Vietnam to allow dual nationality

A communist poster in Hanoi

A communist poster in Hanoi

HANOI (AFP) — Vietnam has amended its nationality law to legalise dual citizenship, a change that could affect many in the Vietnamese diaspora of more than three million people, officials said Friday.

The legislature of the communist country on Thursday passed a revised law that maintains Vietnam’s long standing single-nationality principle but, for the first time, allows for a number of exceptions.

The change means that many post-war refugees and other overseas Vietnamese who have become citizens of second countries can officially reclaim their lapsed Vietnamese nationality without losing their new citizenship.

“Those who apply to regain Vietnamese nationality can retain their foreign citizenship if they have justified cause and with permission from the state president,” reported the state-run Vietnam News Agency (VNA).

The law also says that children born overseas to at least one Vietnamese parent will be able to claim citizenship of the Southeast Asian country.

The amendment brings the decade-old law in line with what has long been common practice, as many Vietnamese immigrants in the United States, Europe, Canada, Australia and elsewhere hold two or more passports.

Vietnam has in recent years stepped up efforts to lure back overseas Vietnamese or ‘Viet Kieu’ — many of whom still harbour a deep distrust of the state they once fled — along with their capital and expertise.

Many of them fled their homeland during and after the Vietnam war, which ended in 1975, often surviving harrowing journeys as boat people followed by years in crowded refugee camps to start new lives in about 100 countries.

The VNA report said a strict single-nationality rule “no longer conforms to real-life, practical situations” and had led to many violations.

The text of the amended law said that those who regain their Vietnamese nationality are “assured… all rights of citizenship and must obey all citizens’ duties towards the state and society according to its laws.”

This would suggest that those who regain their Vietnamese nationality will enjoy full rights, such as being able to buy property, but may also be subject to obligations such as military service for males.

However, the law also states that further government decrees will be issued to clarify some of the finer points of the amended law.

National Assembly deputy and Vietnamese historian Duong Trung Quoc told AFP legislators had debated whether those who regain citizenship could buy property, vote in elections and would have to do military service.

“These are not simple issues and deputies only dealt with them in principle,” he said. “Ensuring their full rights to citizenship is a huge task.

“Legal conflicts will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis and in concrete circumstances, depending on Vietnamese laws and international conventions signed by Vietnam.”

AFP: Vietnam to allow dual nationality

Vietnam allows some sex-change surgeries

Surgeons operate at Yanhee General Hospital, famous for sex change operations, in Bangkok

Surgeons operate at Yanhee General Hospital, famous for sex change operations, in Bangkok

HANOI (AFP) — Vietnam has legalised some types of sex change surgery but will let government physicians have the final say on what gender a patient is, a health official in the communist country said Thursday.

The decree published this week allows corrective surgery for hermaphrodites and people born with certain genital deformities, but not for people who are physically of one sex and request gender reassignment surgery.

“The reassignment of gender for those who are complete in terms of gender” is forbidden, says the text of the decree, which adds that the new measure aims to “ensure that everyone can live in his/her correct gender.”

Nguyen Huy Quang, deputy head of the health ministry’s legal department, said the decree “still prohibits sex change for those who are already in their original gender,” as determined by medical and genetic testing.

The decree would ensure the privacy of, and prohibit discrimination against, people who have undergone gender reassignment surgery, and also require medical proof when they register with authorities under their new gender.

Statistics on people seeking gender reassignment surgery are not available in Vietnam, but several transsexuals are known to have travelled to Thailand to undergo sex-change surgery.

AFP: Vietnam allows some sex-change surgeries

Vietnam to permit (some) foreigners to own property

25 May 2008

Martha Ann Overland writes from Hanoi:

Vietnam’s National Assembly has voted to allow foreigners to buy property but when it goes into effect next year there will be limits on who is affected and what they can buy.

The resolution passed May 22 limits ownership to foreigners who meet specific residence and professional criteria, according to the official Vietnam News Agency. And eligible buyers will be allowed to purchase only apartments, not houses or land.

Under the new rules, individuals who qualify include expatriates investing in the country, foreigners married to Vietnamese and those with university degrees working in specialized fields. A category was created for those who have been decorated by the president of Vietnam and named an honorary citizen.

When the law goes into effect, foreigners will be restricted to apartments in approved housing developments and after 50 years, apartments must be sold or given away. The properties must be occupied by the owners and cannot be used as investments.

While foreigners might find the restrictions less than attractive, the government hopes that it will signal that Vietnam is open for business. “This law, once it takes effect on Jan. 1, 2009, will further promote the development of the real estate market for foreigners in Vietnam,” said Ngo Duc Manh, vice chairman of the National Assembly’s External Committee. “It is a positive signal for foreigners working and living in Vietnam.”

According to the Ministry of Construction, 80,000 foreigners now live and work in Vietnam; about 20,000 of them would be eligible to buy under the new rules. Currently most expatriates prefer to live in villas and detached houses.

Despite the limitations, the change was welcomed by real estate developers who hope additional buyers will help buoy sales. Although apartment prices in urban areas had been rising, the market has softened in the past few months, with prices dropping 20 to 40 percent from their all-time highs.

International Herald Tribune – Vietnam to permit some foreigners to own property

Vietnam drugs haul largest ever | BBC NEWS

The drugs were in cartons under piles of jeansPolice in Vietnam say they have found nearly nine tons of cannabis in a shipment of blue jeans from Pakistan.

The authorities say it is their largest ever drugs seizure – at a value of $90m (£45m).

The drugs, shipped through the port of Hai Phong, were found near the border with China, and are are believed to have been ultimately bound for Canada.

The drugs were in cartons
under piles of jeans

Four Chinese citizens and one Indonesian have been arrested in connection with the find.

Tough laws

Anti-drugs police said that the cannabis resin was siezed earlier this week on two trucks heading for the Chinese border. It had arrived in April on a ship from Pakistan.

Vietnam has introduced some of the world’s toughest drugs laws, and the possession or trafficking of heroin or opium is punishable by death or life imprisonment.

In February a government review of drug-related crimes and trafficking said border provinces had strengthened ties with neighbour countries to fight the transport of drugs.

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Vietnam drugs haul largest ever

US, Vietnam sign deal to repatriate illegal immigrants

HANOI (AFP) — The United States and Vietnam have signed a memorandum of understanding on the repatriation of Vietnamese illegal immigrants from the United States, the US embassy said Tuesday.

Under the agreement signed in Hanoi, “Vietnamese nationals who arrived in the United States illegally on or after July 12, 1995 are subject to return” to the communist Southeast Asian country, the embassy said in a statement.

US Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement Julie Myers and Vietnam’s Deputy Foreign Minister Dao Viet Trung signed the MOU in Hanoi, the statement said.

“Agreements such as this are the building blocks of diplomacy,” said Myers. “This agreement allows us to carry out a judge’s order to remove individuals from our country in a safe and humane manner.”

The statement said the United States would “manage the repatriation of Vietnamese nationals in an orderly and safe way, and with respect for the individual human dignity of the person being repatriated.”

Vietnam must regulate blogs, say officials 

Vietnam needs to control blogs to prevent the spread of subversive and sexually explicit content, communist government officials said according to a state media report Wednesday.

Weblogs have exploded in Vietnam in recent years, especially among youths, providing a forum for chatting about mostly societal and lifestyle issues and providing an alternative to the state-controlled media.

Recent anti-Chinese protests over the disputed Spratly and Paracel islands, which were halted following rebukes from Beijing, were organised and debated on the Internet but almost completely ignored by the official press.

The ministry responsible for culture and information, which controls traditional media, in July said it was drafting regulations that would fine bloggers who post subversive and sexually explicit content online.

Deputy Information and Communications Minister Do Quy Doan this week told a conference on Vietnam’s press law that “controlling weblogs is about developing them in accordance with the law, not forbidding them.

“We should provide guidelines that help people know what type of information they can upload online,” Doan said according to a report in the English-language Than Nien (Youth Daily) newspaper.

Bloggers would also be held responsible for information they access, he reportedly said, adding: “Once we have obvious regulations, I think no one will be able to supervise weblogs better than the bloggers themselves.”

Nguyen The Ky, head of the press management and publishing bureau, said: “It’s alright some bloggers have recently showed their patriotism, posting opinions about the Paracels-Spratly archipelagos on their weblogs.”

“But some have sparked protest, causing public disorder and affecting the country’s foreign affairs.

“It’s impossible to control the Internet, so I think we should bolster technical security measures in addition to creating regulations.”

Vietnam Helmet Law Changes Culture Overnight

A new law has taken effect in Vietnam requiring all motorbike riders to wear helmets. Motorbikes are the most common form of transportation in Vietnam, but drivers long refused to wear helmets, leading to huge numbers of traffic fatalities. In Hanoi, Matt Steinglass has more.

People ride motor bikes without helmet during rush hour in Hanoi, Vietnam (File Photo)
People ride motor bikes without helmet during rush hour in Hanoi, Vietnam (File Photo)

The sound of a Vietnamese city is the sound of motorbikes. In Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, motorbikes account for more than 90 percent of all the vehicles on the road.

But for decades, most Vietnamese riders refused to wear helmets, which they derisively call “rice cookers”. Traffic safety advocates wondered what it would to change people’s behavior.

On Saturday, they got their answer.

Traffic police officer Nguyen Ngoc Hieu says according to Government Decree Number 32, from December 15, everyone riding a motorbike anywhere in Vietnam, including passengers and children, must wear a helmet. He says the government is doubling the traffic police force to more than 1,000 officers to enforce the new law.

Hieu spoke Friday at the entrance to Hanoi’s Long Bien bridge, one of the busiest intersections in the city. It was the day before the new law took effect, but at most, only a quarter of the riders were wearing helmets.

Nguyen Van Hoa, a public security official at the People’s Committee in the Hanoi neighborhood of Ba Dinh, says the helmet campaign is going slowly. Hoa says at one local primary school, many parents hadn’t bought helmets for their children. He says this had made officials angry.

Meanwhile, the sidewalks of Hanoi are crowded with helmet vendors doing a brisk trade as people try to comply with the new law.

Longtime helmet shop owner Nguyen Nga Thao says her sales are up more than 10 times, to about 2,000 helmets a day.

Thao says helmets have become much more fashionable since September, when the new law was announced. The new ones are lighter, with designs such as hibiscus flowers and panda faces, for female riders who would not have bought a helmet before.

Nguyen Thi Bao owns Ba Café, a fashionable coffee shop. She says she just bought her first helmet, a green Piaggio model, to match her green Piaggio motorbike.

Bao says she would still prefer not to wear one. With such beautiful hair, she says, how can I wear a helmet when I go out at night?

Government Decree Number 32 took effect at six o’clock Saturday morning. By noon, it was clear that compliance rates were more than 99 percent. In one night, Hanoi’s streets had become a sea of brightly decorated motorbike helmets.

Dang Van Binh, 52, has driven a “xe om”, or motorbike taxi, for 13 years.

Binh says in the entire morning, he had seen only a few drivers without helmets. He says several were stopped by police and fined – 150,000 dong, or about $9, more than the price of a cheap helmet.

Le Huong, 25, was wearing a helmet for the first time.

Huong said she still thought helmets were ugly, and was only wearing them because of the law.

Then Huong’s friend Hong, who was driving the motorbike, explained in English.

“The government, they approved for all the people to follow, and we are Vietnamese and we are the good ones, so we follow,” said Hong. “We are Vietnamese, and we love our country. So we follow our government.”