Viet slammed for jailing Chien

In May this year Chien (pictured) and another journalist were arrested, and they were convicted last month, along with their police sources, in a case that sent a chill through the country’s state-controlled media industry. –PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS

HANOI – FOREIGN diplomats at a meeting on Friday criticised Vietnam for punishing graft-busting journalists and urged the communist government to step up its anti-corruption drive.

Diplomats speaking at the annual Anti-Corruption Dialogue focused on the jailing last month of newspaper journalist Nguyen Viet Chien who had helped uncover a major corruption scandal three years ago.

Swiss ambassador Jean-Hubert Lebet said the case was ‘devastating,’ both for Vietnam’s media and for the country’s image, because it sent the signal that ‘if somebody is reporting on corruption, he goes to jail.’

Chien helped drive media reporting on the so-called PMU 18 scandal, named after a transport ministry road-building unit whose officials pilfered millions in foreign aid and bet much of it on football matches.

In the wake of the scandal, the government in 2006 vowed to crack down on the widespread scourge of corruption, an effort that was cheered by the international community and foreign business groups.

But in May this year Chien and another journalist were arrested, and they were convicted last month, along with their police sources, in a case that sent a chill through the country’s state-controlled media industry.

Chien, an award-winning veteran reporter with the popular Thanh Nien daily, received two years’ prison for the vague charge of ‘abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state.’ Dutch Charge d’Affaires Bengt van Loosdrecht said at the Hanoi meeting on Friday that ‘if the conduct of the media is too easily criminalised, they may feel hampered to exercise their tasks professionally.

‘Journalists need full access to information and sufficient self confidence to express themselves freely without risking punishment.’ — AFP

http://www.straitstimes.com/Breaking%2BNews/SE%2BAsia/Story/STIStory_308029.html

Death toll rises in central Vietnam post floods

Hanoi – A week of heavy rains and floods have left 20 people dead and thousands in central Vietnam without food and water, Vietnam’s main disaster agency reported Friday. “Heavy rains have lessened but the water levels in the rivers remain high,” said Dam Vinh Loi, Deputy Head of the Committee for Flood and Storm Control in Binh Dinh province. “We are trying our best to prevent some dikes from breaking.”

Loi said about 20,000 people are in need of emergency assistance. The greatest danger now is the threat of water-borne diseases because fresh water resources have been contaminated.

Authorities in four provinces in central Vietnam, say the damage was caused by Tropical Storm Noul, which struck the country last week. Several people died in landslides triggered by the heavy rains; others died from drowning.

Among the dead, was a schoolteacher who was buried in a landslide on Thursday as she traveled back home from school in Quang Ngai province. More than 50 rescuers worked to find her. Huynh Thi Kim Yen’s body was discovered on Friday and returned to her family members.

“Our forces are trying to clear the road,” said Phan Van On, head of the Committee for Flood and Storm Control in Quang Ngai province. “Rescue efforts were difficult because of the heavy rains. Fortunately, the rains are finally easing up.”

More rains are expected in the next few days, however, when a new tropical storm is expected to form over the South China sea, according to the central Hydro-Meteorology Forecasting Center in Hanoi. Winds could be as high as 120 kilometres per hour.

http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/show/243771,death-toll-rises-in-central-vietnam-post-floods.html

Vietnam still slack on anti-graft: int’l donors

International donors are concerned there’s not enough being done to fight corruption in Vietnam, a meeting on anticorruption measures in Hanoi heard Friday.

The Counselor of the Dutch Embassy, Van Loosdrecht, said despite a turn around in anti-graft in the country the fight was mostly being targeted at corruption at the grassroots level.

Donors at the meeting said that Vietnam had established special legal institutions but was still not doing enough work to combat graft, while a Finish Embassy representative pointed out the potential conflict of interest of appointing provincial mayors as chairs of their anti-corruption steering committees.

In addition media agencies in Vietnam have limited access to information in order to combat corruption, international delegates said.

“In recent years, Vietnam has made progress… and there are now pockets of excellence within the state media.

But myriad problems persist which, if not tackled, will severely reduce the media’s ability to combat corruption,” former journalist and Senior International Consultant Catherine McKinley said.

She said these problems included: inconsistent and poorly implemented legislation, a shortage of financing options, outdated and poorly resourced training facilities.”

However, the Government Inspectorate Chief Tran Van Truyen said the assessment that anticorruption in Vietnam is slacking up is due to a lack of information.

He said the anti-corruption steering committees were conducting investigations more thoroughly, which was why they were handling fewer cases.

He stated that no one, no matter how high the position, was immune to investigation and the law.

Vietnam will soon list categories of classified information – with only national security-related documents to be kept secret, Truyen said.

The government is also focusing on intensifying asset disclosure, making information, policies and administrative procedures more transparent, and improving the media’s role in the fight, he noted.

East-West Highway corruption probe

The country’s international image has been damaged by the case of a Ho Chi Minh City official who allegedly received bribes from executives of Japan’s Pacific Consultants International (PCI), the office manager of the Central Anti-Corruption Steering Committee, Vu Tien Chien, told reporters on the sideline of the meeting.

Last week, HCMC authorities suspended Huynh Ngoc Si, deputy head of the Department of Transport and chief of the East-West Highway and HCMC Water Environment Project while they investigate claims made in a Tokyo court that Si had taken more than US$2 million in bribes from PCI in exchange for helping the firm win consulting contracts in the highway project.

The government is actively tackling the case in an unbiased manner according to Vietnamese and international laws, Chien said, adding that the Central Anti-Corruption Steering Committee is closely following the case.

World Bank warning

In related news the World Bank (WB) would stop lending money to Vietnam if it discovered any wrongdoings regarding official development assistance (ODA) funding, the acting Country Director of the World Bank in Vietnam, Martin Rama warned Friday at a press briefing about the Consultative Group Meeting slated for December 4-5 in Hanoi.

WB has committed to offer more assistance to Vietnam, Rama said.

Early this year, Vietnam was put on the list of five developing countries with low incomes which will annually receive WB preferential loans of $1.5 billion over the next three years, the WB country director said.

Reported by Bao Van

http://www.thanhniennews.com/politics/?catid=1&newsid=44149

Hanoi’s policy: eliminate Catholics

by Thanh Thuy
There is a fundamental lack of understanding on the part of the authorities of the very idea of religion behind the choice of oppression and discrimination as seen in the trial against the parishioners of Thai Ha.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) – There is a failure to understand the very idea of religion on the part of Vietnam’s political authorities behind the constant attempt to suffocate Catholicism, Protestantism, and also other religions, as now being seen in the trial that on December 5 will be held against eight faithful of the parish of Thai Ha.

If one visits Vietnam, in many parishes one can see the announcements “pray for the Church of Vietnam” or “pray for peace and justice.” This is an invocation always present in the prayers of Catholics in this country. Catholics whom the communist government has oppressed in a sophisticated way and on various levels. But on this occasion, the authorities are not respecting the council of Vietnamese bishops. They clearly want to eliminate the Catholics.

The government has violated religious freedom and is preparing to sentence the eight faithful of the parish of Thai Ha for unjust reasons, accusing them of damaging property and disturbing public order. They are trying the eight faithful in order to threaten the other Catholics and the faithful of other religions, and in general their aim is to threaten people who want to fight for justice and religious freedom.

Every Catholic and every parish has been invited to pray for justice, peace, and religious freedom in Vietnam. The faithful this time need the voice of the bishops to express the truth, denouncing that the government has appropriated Church property, but has falsely accused the Catholics.

At the origin of the discrimination of the authorities against believers, and not only Christians, a professor of the National University of Hanoi explains to AsiaNews, “there is a prejudice. The very concept of religion is explained poorly. They do not understand well, so they lead the country badly, bringing many negative consequences like government corruption, poor education, injustice toward farmers trying to work to make a living and feed themselves.”

The idea of the Vietnamese communists about religion is that this “is a form of social conscience. Conscience reflects mythology, the illusion of objective reality. Religion is always based on belief, a belief in the transcendent. Religion cannot be examined by reality.”

Thus the government has instructed the authorities on all levels to “control the situation of the religions, classify the faithful of the religions in order to reach appropriate solutions to convince people to leave their religion.” And the political approach is to oppose, exclude, and discriminate against Catholics in Vietnam.

http://www.asianews.it/index.php?l=en&art=13887&size=A

Foreign donors slam Vietnam for jailing graft-busting journalist

Foreign donors criticised Vietnam Friday for punishing graft-busting journalists and urged the communist government to instead go after the “big fish” in its anti-corruption drive.

Diplomats speaking at the annual Anti-Corruption Dialogue meeting focused on the jailing last month of newspaper journalist Nguyen Viet Chien who had helped uncover a major corruption scandal three years ago.

Swiss ambassador Jean-Hubert Lebet said the case was “devastating” for Vietnam’s media and for the country’s image, because it sent the signal that “if somebody is reporting on corruption, he goes to jail”.

Chien helped drive media reporting on the so-called PMU 18 scandal, named after a transport ministry road-building unit whose officials pilfered millions in foreign aid and bet much of it on football matches.

In the wake of the scandal, the government in 2006 vowed to crack down on the widespread scourge of corruption, an effort that was cheered by the international community and foreign business groups.

But in May this year Chien and another journalist were arrested and they were convicted last month, along with their police sources, in a case that sent a chill through the country’s state-controlled media industry.

Chien, an award-winning veteran reporter with the popular Thanh Nien daily, received two years’ prison for the vague charge of “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state”.

Dutch Charge d’Affaires Bengt van Loosdrecht said at the Hanoi meeting Friday that “if the conduct of the media is too easily criminalised they may feel hampered to exercise their tasks professionally.

“Journalists need full access to information and sufficient self confidence to express themselves freely without risking punishment.”

Van Loosdrecht added that the convictions gave the impression that “the media are bigger criminals than the officials that have embezzled the money”.

Vietnam’s one-party government maintains it is serious about fighting corruption and about allowing the media to expose graft but insists the journalists were punished for breaking the law.

“Journalists have committed crimes in some cases and when they commit crimes they must be punished under the criminal law,” Do Quy Doan, the deputy minister of information and communication, told the meeting.

The sudden state backlash against the PMU 18 case reporters has left many Vietnamese journalists feeling “tired and dismayed” said one reporter who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity.

Some observers believe the journalists are pawns in a larger powerplay between rival factions in the government leadership.

Pascal Fabie, Asia Pacific director for Transparency International, said the corruption watchdog would like to see “the anti-corruption efforts target the right people and not shoot the messenger”.

“We would like to see that the big fish are fried as well as the small fish,” Fabie said during the Anti-Corruption Dialogue meeting. “We would like to see the anti-corruption fight reach all citizens in the country.”

Vietnam’s government, meanwhile, this week moved against two more journalists, dismissing the editor-in-chief and his deputy at the Dai Doan Ket (Great Unity) daily.

Authorities did not publicise the reason but sources say the editors’ crime was to publish articles and letters critical of government and party decisions.

One year ago war hero General Vo Nguyen Giap in a letter to the paper criticised a decision to demolish the National Assembly and rebuild it even though remains of Hanoi’s ancient citadel had been discovered on the site.

http://news.id.msn.com/regional/article.aspx?cp-documentid=1808869

Vietnam asserts sovereignty rights over islands

09:35′ 28/11/2008 (GMT+7)

Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Dung.

VietNamNet BridgeVietnam possesses sufficient historical evidence and a legal basis to confirm its indisputable sovereignty and sovereignty rights over the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagos, as well as Viet Nam ’s waters and continental shelf, Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Dung said on Nov. 27.

Replying to questions regarding the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC)’s announcement on Nov. 25 of a 30-billion USD project on oil and gas exploration and exploitation in deep-sea areas in the
East Sea , spokesman Dung said that Vietnam pays attention to and is closely monitoring this news.

He said: “All activities conducted on Viet Nam ’s waters and continental shelf without its consent are violations of its sovereignty and national interest and completely valueless.”

He said Viet Nam would look to solve any dispute through peaceful negotiations on the basis of respect for international law, the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the 1992 Manila Declaration on the East Sea, and the Declaration on the Code of Conduct between Parties in the East Sea signed by ASEAN members and China on November 4, 2002.

While actively promoting peaceful negotiations to seek basic and durable solutions to disputes, all involved parties should respect the status quo and refrain from actions that would further complicate the situation, he said.

(Source: VNA)


http://www.english.vietnamnet.vn/politics/2008/11/815832/

Floods kill 13 in central Vietnam

HANOI, Vietnam: Officials say floods and landslides triggered by several days of heavy rain have killed 13 people in central Vietnam this week.

Disaster official Le Viet Binh of Quang Ngai province says rains have stopped but water levels remained very high Friday, hindering rescue efforts. Floods and landslides have claimed four lives in the province.

“We have mobilized militiamen and police to rush food aid and medicine to one isolated district,” Binh says.

Binh Dinh province is the worst-hit, with five people being drowned, according to the provincial Web site.

Vietnam Airlines says dozens of flights to the seaside city of Nha Trang have been canceled.

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

http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/11/28/asia/AS-Vietnam-Flooding.php