Black market tobacco ‘booming’ in HCM City

Black market tobacco ‘booming’ in HCM City

Illicit tobacco products are readily available in Ho Chi Minh City, causing numerous challenges as the booming black market reaches record levels.

In the first half of the year, nearly 1,300 cases of illegal tobacco smuggling and trading were detected in the city, mostly involving the brand names of Zet and Hero.

Functional agencies report that as many as 277 smugglers have been arrested and assessed more than VND3 billion in fines and other compensatory penalties.

However, the number arrested represents just the tip of the iceberg, as many other smuggling rings have not yet been uncovered, authorities report.

A significant portion of the tobacco seized by authorities during the arrests originated in Cambodia and was transported illegally across the border into the south-eastern provinces.

Smugglers can earn huge profits from their trade as tobacco prices in the Cambodian market have been hovering around VND4,000 – 6,000/packet, two to three times lower than the going rate in HCM City and surrounding provinces.

Ministry hails Ha Noi for clean water supply efforts

Most of the water samples taken from plants that supply Ha Noi are of acceptable quality, an inspection by the Ministry of Health has found.

Inspection results released at a workshop on Wednesday said the water samples matched "physical and micro-organism norms."

Inspectors had collected more than 190 samples from 16 potable water plants and seven water supply stations in the city.

However, in seven out of the 23 water plants, located in Hoang Mai District, the samples failed to meet one to three criteria on chemical contamination.

The amount of ammonium nitrate and pecmanganate were higher than allowed levels in these samples.

The amount of arsenic in water samples taken from the My Dinh 2 water supply station was 1.82 times the allowed level.

Experts from the Ha Noi Department of Health's Preventive Medicine Centre said the excess was caused by geological factors.

Speaking at the workshop, Deputy Minister of Health Nguyen Thanh Long praised efforts taken to ensure the quality of potable water.

He also asked the municipal People's Committee to strengthen its supervision of water quality, saying the Health Ministry would not be able to carry out regular checks.

In particular, municipal authorities should improve the quality of water pipelines because they are considered the main culprits for poor quality water being supplied to households, he said.

Long asked the Ha Noi People's Committee to temporarily suspend the My Dinh 2 water supply station because of the excessive amounts of arsenic. He said the station should take corrective steps before it can resume operations.

Arsenic can affect people's circulatory and nervous system. Those who have suffer arsenic poisoning can suffer from baldness, nausea, amnesia, loss of weight and cancer, health experts say.

Deputy Chairwoman of the Ha Noi People's Committee, Nguyen Thi Bich Ngoc, asked the Department of Construction to set up a plan to supply potable water to 5,000 households that have used water from the My Dinh 2 station. This must be done immediately, she added.

Ngoc suggested the Health Ministry supports the city with necessary equipment and training courses for workers to better supervise water quality.

She also proposed that the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development act together in protecting the Hong (Red) and Day rivers and ensuring sufficient supply for irrigation and residents' daily use.

Rural workers receive vocational training

More than 1.6 million rural labourers received vocational training between 2010 and 2013, but this was only 85 per cent of the target set.

A committee implementing the project until 2020 was told yesterday that nearly 1.2 million of the trained labourers were able to get new jobs or earned higher incomes at their existing places of employment.

Addressing the meeting, committee leader, Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam, said all authorities should ensure that agricultural skills offered in training curricula were in line with agricultural development and restructuring.

Similarly, training for non-farm jobs should be based on local development plans for industry, services and handicrafts.

The Deputy PM said vocational courses should be organised only after the prospects for jobs and incomes for trainees were confirmed.

He requested the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs to work with ministries and sectors to finalise a draft decision to the Prime Minister on vocational training in general.

Dam added that priority must be given to those covered by State preferential policies, those living near or under the poverty line, ethnic people, people with disabilities, fishermen and those who had their farm land revoked for other uses.

Participants at the meeting agreed that the project's targets in training and job placement had not been fulfilled and called for enterprises to become involved in creating jobs for rural workers.

In a separate development yesterday, Deputy PM Dam, head of the State Steering Committee on the search for the remains of fallen soldiers, attended a meeting to review progress.

It is estimated that there are about 1.2 million fallen soldiers nationwide.

New measures applied to co-operatives' efficiency

The Viet Nam Co-operative Alliance (VCA) has mapped out several measures to raise the operational efficiency of co-operatives in several economic sectors, especially in agriculture, trading and services.

According to Tran Ngoc Hung, VCA deputy chairman, the city had nine co-operative unions and 537 co-operatives in all sectors, including trading and services, transport, industry, agriculture, credit funds, environmental hygiene, housing and education.

Although some cooperatives have operated effectively, others have faced difficulties in production and trading, with 78 co-operatives suspending business since 2012.

Speaking at a meeting in HCM City yesterday, Hung said that, in the near future, small co-operatives would be merged, and co-operatives that have operated ineffectively for long periods would be dissolved.

As planned, the alliance would organise training courses for co-operatives, Hung said, adding that it would also help them make greater use of e-commerce.

Regarding the agricultural sector, he said that VCA would focus more on organising trade promotions to seek more outlets for agricultural products, as well as instruct co-operatives to combine agricultural production with eco-tourism services.

To raise their competitiveness, Hung encouraged co-operatives in the craft and industrial sectors to invest in upgrading their production technology.

In addition, VCA will promote stronger linkages among co-operatives and between manufacturing firms and co-operatives, and will urge more of them to join HCM City's price-stabilisation programme on essential goods.

Hung said that the city should help co-operatives access bank loans to help them expand their businesses.

Many of the co-operatives do not qualify for bank loans due to a lack of assets that could be used as collateral, he said.

Ngo Van Nam, deputy director of the Tan Thong Hoi Dairy Co-operative, said the city People's Committee should also consider granting land-ownership certificates for co-operatives so they can feel more secure about their investments.

The city's business cooperative sector is expected to achieve a growth rate of 12 per cent this year, accounting for 1.1 per cent of the city's GDP, according to the VCA.

Dong Nai opens new bridge

The southern province of Dong Nai opened the new Hoa An Bridge over Dong Nai River yesterday, in addition to launching the construction of a tunnel at Tam Hiep junction and a flyover at Amata intersection on National Highway 1A.

Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai praised the Ministry of Transport and Dong Nai Province during the launching ceremony for implementing the series of construction projects, part of a scheme to modernise traffic infrastructure and connect Southeastern cities and provinces.

Construction on the 1.3km bridge commenced in 2010 with total funding of more than VND1.17 trillion (US$55.9 million). It runs parallel to another bridge of the same name that sees transport of 30 million tonnes of goods annually. The distance between the two bridges is 14.80 metres.

The new bridge will serve vehicles passing through Bien Hoa City on the way to Binh Duong Province and HCM City. It also connects to Trans-Asian Highway, which leads to Tay Ninh Province.

The VND485 billion ($23.09 million) projects to build a tunnel at Tam Hiep junction and a flyover at Amata intersection on National Highway 1A were implemented by Construction Corporation 1. The tunnel is estimated to be completed in eight months and the flyover in six months.

Hai expected that the two projects would ease traffic on National Highway 1A.

He asked the local authorities to co-operate with the project owner and create the best conditions to ensure the quality and progress of the project.

HCM City sends doctors to rural medical centres

The HCM City Department of Health on Thursday launched the second phase of a programme that sends doctors from speciality hospitals and those working for it to hospitals in districts to improve the quality of treatment at these places.

Fourteen doctors were sent to hospitals in Districts 5, 8, 12, Go Vap, and Cu Chi and health centres in Districts 10 and Nha Be for a period of at least a year.

The first phase was carried out in December 2013 with 37 doctors going to hospitals in Districts 6, 9, Can Gio, Nha Be, Cu Chi, and Binh Chanh.

All are intensive care, paediatrics, obstetrics, ENT, or throat specialists.

In the six months since they have treated 37,000 patients, performed 104 surgeries, and trained 130 doctors at the district hospitals.

With the improvement in the quality of these hospitals, they have reduced the number of patients they transfer to specialty hospitals.

Doctors at Can Gio Hospital, for instance, now perform obstetrics surgeries and sent less than 10 per cent of patients in the last six months.

With the assistance of doctors from the Paediatrics Hospital No.2, doctors at Can Gio Hospital examine 100 children a day.

But ironically the hospitals that sent them now face a shortage of doctors.

Delta rice yields high despite bad weather

Farmers in Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta have harvested one-fourth of the summer-autumn rice, with an average yield of 5.6 tonnes per ha, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development's Plant Cultivation Department.

The yield this year has been good, but heavy rains and winds in recent days have flattened many rice fields in the Delta, contributing to higher harvesting costs.

The harvest of the summer-autumn crop is expected to be completed by the end of August, the Plant Cultivation Department said.

In Can Tho, farmers have yielded 5.9 tonnes per ha, 0.3 tonnes higher than expected, due to the use of high-quality seeds and proper farming techniques, local authorities have said.

Pham Van Quynh, director of Can Tho's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the city earlier this year dredged and upgraded dozens of irrigation works in four districts, helping to retain water in fields.

In addition, the four districts provided total loans of VND50 billion (US$2.4 million) to farmers to buy input materials.

Farmers in Can Tho have also planted rice under schedules set by local authorities to avoid infestation by brown planthoppers.

Nguyen Van Be, a farmer in Can Tho's Thoi Lai District, said he was worried about declining prices although he had had a bumper harvest of nine tonnes per hectare of OM 3218 rice.

In Hau Giang Province, about 200 ha of rice fields were flattened by wind and rain over the last two weeks.

Pham Thanh Hoai, chairman of a commune's People's Committee in Chau Thanh A District, said such fields required more time and labour to harvest, costing an additional VND40,000-50,000 ($1.9-2.4) per 1,000 sq metres more to harvest by combine or hand.

Flattened rice fields in Long An Province, for example, lost 10-15 per cent of the crop harvested by hand. Fields where combines were used lost about 3-5 per cent.

Long An authorities warned farmers to store their harvested rice in flood-proof areas, as flooding season will arrive soon.

Much of the planted IR 50404 rice variety, which is weak and prone to collapse under heavy rain or wind, was also flattened, according to the delta's provincial departments of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Farmers often prefer to plant low-quality IR 50404 because it is easy to grow and has a high yield.

Pesticide cleanup halted after residents spot water leak

The Natural Resources and Environment Department of central Thanh Hoa Province temporarily suspended Nicotex Thanh Thai Company from treating 709 tonnes of pesticide-contaminated soil in Cam Thuy District's Cam Van Commune after local residents'complaints.

Do Chi Bao, who lives in the commune, discovered water overflowing from a hole used to treat the pesticide-contaminated soil last Tuesday.

"That night, local residents smelled pesticides in the air," he said.

When the company was found dumping expired chemicals and pesticides in 10 areas in the commune last August, they were fined more than VND421 million (US$20,000) and instructed to treat the soil. However, those living near the treatment site were not allowed to watch the treatment, Pham Viet Long, head of the communal supervision team, told Lao Dong (Labour) newspaper.

"We found that the company was not separating untreated soil from treated soil as they were supposed to," he said. "We wonder what type of chemical was used to deal with the pesticide-contaminated soil and whether the company used enough of it."

Long said at a meeting held on Tuesday among the environment department and local authorities of the district and commune that only the provincial People's Committee had the right to decide who conducted the treatment. The environment department was not allowed to make such decisions.

"So when untreated soil is mixed with treated soil, causing environmental pollution and harming human health, which agency is responsible?" he said.

Decision 1871/QD/UBND, approved by the provincial People's Committee on June 17, stated that the treatment aimed to minimise the quantity of toxic substances, as well as their effect on the surrounding environment and human health, as quickly as possible.

The decisions also required that the treatment not create additional environmental pollution.

The treatment process involves packaging pesticide-contaminated soil and pouring it into an area lined with a thick geotextile layer. After three to five days, chemicals are sprayed over the contaminated soil, which is then irrigated with hydrogen peroxide.

Company director Nguyen Dinh Thong told Lao Dong (Labour) newspaper that the company wanted to let the communal supervision team participate in the treatment to ensure transparency and had asked the provincial People's Committee to consider this.

Explaining the overflowing of water from the hole to treat the pesticide-contaminated soil, Thong said it was "only an incident".

The smell of pesticides did not come from the water, but from a nearby warehouse belonging to the company, he added.

Province tackles waste treatment

Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai has inspected environmental protection measures put in place, particularly in handling waste treatment, in the southern province of Binh Duong.

At a meeting with provincial officials last Friday, Hai praised the province for its work, especially in the collection and treatment of waste.

The province had successfully adopted a model, using a waste collection and treatment facility that adapts high technology to protect the environment, while being located far from populated areas.

He also voiced approval of Binh Duong's plan to call for investment by private enterprises in waste treatment, adding that the Government will create favourable and preferential conditions to assist in this investment plan.

Hai added that the government would consider the province's proposal to allow the use of Official Development Assistance (ODA) capital for the follow-up phases of waste treatment projects in the locality, as well as preferential tax policies for investment by businesses in waste treatment.

However, he noted that the provincial Company for Water Supply and Drainage and Environment should pay more attention to treating odors coming from waste treatment facilities and gradually mobilise local residents to separate different types of rubbish before placing them into dustbins.

The Deputy PM was on a fact-finding tour of the Nam Binh Duong waste treatment complex and the waste water treatment facility at Thu Dau Mot City.

The South Binh Duong Solid Waste Treatment Complex was built on a 100ha site at a cost of more than VND466 billion (US$22.2 million), 42.76 per cent of which was funded through assistance provided by the Netherlands. It has a daily capacity of processing and recycling 1,000 tonnes of normal garbage and 150 tonnes of industrial waste.

Meanwhile, the Thu Dau Mot waste water plant was built with Japanese funding, at a total cost of nearly VND2 trillion ($94 million). It has a treatment capacity of 17,650cu.m of waste water per 24 hours.

HCM City to launch large-scale Japanese encephalitis shots

Ho Chi Minh City plans to vaccinate children aged from one to five years old against Japanese encephalitis from August in the wake of an increase in the prevalence of viral encephalitis in the city and other southern provinces.

At recent meeting with officials from the city’s district-level health centres on the development of diseases, it was reported that outbreaks of Japanese encephalitis are likely to occur in District 9, and Hoc Mon, Cu Chi and BinhChanh districts.

The disease, which is caused by a flavivirus that affects the membranes around the brain and can leave lasting damage to the central nervous system and even death, is warned to reach its peak soon as it spreads through mosquito bites.

The current rainy season in the city breeds mosquitoes, the vectors in other diseases also, warned the Municipal Health Preventive Centre.

It recommended parents to strictly follow the vaccination and dose schedule for their children against the disease.

In the first five months of this year, city doctors gave treatment to 34 children who have suffered from several types of viral encephalitis, of which only Japanese encephalitis can be avoided by vaccination.

Since 1997, the national expanded immunization programme has included Japanese encephalitis vaccination, focusing mainly on areas previously hit by the disease.

However, the continuous occurrence of viral encephalitis made the Health Ministry come to a decision to launch vaccination against Japanese encephalitis on a large scale.

The city will give vaccination shots in all of its 24 districts following its measles immunization campaign.

OVs in Odessa support homeland’s islanders

The Overseas Vietnamese (OVs) community in Odessa, Ukraine, has launched a campaign “for homeland’s sea and islands” to raise funds in support of Vietnam’s law enforcement forces at sea and fishermen.

Most OVs living in Odessa reside in a building referred to as “Lotus Village” and do business at the key Odessa market – kilometre 7, where they gather and reminisce about the homeland.

Nguyen Van Voc, head of a business group in Kva 2, said that the OVs community is filled to the brim with patriotism for the nation and for those defending its sovereignty.  

As a result, in the first two days of the campaign, more than US$3,000 has been raised, he said.

A large number of OVs are students studying in Odessa and are actively involved in communal activities.

Hoang Dinh Nam, a fourth year student at the Odessa Maritime Academy, donated a portion of his scholarship to support the campaign, saying he desires to do something to assist islanders at home.

Nguyen Nhu Manh, President of the OVs Association in Odessa, said the association will continue to encourage OVs to join the campaign.

The OVs community in Odessa has conducted a wide range of activities in support of the homeland in the past. Three years ago, they donated more than US$3,200 to soldiers garrisoned on Truong Sa (Spartly) islands.

Last year, as part of the Vietnam Day in Odessa, the communal art troupe gave an art performance, affirming Vietnam’s sovereignty over Truong Sa (Spartly) and Hoang Sa (Parecel) islands.

Teachers at Vietnamese language class also introduce homeland’s sea and islands to second and third generations who were born and grew up in Odessa.

These activities instill national patriotism and pride in OVs and help Ukraine and international friends better understand and support Vietnam.

Vietnam helps Laos develop transport infrastructure

A section of the road from border maker No 790 to the Phoukeua international border gate in Laos’s Attapeu province, built with financial assistance from Vietnam, was opened to traffic on July 5, contributing to further fostering links between the two country.

The project’s cost totals 50 billion VND (2.35 million USD) and is financed with non-refundable aid from the Vietnamese Government. The 347-m section comprises of a reinforced concrete bridge and other technical items.

Speaking at the inauguration ceremony, Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc spoke highly of efforts made by the two countries’ authorities in implementing the project.

He stressed that although the road is not long, it will serve as a gateway into Vietnam from Road 18B – a vital road connecting Laos’s southern provinces with Vietnam’s Central Highland region and central localities.

It will also play a main role in bolstering cooperation among localities in the Vietnam-Laos-Cambodia development triangle, Phuc added.

On behalf of the Lao Government, Deputy Prime Minister Somsavad Lengsavath thanked the Vietnamese Party and Government for their great support to the project, which will contribute importantly to promoting his country’s socio-economic development in the future.

Vietnam’s aid helps further tighten the friendship and special solidarity between the two countries, he stressed.

Dak Lak offers free swimming courses to children

The Central Highlands province of Dak Lak is offering free swimming training courses to over 300 disadvantaged children in a bid to reduce cases of water-related deaths and injuries.

It is a pilot project under a provincial scheme on child injury prevention for the 2014-2015, said head of the child protection office under the provincial Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs Tu Thi Khanh.

Besides swimming and first aid skills, the children are also advised on possible dangers and measures to avoid them.

Since 2010, Dak Lak has recorded 60 drowning deaths, 20 of which were seen in the first six months of this year.

Binh Dinh to receive help to overcome drought

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development has promised to ask the Prime Minister for an aid package of more than 100 billion VND for the central province of Binh Dinh to overcome the on-going drought.

Minister Cao Duc Phat made the pledge at a working session with Binh Dinh officials on July 5 as part of his trip to inspect efforts fighting drought and the situation of fishermen in the locality.

More than 12,900 ha of rice in Binh Dinh are withering due to the drought, while over 18,700 households are suffering from water shortage for their daily use. Local officials estimate that the number of affected households can rise to 28,890 if there is no rain from now until the end of the month.

The minister also agreed to allocate capital for Binh Dinh to upgrade seven irrigation reservoirs within this year.

Regarding support for fishermen, Minister Phat said his ministry has submitted to the Prime Minister a plan designed specifically for Binh Dinh, under which investment will be provided for the building of 430 new fishing vessels and upgrading 1,550 ships. The Tam Quan Bac fishing port in Hoai Nhon district will also be upgraded to serve local fishermen.

At the same time, the ministry will assign its experts to work together with Binh Dinh to research suitable farming and animal raising models for the province, the minister said.

Central Highlands helps minority poor access cultivable land

The Central Highlands provinces are working to provide farming land for poor people from ethnic minorities as a main source of their livelihood to secure stable incomes.

According to the Steering Committee for the Central Highlands, there are 31,800 ethnic minority households in the region needing nearly 20,000 hectares of land for production.

They include 1,116 households in Kon Tum, 13,974 in Gia Lai, 8,094 in Dak Lak and 8,503 in Lam Dong.

Since 2002, the localities have provided over 30,000 ha of farming and residential land for 72,000 households of ethnic minority groups.

Meanwhile, over 225,000 ha of forests have been allocated, as a source of livelihood, to 12,096 ethnic minority families.

Localities have asked for the Government’s financial assistance to aid their project on vocational training, farming machinery purchase and labour export intended for ethnic minorities.

The Central Highlands encompasses the provinces of Dak Lak, Dak Nong, Lam Dong, Gia Lai and Kon Tum with a population of over 5.4 million people, 25.7 percent of them ethnic minority.

Over the past 10 years, its economy has expanded 10 percent on annual average, generating 15 trillion VND (714 million USD) to its local budget.

The region’s farm products, such as coffee, rubber, pepper, tea and cashew nuts, rake in billions of USD from exports.

Nearly 97 percent of local districts and communes have their own medical stations while many new universities, colleges and vocational schools have been built.

A mere 13.64 percent of local households is living in poverty. For the past 13 years, the region has offered vocational training to over 300,000 and generated jobs to more than 1.15 million workers.-

Quang Ngai: sea tourism proves successful

Ly Son island district in the central province of Quang Ngai lured some 16,000 tourist arrivals in the first half of this year, fetching about 19 billion VND (889,000 USD), up 10 percent year-on-year.

Notably, the number of visitors to the island has been rising since early May, with 150-200 a day and 300-400 at weekend.

The outcomes were attributed to the district’s efforts to improve tourism facilities and service quality.

Up to new 10 hotels and tens of restaurants were built on the island, along with hundreds of vehicles standing ready at the service of vacationers.

Domestic and foreign holiday-makers to Ly Son can enjoy their time exploring cultural identities of islanders and historical sites there.

One of the must-see sites on the island is the Hoang Sa exhibition room, where a wide range of valuable documents and exhibits are on display proving Vietnam’s indisputable sovereignty over Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagoes.

The national historical An Hai and An Vinh communal houses, which house an annual “Le khao le the linh Hoang Sa” (Feast and Commemoration Festival for Hoang Sa Soldiers), and tens of old pagodas are also among destinations favoured by tourists.

HCM City authority asks to stop new English teaching program

The People’s Committee in Ho Chi Minh City sent July 5 a guideline asking the city's Department of Education and Training (DOET) to stop implementation of a new English teaching program “Integrated Program”.

After discusses with the Ministry of Education and Training, the Committee issued the guideline asking the Education Department  to stop the program which has not been approved by the city Committee and make assessment of the available program, Cambridge International General

Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE), which was allowed by the Ministry in state-run schools.

The city's Education Department was asked to make a detailed assessment of every aspect of IGCSE. Moreover, it has to explain the reason to stop the approved program and how it affects students and parents’ interest.

Before, on June 23, the Department and EMG Education Corporation announced that the Department had talked with the UK's Ministry of

Education on the implementation of the new English teaching program called “Integrated program”, a new curriculum for teaching and learning

Maths, Science and English at schools in HCMC, and the program would be piloted in the academic year 2014-2015.

Two following days, the Department sent guidelines for registering the program to schools in the city.

However, on June 30, the British Embassy in Vietnam issued a press release quoting British Consul General Douglas Barnes that there is no

agreement between the Department for Education (DfE) of the Standard and Testing Agency (STA) from the UK with the city's Education Department and /or EMG to supply curriculum test materials or to qualify assure any aspect of teaching delivered in HCMC nor any official talk has been made to DfE or STA to discuss such arrangement.

Doctors save man stabbed in heart

Doctors of the General Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City’s Cu Chi District have saved a man who was stabbed in the heart.

Patient Dang Cong De, 25, was transferred from Go Dau Hospital in the southern province of Tay Ninh to the General Hospital in Cu Chi District with a heart wound. He was in half unconscious condition and his blood pressure was dropped.

Surgeons decided to operate his heart. They took 1,200 ml blood from the patient’s chest cavity and found out that the swollen outer layer of the heart wall compressed the heart.

When surgeons cut the swollen outer layer of the heart wall to remove the clot of blood, they discovered that he was stabbed in the left ventricle

(which pumps blood to the body). A violent bleeding appeared in the 2-meter wound in the left ventricle. Surgeons patched the wound up and put a drain from pleural cavity.

The man could breathe well after 48 hours. Doctors said he is a lucky man as wound in heart is fatal and most of victims died before being taken to a medical clinic.


water supply, vocational training, Mekong Delta, tobacco