Vietnam plans ban on dancing to karaoke

People arrive at a karaoke bar in Hanoi

People arrive at a karaoke bar in Hanoi


HO CHI MINH CITY (AFP) — It is early evening and another night of singing has begun in earnest at Style Karaoke, a plush club where high-flyers in Vietnam’s commercial capital come to let off steam.

Music blasts from behind the glass doors of the small rooms where groups gather to sing and, as the rhythm takes hold, to dance.

And that, the communist government says, is the problem.

It wants to ban dancing at karaoke bars in what reports have said is a bid to limit drug use.

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism posted the proposed ban on its website last month and invited public comment on the move, its latest attempt to clamp down on lawlessness at the popular singing venues.

But at Style and other neon-lit clubs on Su Van Hanh street, the heart of karaoke entertainment in the city formerly known as Saigon, the proposal is dismissed as unworkable.

“I think it’s not feasible because these people who go to karaoke want to relieve their stress,” says Dang Duy Thanh, the gel-haired manager of Style.

“If we just force them to stay there singing without feeling comfortable, that’s not right”.

Le Anh Tuyen, head of the culture ministry’s legal department, reportedly sees things differently.

Tuyen, who five years ago warned that karaoke was linked to prostitution, was quoted by the VietnamNet news website last month as saying the drug ecstasy would be used in karaoke rooms if dancing was not banned.

“Ecstasy always goes with wine and music,” he said. “In my opinion, karaoke is a cultural activity which is always latent with social evils.”

Tuyen did not respond to AFP’s requests for an interview.

Ecstasy became popular around the world at “rave” dance parties.

Tuyen told VietnamNet the government has statistics about the use of ecstasy at karaoke bars, but the report gave no data.

“I’m sure the real number of cases is higher than in our statistics. Evils will not be prevented without banning dancing,” he was quoted as saying. “In our country, karaoke often goes with ecstasy and prostitution.”

Karaoke workers on Su Van Hanh street said ecstasy could be found in some clubs — but not theirs.

“Not all karaokes allow the use of ecstasy,” says Thanh, whose club targets middle to higher-class customers and charges about double the room rate of nearby singing clubs like Karaoke K-T.

“This is what we call ‘family karaoke’,” said Pham Ngoc Khanh, 40, a staffer at K-T.

He said the business, open for several years, has a loyal following of civil servants, students and workers.

“It is not karaoke with what we call ‘social evils’.”

Clubs in other parts of the city might be more prone to vice, he said.

“It’s not right to ban us from dancing in karaoke clubs,” said one K-T customer, who arrived with a laptop bag on his shoulder. “Maybe they should ban dance bars where they have prostitutes. If they just make a general ban on dancing in karaokes, it’s not reasonable.”

The customer declined to give his name.

Khanh, the K-T worker, said karaoke was a popular form of entertainment and a ban on dancing would be “a bit strange” for customers trying to relax.

Karaoke was introduced to Vietnam in the early 1990s. The bars are now found throughout the socially conservative nation, even in remote mountainous villages.

“It’s impossible” to ban dancing, says Dang Duc Han, standing in a T-shirt, his arms folded, outside the Karaoke 64 club he manages.

If people feel in the mood they will dance, Han says as customers ride up on their motorcycles, and a child with a toy bicycle brushes against his leg.

In 2006 Vietnam banned alcohol in karaoke bars — but in practice drinking continues — while a year earlier it stopped issuing licences for bars, karaoke parlours and dance halls.

Earlier draft legislation even called for karaoke clubs to be shut down, after Tuyen said many served as brothels.

In his interview with VietnamNet, Tuyen admitted inspectors were not able to check karaoke clubs very often and said “people themselves must obey the rules”.

Khanh, of Karaoke K-T, said officials have lost touch with reality.

“They have been sitting in a high position for quite some time,” he said. “They are not realistic.”

Ngo Thi Bao Ngoc, 28, a black-stockinged staffer at the Style club, said that as the number of karaokes proliferates, authorities have a hard time controlling them.

“They get confused and they don’t know how to deal with it,” she said.

Serious business owners will not want ecstasy on their premises because it damages their reputation while bringing no benefit, and banning dancing would not work, Ngoc said.

“Dancing is understandable. There is no reason to ban it,” she said.

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New rules, market for Vietnam unlisted firms: officials

An investor sits watching share prices at a local securities trading floor in Hanoi

An investor sits watching share prices at a local securities trading floor in Hanoi


HANOI (AFP) — Vietnam will allow foreign investors to increase their stakes in non-listed companies and plans to set up a new trading floor for unlisted shareholding firms, officials said Friday.

The new ruling allows foreign firms to hold up to 49 percent of non-listed shareholding firms, up from 30 percent, said Vo Van Quang, office manager at the State Securities Commission of Vietnam.

Firms listed on the Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City bourses have been allowed to hold stakes of up to 49 percent since 2005.

“This decision aims to widen and encourage indirect foreign investment in the Vietnam stock market,” Quang said.

The directive takes effect on June 1.

Vietnam also plans to launch a new trading floor in June for unlisted shareholding companies at the Hanoi Securities Trading Center, a senior government official told Dow Jones Newswires.

The new market is part of government efforts to help regulate the trade in unlisted companies’ shares, said the State Securities Commission official.

Vietnam has more than one thousand shareholding companies but less than half of those have been listed on either the Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City exchanges, the official said.

http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jdImc1L1JLj0WTC9xr2c3wHo5eJw

Vietnam requires children to wear helmets

AP – Saturday, April 18

HANOI, Vietnam – Vietnam has closed a legal loophole that exempts children from wearing motorcycle helmets when they ride with their parents, state media reported Saturday.

Under a revised Transport Law that will take effect July 1, adults transporting children under age of 16 without a helmet will be fined up to 200,000 dong ($11), the Thanh Nien (Young People) newspaper said.

Currently, children under 16 or the adults responsible for them cannot be penalized if youngsters riding as passengers do not wear a helmet.

The World Health Organization has urged the Vietnamese government to amend the law to include penalties.

The loophole had weakened a generally successful helmet law that Vietnam enacted in 2007.

Motorbikes are the main mode of transport in Vietnam, with 24 million of them in a country of 87 million people. The WHO has said that even with the exemption for children, the helmet law has helped to save more than 1,000 lives per year since it was introduced.

Vietnam recorded 13,000 road deaths last year, one of the world’s highest rates per 100,000 with the majority of accidents involving motorbikes.

http://ph.news.yahoo.com/ap/20090418/tap-as-vietnam-helmet-law-9a7ed42.html

Vietnam detains two in Japanese aid graft case

HANOI, Feb 11 (Reuters) – Vietnamese police have detained two former Ho Chi Minh City officials over accusations they received bribes from Japanese contractors in an affair that has led Japan to suspend official aid.

Anti-corruption police have charged the former head of the city’s East-West Highway project, Huynh Ngoc Si, with “abuse of power” and searched his house on Wednesday, the government said in a report on the case.

Si’s deputy, who was also detained on Wednesday, faces similar charges, it said.

Vietnamese police launched a criminal investigation last December after Tokyo, Vietnam’s biggest aid donor, suspended its assistance. The Japanese foreign ministry said in December that new loans had been suspended since August.

The government report, citing files sent from a district court in Tokyo, said Japanese executives from a Tokyo-based consultancy bribed Si with a total of $2.6 million in return for consulting contracts in 2001-2003 on the $660 million highway project that used about $428 million in Japanese loans.

“Vietnam is resolved to clarify the case according to the law in order to bring it to justice and will not let any specific case affect the good relations between the two countries,” Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet said on Wednesday in a meeting with Japanese Special Ambassador Sugi Ryotaro.

Ryotaro has told Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung the Japanese government was hoping to resume aid to Vietnam by April. (Reporting by Hanoi Newsroom; Editing by Alan Raybould)

http://www.reuters.com/article/latestCrisis/idUSHAN317224

Vietnam city to stop foreign debtors leaving

HANOI, Feb 5 (Reuters) – Vietnam’s main business centre, Ho Chi Minh City, will block foreign investors or company directors from leaving the country if their firms owe taxes, workers’ salaries or social insurance payments, a newspaper reported on Thursday.

The city government asked the immigration department and police on Wednesday to prevent a Korean businessman from leaving Vietnam because his company still owed some $14,300 in salaries for December to 97 workers, Thanh Nien daily said. It did not name the company but said police had impounded the sewing machines at the firm. (Reporting by John Ruwitch; Editing by Alan Raybould)

http://www.reuters.com/article/managementIssues/idUSHAN11370920090205

NA Vice Chairman calls for reform

VietNamNet Bridge – National Assembly (NA) Vice Chairman Nguyen Duc Kien has said it was necessary to raise the role of the NA in law and justice reform.

NA Vice Chairman Nguyen Duc Kien. (Photo: VNN)

He said so while attending a seminar yesterday on law and justice reform, organised by the European Commission-funded Institutional Support Project to Viet Nam.

Kien said more efforts are needed to build and complete institutions.

“Because of a shortage of experience, Viet Nam’s legal system is still not complete so executive and justice offices still face many difficulties in law implementation,” he said.

Ham Farnhammers from a delegation of the European Commission to Viet Nam said the projects funded by the European Commission in general and the Institutional Support Project to Viet Nam in particular had contributed an important part in law and justice reform in Viet Nam.

The Institutional Support Project to Viet Nam, in co-ordination with the NA’s Office, Ministry of Justice, the Supreme People’s Court, and the Supreme People’s Procuracy had created many good results, he said.

Dr Nguyen Si Dung, deputy head of the National Assembly Office, said that after two years of global economic integration, the people expect the most in the NA’s role to the important decisions.

“The NA has partly manifested its role, as for the first time, the Prime Minister stood in front of the NA to answer questions by the NA deputies straightforwardly and responsibly,” he said.

A high-ranking expert of the European Commission, Ian Harris, clerk of the Australian House of Representatives, said strengthening of the legal and justice systems could not only bring benefit to legislative offices and relevant offices, but also help reduce poverty in long term.

At the seminar, many legal experts also agreed that law and justice reform helped implement hunger eradication and poverty alleviation in Viet Nam.

http://english.vietnamnet.vn/politics/2009/02/827234/

Vietnam court convicts Catholics in land dispute

Eight Vietnamese Catholics, standing, go on trial Monday, Dec. 8, 2008, for allegedly disturbing public order and damaging property during a series of prayer vigils held last year as part of a campaign to get back confiscated church land. (AP Photo/Vietnam News Agency, Thong Nhat)

Eight Vietnamese Catholics, standing, go on trial Monday, Dec. 8, 2008, for allegedly disturbing public order and damaging property during a series of prayer vigils held last year as part of a campaign to get back confiscated church land. (AP Photo/Vietnam News Agency, Thong Nhat)

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — A Vietnamese court convicted eight Catholics on Monday on charges of disturbing public order and damaging property during a series of prayer vigils to get back confiscated church land, but gave them light sentences.

One defendant received a warning while the others were given suspended sentences ranging from 12 to 15 months. They received up to two years of probation and were sent home.

The mostly peaceful but illegal vigils were a bold step in a country where church-state relations are often tense and the government frowns on public protests of any kind. The dispute did not focus on religious freedom but on a parcel of land worth millions of dollars.

Catholics and their supporters pray outside the Dong Da district court in Hanoi, Vietnam, Monday, Dec. 8, 2008, during a trial. Several hundred Catholics gathered outside the courthouse Monday morning to support eight Vietnamese Catholics who went on trial Monday on charges of disturbing public order and damaging property while holding prayer vigils to demand the return of confiscated church land. (AP Photo/Chitose Suzuki)

Catholics and their supporters pray outside the Dong Da district court in Hanoi, Vietnam, Monday, Dec. 8, 2008, during a trial. Several hundred Catholics gathered outside the courthouse Monday morning to support eight Vietnamese Catholics who went on trial Monday on charges of disturbing public order and damaging property while holding prayer vigils to demand the return of confiscated church land. (AP Photo/Chitose Suzuki)

Hundreds of Catholics, many carrying pictures of the Virgin Mary, cheered as the defendants emerged from the Donga Da district court. Some raised one of the defendants over their heads in jubilation, while others chanted “Innocent! Innocent!”

Scores of riot police stood guard around the building during the verdict, but no clashes were reported.

As he left the court, defendant Nguyen Dac Hung, 31, said he would appeal his 12-month suspended sentence. “I’m totally innocent,” he said. “This is an unjust verdict.”

While they decried the verdicts, Catholics were relieved by the light sentences. The defendants could have received up to seven years in prison.

“The authorities made a concession to the struggles of our Catholic brothers and sisters,” said Le Quang Uy, a Catholic who came to show his support. “This is our victory.”

The defendants were arrested several months ago during a series of prayer vigils held to demand the return of the land near the Thai Ha church.

Hundreds of Catholics gathered at the site for several weeks. They knocked down a section of the wall surrounding the land, set up an altar and a statue of the Virgin Mary on the site and prayed for its return.

During Monday’s trial, the defendants maintained their innocence, saying they had peacefully sought the return of church land.

“Peaceful vigils cannot be illegal,” said defendant Nguyen Thi Viet, 59. “We did not disturb public order. We did nothing wrong.”

Hanoi authorities say the Thai Ha church and its surrounding land belong to the city. They say a former parish priest signed papers turning the property over to Hanoi in 1962.

Church members insist they have documents verifying their claim on the property.

Property laws are complex in Vietnam, where Communist authorities seized buildings and land from wealthy landowners, churches and other groups after taking power. Such properties were used by the state or redistributed to veterans or others who helped bring the Communists to power.

Earlier this year, Catholics also held vigils at a second valuable parcel of land in central Hanoi, the site of the former Vatican embassy in Vietnam, which closed after the Communist government took power in 1954.

A woman pray in front of Vietnamese police officers outside the Dong Da district court in Hanoi, Vietnam, Monday, Dec. 8, 2008, during a trial. Several hundred Catholics gathered outside the courthouse Monday morning to support eight Vietnamese Catholics who went on trial Monday on charges of disturbing public order and damaging property while holding prayer vigils to demand the return of confiscated church land. (AP Photo/Chitose Suzuki)

A woman pray in front of Vietnamese police officers outside the Dong Da district court in Hanoi, Vietnam, Monday, Dec. 8, 2008, during a trial. Several hundred Catholics gathered outside the courthouse Monday morning to support eight Vietnamese Catholics who went on trial Monday on charges of disturbing public order and damaging property while holding prayer vigils to demand the return of confiscated church land. (AP Photo/Chitose Suzuki)

In each case, the Catholics began their demonstrations after hearing rumors the government planned to sell the properties to developers.

As the conflicts escalated, the government announced it would convert each site into a public park and open a library at the former Vatican site.

With more than 6 million followers, Catholicism is the second most popular religion after Buddhism in the country of 86 million. Masses at Catholic churches around the country are heavily attended.

Vietnam has often come under international criticism for its record on religious and human rights. But in recent years, relations between Catholics and the government have begun to improve, emboldening church members to assert themselves more.

Vietnam and the Vatican have been discussing the possibility of re-establishing diplomatic relations.

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