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.

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)

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.

Hanoi authorities want no one to attend Thai Ha Catholics trial

Anyone who wants to attend the proceedings must submit a written request. The trial itself will not be held in a courthouse but on the 4th floor of the People’s Committee building. On the same day that the trial starts the capital’s auxiliary bishop is consecrated.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) – Increasingly the trial that Hanoi authorities are organising against Thai Ha Catholic parishioners is taking on political connotations. Their alleged crime is to have protested in favour of the return of land belonging to their parish that was seized by the state. However, not only did the authorities prevent two of the accused from seeing their attorneys, but they are making sure that it is very difficult for anyone to attend the proceedings.First of all, there is the date. It has been known for some time that the trail is to start on 5 December, the same day when the new auxiliary bishop of the capital, Mgr Chu Van Minh, is set to be consecrated.

Local priests will be involved in the cathedral rather than attend the trial. Similarly, tradition dictates that the laity, especially the most involved, will take part in great numbers in the ceremony and thus, like the priests, will not be able to go to the courthouse.

But this is not all. Under Vietnamese law trials are public unless the dignity of the plaintiff is at stake, which is not the case.

According to the Églises d’Asie, the lawyer for the accused, Le Tran Luat, has said that the accused have been verbally informed that anyone who wants to attend the trial must submit a written request. This is a patent violation of the principle of open trial and reflects a desire to limit the number of those present. The need to present a written request means that the authorities will be able to know who wants to attend, which is a clear attempt at intimidation.

And last but not least. The authorities have announced that the trial will not take place in the Hanoi Courthouse but rather on the fourth floor of the People’s Committee building (city hall) in Hoàng Cau Street, in Dong Da district.

On 15 November a delegate from the People’s Committee visited the Redemptorists’ convent, who are responsible for Thai Ha parish, for an urgent meeting. But it was all a diversionary manoeuvre since “hundreds of people had gathered to attack the chapel.”

Government acts to prevent economic slump

07:29′ 28/11/2008 (GMT+7)

VietNamNet Bridge – Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said it is necessary to focus on preventing an economic decline or a stagnation in production and trade so as to maintain economic growth, considering this to be the first and most important task for the government throughout December and next year.

PM Dung put forth measures to prevent an economic slump, such as intensively promoting production and exports, stimulating investment and consumption, and implementing fit and proper financial and monetary policies,.

PM Nguyen Tan Dung made these remarks at a government meeting on Nov. 27, during which cabinet members noted the serious decline of the world economy and said that Vietnam is showing signs of economic decline, which is having a direct effect on production and trade, domestic consumption, export, investment and employment.

PM Dung put forth measures to prevent an economic slump, such as intensively promoting production and exports, stimulating investment and consumption, and implementing fit and proper financial and monetary policies, as well as policies governing social welfare.

The PM asked the Finance Ministry and the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) to formulate strategies regarding tax exemptions and reductions and the re-scheduling of tax payments for businesses, reducing interest rates and controlling exchange rates and currency reserves.

The PM also stressed the need to encourage state investment in vital projects and homes for the poor, while perfecting legal documents to create advantageous conditions for effective business operations.

He urged state-run businesses to stimulate their production levels and expand their export markets.

Regarding the purchase of rice from farmers, the PM instructed the Finance Ministry and the SBV to arrive at a concrete plan to ensure that this runs smoothly, and assigned the northern and southern food corporations to purchase all of the rice from farmers in the Mekong Delta.

He appointed the Vietnam Development Bank to guarantee bank loans for small and medium-sized enterprises.

(Source: VNA)

Vietnam PM Puts Together Measures To Avert Recession

HANOI -(Dow Jones)- Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has put together a package of measures to help prevent the economy falling into recession but the government has yet to detail what those measures will be.
The prime minister, who met with officials from various ministries late Thursday, said the impact of the global financial crisis is increasingly spreading to Vietnam and hurting its exports, tourism and especially the stock market.
“Vietnam’s economy is slowing down, with the threat of recession looming large,” Dung said in a statement published Friday on the government’s Web site.
“All the state organizations should combine their efforts to prevent recession, support production and maintain reasonable economic growth,” Dung noted.
He said the package includes measures to boost production and exports, stimulate domestic consumption, increase loans, support the poor and a review of taxation.
No further details were available although state media reported that ministers proposed a further cut in benchmark interest rates to 10% from the current 11% and delaying the implementation of a planned capital gains tax to July from January.
Ministers also proposed increasing the disbursement of state funds for welfare, healthcare, education and infrastructure projects, plus reducing taxes for businesses.
Neither did the government say how much it plans to spend, although analysts have speculated that it could be for around US$1 billion.
Vietnam, once expected to be the next Asian boom economy, has suffered a marked slowdown in economic growth.
In late September, the government estimated that gross domestic product expanded 6.5% in January through September from a year earlier compared with 8.2% growth in same period of 2007.
That slowdown was in part due to government spending cuts and price controls on some goods to stem inflation that still stood at an elevated 24.2% on year in November. Slowing offshore demand for Vietnamese goods and falling inward investment have added to the woes lately.
Vietnam’s key stock-market index, which has declined 67% so far this year, ended up 3.7% Friday after state media announced that the government will take urgent measures to support the economy.
-By Nguyen Pham Muoi, Dow Jones Newswires, 84-913-220-614;
Friday November 28th, 2008 / 6h19

UPDATE: Vietnam PM Puts Together Measures To Avert Recession – EasyBourse actualité