and “highly praised” the Committee’s solution for land disputes with the Church.

Father John Nguyen from Hanoi criticized the Saigon Liberated article, saying:

“No one from a civilized society can ‘highly praise’ overt persecutions against peaceful believers. You can be assured that had a diplomat spoken about something in favor of this government’s deeds then surely his name would be on all state media no later than the next day.”

“The obvious question is why, to implement such a good solution, the Vietnamese government had to deploy hundreds of police armed to the teeth, aided by professionally trained dogs; and was prepared to attack anyone who dared to disclose their plot to the outside world, even an American reporter?”

According to the Saigon Liberated, at his meeting with the foreign diplomats Chairman Thao spoke ill of Archbishop of Hanoi Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet.

“Hanoi Archbishop must be transferred out of Hanoi as he has neither a good reputation nor creditability with the city’s citizens, including Catholic faithful,” the chairman reportedly said.

J.B. An Dang reports that the chairman’s statement was a “blatant lie” in the view of Father Pascal Nguyen Ngoc Tinh, a Franciscan from Saigon.

The priest said that for Catholics and many non-Catholics the archbishop is “an outstanding leader of the Church in Vietnam.”

“What is the real reason underneath this extremely begrudging attitude toward the prelate?” he asked.

He suggested the reason for the chairman’s attitude was the archbishop’s comments at a September 20 meeting with the Hanoi People’s Committee. There the archbishop had insisted that religious freedom is a “legal right, not a privilege,” according to the priest.

“In my opinion, the very reason that made the communists jump up crazily, as if they had been electrically shocked, is that the prelate has the nerve to cry out for rights. When I stand up to demand my rights, it means my rights have been taken away. They have been deprived from me,” he concluded.

Father John Nguyen has expressed serious concern that the Archbishop of Hanoi will face more problems from Chairman Thao in the future.

“Thao has been seen as a shining star in Vietnam’s political theatre,” he explained, according to J.B. An Dang’s report to CNA.

“The Politburo has explicitly appreciated his tough attitude and actions against Catholics. Many members of the Party’s Central Committee had no hesitation to throw their full support behind him.

“Recently, there have been rumors that he is going to replace the Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung who has been seen as a poor choice for that post. The fact that he had greeted foreign diplomats confirmed these rumors. In Vietnam’s diplomatic protocol, it’s very unusual for a mayor to meet with foreign diplomats.”