Social News Headlines 22/4

Vietnam seeks ways for overseas nationals to maintain nationality

Vietnamese authorities are looking for ways to help millions of overseas Vietnamese maintain their nationality as the deadline for the regulation approaches, said a spokesman for the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In accordance with the Nationality Law 2008, overseas Vietnamese who do not have valid Vietnamese passports, or who had Vietnamese nationality before the law took effect on July 1, 2009, must re-register with Vietnamese agencies in the country where they reside in order to maintain their citizenship. The deadline for re-regislation was set for July 1 of this year.

However, only around 6,000 out of the total 4.5 million overseas Vietnamese have completed so far. The figure is much lower than was expected.

“Relevant authorities are checking into the issues related to the procedures before working out the best solution to ensure the legal rights and benefits for overseas Vietnamese communities,” Spokesman of the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Le Hai Binh noted.

Dr. Nguyen Quoc Vong, an overseas Vietnamese living in Australia, said that all overseas Vietnamese are aware of their nationality and of their responsibilities to their homeland.

“The regulation that requires overseas Vietnamese to re-register to maintain their citizenship is irrational. I decided to return to Vietnam just to contribute to the national development. If we are not welcomed in our homeland we won’t return,” he commented.

Recently, Nguyen Thanh Son, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Chairman of the State Committee for Overseas Vietnamese Affairs, said most overseas Vietnamese do not pay much attention to the requirement for re-registration because they think they are Vietnamese by default.

“They don't want to lose their nationality but keep it freely and naturally without being controlled by burdensome regulations . We’ll propose the removal of the deadline for re-registration and make it an open issue,” he added.

HCM City prepares for new administrative center

An old condo building at the corner of Dong Khoi and Le Thanh Ton streets in HCMC’s District 1 is being demolished to make room for construction of the city’s new administrative center, according to HCMC Housing Management and Trading Company, the investor of the project.

The property in an 18,000-square-meter area bordered by Le Thanh Ton, Pasteur, Ly Tu Trong and Dong Khoi streets will be removed in preparation for the project. However, the head office of the People’s Council and the People’s Committee at 86 Le Thanh Ton Street will be preserved.

Some experts have suggested retaining a number of works with historical values in the area but the investor said that only the building at 86 Le Thanh Ton Street should be preserved.

Nguyen Trong Hoa, director of the HCMC Development Research Institute, said that the new center comprises of the offices of departments and the HCMC People’s Committee.

Local government suggested that the ground floor of the current head office of the People’s Committee will be upgraded into a public space for cultural activities. Offices will be placed at the first floor and neighboring buildings.

Hoa said that the city would attach importance to conservation of architectural and historical values and a friendly space connecting local authorities with residents in building the new center.

The city’s government has told relevant agencies to repair a building on Tran Hung Dao Street to arrange temporary places for State offices.

Minister of Transport slams the rail industry

The minister of Transport, Dinh La Thang, strongly criticised the rail sector for its disorganisation, something which has been widely complained about by customers.

The problem was discussed at a conference on April 18 on improving the transport capacity of rail lines, waterways and air in order to ease the overload of roads. Although many customers want to switch to other means of transport, most are frustrated with the rail sector.

The director of Sugarcane and Sugar Corporation No. 1, Vu Thi Huyen Duc, said, "We signed a contract to transport 10,000 tonnes of sugar over one week, but still haven't been given a schedule." Duc had to seek help from the minister of transport.

Do Doan Hung, Director of Habac Nitrogenous Fertilizer and Chemicals Company, said, "It as if the railways are monopolised and don't want to cooperate with us. They haven't come to transport our goods for a week so we're thinking of shipping by boat."

Vu Ta Tung, Director of Saigon Railways, said that the rail sector must take advantage of this opportunity. In responses to customer complains, the director of Hanoi Railways, Nguyen Van Chung, said the export route to China that goes through Lao Cai Province is overloaded. Customers refuse to let them unload the goods at night because prices would double and several others do not allow their merchandise to be unloaded at all. Meanwhile, the director of Vietnam Railways said the loading and unloading fees are decided by a third party, so they cannot control them.

Minister Dinh La Thang accused the sector it self of laziness. He said, "Basically, we have to improve infrastructure. New plans and strategies must be created to solve these problems. The sector must improve their capacity, make administrative reforms and prevent corruption. We have to go after customers, not sit in one place and wait for them to come to us."

According to the minister, they can fine firms that do not want to unload their goods and provide discount policies for customers that allow nighttime unloading. He also said the railway sector should accept contracts based on their capabilities.

Cold fronts and heavy showers sweep across the country

The northern provinces will be experiencing a cold front accompanied by thunderstorms, according to the Central Hydrological Meteorological Forecast Center on April 20.

The southern provinces will be experiencing sunny days with thunderstorms and showers in the evenings with tornadoes, strong wind, and lightening.

The south will experience temperature highs of 33-35 degrees Celsius and lows of 25-27 degrees Celsius.

Thanh Hoa and Binh Thuan provinces will experience hot, sunny weather on April 21-26 with following temperature drops and rain.

 VND2.7 billion scholarships for students in Mekong delta

The Southwestern Region Steering Committee and Quoc Van Education Investment Corporation are gifting VND 2.7 billion (US $128,113) fo 15 scholarships to impoverished students in the Mekong Delta.

Each scholarship is worth VND 180 million (US $8,540) third-year students in Quoc Van Seniro High School in Can Tho City. Scholarship winners will receive accommodation, food, and tuition fee exemptions.

Public works to be removed for downtown metro station

Public works in front of the Opera House in downtown HCMC will be relocated by May 1 to make room for construction of an underground section of Metro Line No. 1, which connects Ben Thanh Market and Suoi Tien Park in District 9.

The HCMC government has told the Department of Transport to regulate traffic in the area to ensure work on the metro section will not cause congestion and affect business activities.

The 17km elevated section of the metro line along Hanoi Highway is under construction and expected for completion next year. However, the 2.6km underground section from Ben Thanh station to Ba Son Shipyard has not yet got off the ground.

Regarding this section, Package 1B from the station in front of the Opera House to Ba Son is having difficulty picking contractors as just one contractor participated in a tender for this section.

The city government has told the Department of Transport to upgrade Nguyen Hue Boulevard’s section from Le Thanh Ton Street to Le Loi Street to ensure harmony with the underground stretch of the metro line.

Lighting systems will also be arranged in order to harmonize with the lighting at the statue of President Ho Chi Minh and the City Hall as well as surrounding establishments.

The Department of Transport has proposed a plan to keep the existing old trees and plant new ones along the streets nearby.

HCM City lists 100 points for hazardous waste collection

The city’s Environmental Protection Fund has announced 100 points for citizens to place used batteries, light bulbs, chemical containers and other hazardous waste as part of a program to help protect the environment.

The fund maintains the program until April 20 after a successful week last year when it collected some 1,245 kilograms of hazardous trash from households in the city. The collection points this time are in districts 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, Binh Thanh and Phu Nhuan.

The organization said that the HCMC Department of Natural Resources and Environment had plans to carry out major campaigns in July and November this year to gather hazardous garbage from households.

Apart from households, the city sees around 500 tons of hazardous waste coming from enterprises and around 12 tons of medical waste from hospitals and clinics every day.

The hazardous trash can be classified as oil, lead-acid batteries, light bulbs, chemicals, printing ink, waste from processing leather, feather, wood, paper, weaving, dyeing, medical and metallurgy scrap.

According to the Institute of Environment and Natural Resources under the Vietnam National University of HCMC, the city has 49 firms specializing in collecting, transporting and treating hazardous waste.

Due to ineffective treatment, such waste is impacting on the environment and causing cancer, fetal malformations and other fatal diseases for the public.

City International Hospital offers free checkups

City International Hospital will provide free health checkups and consultancy for patients as part of a series of conferences on healthy living set to take place throughout the year.

The conferences will cover a range of topics related to people’s daily lives and feature experts and doctors of the hospital such as Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nguyen Tan Cuong, Dr. Le Tien Dung, Dr. Pham Chi Lang and Dr. Vo Dang Hung.

The conference on osteoarthritis is scheduled for this Saturday at Liberty Central Saigon Riverside, 17 Ton Duc Thang Street in HCMC’s District 1. Free health checkups and consultancy will be provided alongside the conference.

City International Hospital, managed by Parkway Health, began services on January 5, 2014. With experienced professors, doctors, nurses and technicians, the hospital will also serve as a training and research center for the

International Hi-Tech Healthcare Park of Hoa Lam-Shangri-La Healthcare LLC.

Normal service resumed at border gate after shooting

The situation has returned to normal at Bac Phong Sinh border gate in the northern province of Quang Ninh following the April 18 shooting.

Seven people were killed in the assault, including five illegal Chinese immigrants and two Vietnamese border guards.

Normal service has been resumed after the shooting at Bac Phong Sinh border gate (Photo:VNA)

Provincial authorities instructed relevant agencies to take control of the situation to ensure social stability and the lives of border guards and people there.

They confirmed the shooting was not a terrorist attack.

Chairman of the provincial People’s Committee Nguyen Van Doc visited and provided financial support to families whose relatives lost their lives or were injured in the assault.

Relevant Vietnamese agencies handed over 11 illegal Chinese immigrants and five dead bodies to the Chinese side according to the two countries’ laws and international norm.

Two Vietnamese border guards were killed and four others were injured in the shooting. The injured are receiving intensive medical treatment at Hai Ha district hospital and they are showing signs of recovery.

Chinese officials are verifying the case.

Officials exhorted to walk in public's shoes

Public officials need to put themselves in the positions of constituents so they can deal with their cases more responsibly, Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said at his meeting with the Reception Office of the Party Central Committee yesterday.

Saying authorities in certain localities had shirked their responsibility, he requested the Government Inspectorate form groups that would inspect officials in State agencies and localities in charge of meeting with constituents and dealing with claims.

He also urged local leaders to organise meetings with constituents where they would listen to their opinions in order to protect their rights and avoid group complaints.

Participants at the meeting attributed the recent deluge of complaints to the fact that the Government's policies, especially those concerning housing and land use, were irrelevant to reality or inconsistent. However, they said, many localities had failed to address constituents' concerns.

During the first quarter of the year, the Party Central Committee's Reception Office received 5,180 constituents with claims, an increase of over 76 per cent compared to the same period last year.

The number of group complaints sent to the office also increased by more than 23 per cent.

Waste recycling day raises awareness of 3Rs

The seventh annual Waste Recycling Day was held in Ho Chi Minh City on April 20, aiming to raise public awareness of reducing, reusing and recycling waste – known as the ‘3Rs’.

Organised by the municipal Department of Natural Resources and Environment, the event attracted thousands of students and young people from every corner of the city.

Nearly 30 pavilions at an exhibition during the day were set up to feature various environmentally friendly recycling technologies and products, along with places for the exchange of recyclable waste for goods.

In addition to guiding local people how to classify solid and recyclable wastes, the organising board showed documentaries related to recycling waste in Vietnam and the world.

Dao Anh Kiet, Director of the department, said through the collection of hazardous household and solid wastes, the event aims to encourage local people to conduct 3R activities to protect the environment, and transform the city into one of the leading localities in the country for limiting the burial of waste in the ground.

Minister issues warning on overloaded vehicles

Transport Minister Dinh La Thang has reiterated the need for strict checks to prevent overloading of trucks and threatened severe punishment for any ministry staff found receiving bribes.

His comments came at a meeting held on Thursday to review the performance of the Directorate for Roads of Viet Nam in an inspection drive launched earlier this month on load-carrying vehicles.

"Transport companies that follow the rule on trucks' carrying capacity will not be able to compete with those who violate the rule and carry more load than allowed," he said.

Therefore, checking the weight of trucks is a way to level the field, he added.

Thang said that the ministry will mete out tough punishments for wrongdoings.

"I promise to hand out serious punishment if the information on the ministry's staff receiving bribery is correct," he said.

Yet another adverse impact was highlighted by Bui Danh Tu, deputy director of Yen Bai Department of Transport, who said that the Highway 70 section running through his province had degraded seriously because of overloaded trucks.

Do Xuan Hoa, General Secretary of Viet Nam Automobiles Transport Association, said that there are many trucks that transport up to 100 tonnes of construction material although they are only allowed to carry 22 tonnes.

"We strongly support the Government in taking aggressive measures so that road transportation can be improved," he said.

He also noted that consumers would be affected when trucks are forced to follow the rules on load carrying because prices of goods would increase.

"But, if we don't control seriously overloaded trucks, the roads will be damaged and it is people's tax money that is used to repair and rebuild them," Hoa said.

Khuat Viet Hung, head of the ministry's Transport Department, informed the meeting that in 15 days, some 11,000 trucks were checked and 2,100 found carrying excessive loads.

VN pushes for forest law pact with EU

Viet Nam wants to sign the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade / Voluntary Partnerships Agreement (FLEGT VPA) with the European Union (EU) by October.

Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Ha Cong Tuan said at a national consultant workshop on the FLEGT VPA on April 17 that negotiations for the agreement should be finalised to facilitate the trade of Vietnamese wooden products entering the EU market.

The FLEGT Action Plan, approved by the EU in 2003, came into effect in March 2013, as one of the EU's responses to international concerns about illegal logging and trading.

The plan sets out measures to combat illegal logging and trading.

The implementation of the FLEGT VPA aims to establish control and licensing procedures in timber producing and processing countries to ensure that only products made from legally harvested timber enter the EU.

Products licensed the FLEGT or Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) are considered to be legally harvested.

Viet Nam and the EU began formal negotiations for the bilateral FLEGT VPA in 2010, and they expect to sign the agreement this year, Tuan said.

He added that the agreement would allow Vietnamese timber exporters to apply for the FLEGT licence with Viet Nam authorities that would prove the legality of products before exporting to the EU.

"The move would help the exporters avoid situations where they have to bring products back home if they fail to prove the legality of products to the EU administrations," he noted.

Exporters could opt either to apply for the licences in Viet Nam or fulfil accountability in the EU, he added, noting that domestic supervisory and licensing were expected to reduce costs for exporters.

Head of Viet Nam's Standing Office for the FLEGT and Lacey Act, under the agriculture ministry, Nguyen Tuong Van said that Viet Nam's timber export industry had shown strong development in the last decade with an yearly growth of 16 per cent.

Last year, it posted a $5.5-billion export turnover in timber products, having exported to over 100 countries, and the EU was one of its leading export markets.

Van commented that Viet Nam's timber export industry faced many difficulties, including low value addition due to high woodchip export ratio, mainly indirect export through the EU importers and non-trademarked products.

Vietnamese timber enterprises imported 40-50 per cent of raw materials, she noted, and complicated domestic timber flows and different timber sources made it difficult to control illegal logging, making Viet Nam a high-risk exporter.

"This fact has urged the country's action plan to adapt, improve awareness and develop a legal frame work and timber legality assurance system," she added.

These negotiations would help Viet Nam maintain and expand markets, increase competitiveness and international integration, improve sustainable forest development and forest governance, she commented.

Head of the EU delegation to Viet Nam Ambassador Franz Jessen said that the agreement could help speed up the institutional reform of the forest industry law enforcement in Viet Nam as well as improve national image and trademarks for the timber industry.

It would help ensure that Vietnamese timber and products could continue to access the EU and other markets, he remarked.

Viet Nam Timber and Forest Product Association vice chairman Nguyen Ton Quyen said that improved awareness and understanding about the FLEGT VPA was necessary for forest growers, wooden-furniture producing villages and small processors and dealers.

He added that the implementation of the FLEGT VPA would involve multiple ministries, agencies and organisations for evidence in field, including customs, taxes, export permit and product flow.

He urged co-operation among them to ensure a smooth procedure that would save time and costs for enterprises.

Prime Minister calls for holiday traffic safety measures

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has urged ministries, sectors and localities to prepare measures to ensure road safety and tackle traffic jams during the upcoming holidays for Liberation Day (April 30) and May Day (May 1).

This year, Liberation Day and May Day together with the weekend will make up a five-day holiday.

Many people travel at this time of year, leading to more traffic jams and accidents during the holidays in the country.

According to the PM, more traffic officers and inspectors would be on duty during the holidays at railway, ferry and coach stations, as well as on key transport routes, which were likely to experience congestion.

Dung urged for more inspections and supervision to take dangerous vehicles off the roads.

Accident hot spots and bridges, particularly in rural areas, should also be checked and repaired where necessary.

During the holiday, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City plan to put on more than 1,800 bus services to cope with the influx of passengers, which is expected to be three times more than on normal days.

More than 100 people died and 185 were injured in traffic accidents throughout Vietnam during holidays last year, according to the Road and Railway Traffic Police Department.

Police reported that they handled 41,000 traffic violations during last year's holidays. Fines totalling more than VND20 billion (US$948,000) were collected. Most violations involved overloaded coaches and speeding.

Photobook assists sight-impaired kids

A photobook of more than 100 black-and-white images of children has been produced by a local photographer to raise funds for Ho Chi Minh City's Nguyen Dinh Chieu School for Blind Children and visually impaired students living in poor provinces.

The photos by Tran The Phong, now on display at the school, show beautiful moments of visually impaired children at study, play and at home.

"My photography aims to encourage people to give more to children who have visual impairments. Most of them are from poor families and live in difficult conditions," said Phong, a member of the city's Photographers Association.

Some of the black-and-white photos, including Tinh Ban (Friendship) and Hon Nhien (Innocence), depict happy and smiling chidlren.

Phong's photobook, Vuot Qua Bong Toi (Crossing the Dark), promotes a message of love and compassion.

"I want to support these kids so they can live more confidently and be happy," said Phong, who spent several months on the project.

The photos used in the exhibit will be donated to students and teachers at the school.

Sponsored by the South African Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City, the photobook is being sold to raise funds to help Nguyen Dinh Chieu's students and disadvantaged, visually impaired children in poor provinces.

"Phong's photos left a very strong impression on our teachers who have worked hard to provide their kids with love, caring and training," said Ha Thanh Van, headmaster of Nguyen Dinh Chieu School, who has taught disadvantaged children for more than 20 years.

"Although Phong's photos are in black and white, we can see a colourful rainbow in his art," she added.

Van said the school was struggling financially to improve its facility.

More than 200 blind children aged six to 23 from the southern region of the country attend the school, which has 20 classes from the elementary to junior-high level.

Lessons are taught in Braille or by audio cassettes. Fees are VND100,000 to more than VND250,000 a month, except for poor children whose families cannot afford to pay.

The 30 teachers, who are all well-qualified, receive a monthly salary of VND2 million (US$96).

"The task of teaching the children is not an easy one. We teach them maths, music and painting, reading and writing, but it is equally important to understand and prepare them for life in society," said Van.

The special exhibit at the school is open every day from 8am to 6pm and ends on May 2.

City customs seize drug precursor

HCM City's customs force has seized a kilogram of pseudoephedrine, a precursor used in methamphetamine, in a package that was being sent to Australia.

According to the municipal Express Delivery Customs Department, the 2.9 kg package was sent by an individual from the southernmost province of Ca Mau on Tuesday.

The sender declared the package as dried cashew nuts and instant tea.

Skin disease kills another person in Quang Ngai

A skin disease of unidentified origins has killed another person in the central province of Quang Ngai, raising the number of deaths to 25, the provincial Department of Health said.

The first case of the disease, called foot and palm dermatitis by the Ministry of Health, was discovered in April 2011. Since then, more than 230 people have been affected by the disease.

The patients belong to the Ba To and Son Ha districts.

The province has registered one case of relapse and a new case since the beginning of this year.

The latest victim, 14-year-old Pham Thi Huy, was from Dut Village, in Ba To District's Ba Nam Commune. She was hospitalised on April 8 with blisters between her toes and fingers and increased liver trouble.

Huy was the first to contract the disease in her village.

The Ba To District Medical Centre, in coordination with the provincial Department of Health, examined more than 90 villagers, and diagnosed 13 as having increased liver problems.

All residents of the Ba Nam Commune will be medically examined today.

Two motorbike drivers killed in bus collision

Two people were killed this morning after being struck by a bus, whose driver was cited for careless driving and speeding in central Thanh Hoa Province.

According to a witness, the bus was traveling through the Dinh Huong crossroad at 8 am this morning when it struck a motorbike. The witness described the bus as being driven in a reckless manner and speeding as it went through a red traffic light. A man was reported to have been killed at the intersection.

The bus continued after the first crash, striking a second motorbike and killing its female driver, identified as a resident of the province's Dong Cuong Commune.

The identity of the male victim has not been released.

The police are investigating the incident.

Fisherman's body found in Quang Nam

The body of a fisherman, who went missing after his coracle capsized in Dien Duong Commune in Quang Nam Province, was found 500 metres from the coast of the commune on Thursday.

Chairman of the commune, Tran Minh Hoang, said yesterday local rescuers found the body of Nguyen Mau, 55, a day after the accident.

He said Mau and five other fishermen were paddling a coracle to their fishing vessel a few hundreds metres off the coast on Wednesday evening when a big wave struck the bamboo boat.

Five of the fishermen managed to swim to shore, but Mau went missing.

US senators present gifts to Danang dioxin victims

A US Senate delegation led by Senate President pro tempore Patrick Leahy visited and presented gifts to disadvantaged people, including victims of dioxin, in the central city of Danang on April 19.

They symbolically gave 18 wheelchairs to the handicapped, four chairs to mentally retarded children, and 18 hearing aids to needy people in Hoa Vang district.

They also visited and presented gifts to a farmer family in Bau Bang village, Hoa Vang district, whose two children were disabled.

The gifts were funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and channeled through the Vietnam Assistance for the Handicapped (VNAH).

Earlier the same day, President Leahy attended the launch of a thermal desorption system at Danang airport to clean up dioxin-contaminated soil.

At a working session with municipal authorities, Leahy said his visit was to inspect US-funded projects on dioxin remediation and address the needs of victims of unexploded ordnance (UXO).

He said the US is working closely with the Vietnamese Ministry of National Defence to carry out these projects effectively.

Conference encourages innovation in education

A conference was held in Ha Long city, northern Quang Ninh province, on Aril 19 to review a ministerial-level programme on education management innovation in international integration.

Delegates looked at change and innovation in educational organisations at all levels, and suggested ways to carry out the inevitable process of change with as much success as possible.

Dr. Trinh Thi Anh Hoa, deputy head of a research centre for education management, proposed enhancing information dissemination about ongoing education reform efforts, aimed at meeting students’ needs and the country’s development requirements.

She said it is necessary to build a forecast system on training need, develop an integrated training model for students from different schools and professions, and design a standard quality assessment system.

For his part, Doctor of Science Pham Do Nhat Tien suggested universalizing primary and secondary education, and developing a network of vocational high schools alongside gifted schools.

The national education system should be regulated by law and by-law documents, and education and vocational training development policies.

He also said it is critically important to have special policies on education management in regions experiencing unusual difficulties and those with high ethnic minority and social policy beneficiary populations.

Melbourne hosts singing contest for Vietnamese students

The final round of a singing contest for Vietnamese students in Melbourne (MOVSA GALA 214) was held at Deakin Edge theatre on April 18.

The event was attended by the Vietnamese Ambassador to Australia Luong Thanh Nghi and a large number of Vietnamese students studying in Melbourne.

The audience was enthralled by sparkling, dramatic performances from 13 famous universities including Ballarat, Deakin, Monash, RMIT, La Trobe and Baxter.

Ambassador Luong Thanh Nghi spoke highly of the MOVSA ‘s initiative to host the event and expressed his hope that they will continue to excel in study, contributing to promoting the country’s land and people to Australian friends.

Nghi also awarded certificates of merit to the MOVSA, and Dang Thi Huong who won the prestigious award foreign students from the state of Victoria.

Established 10 years ago, MOVSA GALA has become an annual music playground for Vietnamese students in Melbourne.

Dry spell causes water shortage

More than 1,600 households in Tinh Ky Commune, Quang Ngai City, were facing clean water shortages earlier than usual, according to the commune's People's Committee.

Droughts usually affect water resources in June and July but this year the dry spell has come early.

Many of the residents in the commune, which has a population of over 10,000 people, are being forced to buy clean water for cooking and household use.

Nguyen Thi Tam, who sells clean water from her shop, said most local households had wells, but many were contaminated.

Deputy Chairman of the Tinh Ky Commune People's Committee, Nguyen Xi, said the water shortage would become more serious with summer fast approaching.

The committee had invited companies to conduct a survey in order to drill more wells, but they could not drill because water sources in the commune remained contaminated with alum, said Xi.

The committee has asked Quang Ngai authorities to quickly create a plan to supply water to local residents.

Building of a reservoir in the commune had been planned, but there was a shortage of funds for the VND5 billion (US$238,000) project, said Xi.

Wild mushrooms send 9 to hospital

Nine members of a family were treated at Lai Chau General Hospital on Saturday due to mushroom poisoning.

The victims were H'mong residents of Sin Suoi Ho border commune in Phong Tho District of Lai Chau Province.

Officials report that the head of the household, Vang A Hoa, had gathered nearly 1 kg of white mushrooms in the forest. After eating the mushrooms, the family members developed symptoms, including vomiting and dizziness.

The family members are improving after receiving medical treatment.

Officials have repeatedly warned residents not to eat mushroom of unknown origin from the forest.

The Viet Nam Food Administration estimates that about 60 people were killed in the past five years due to mushroom poisoning.

Family of missing Vietnamese gets help

The Vietnamese Embassy in the Republic of Korea is working with local officials to support a Korean-Vietnamese family with three members missing after the ferry ­sank off the RoK's coast on April 16.

Phan Ngoc Thanh, born in 1985 in Ca Mau Province, boarded the ferry with her Korean husband and their two children to seek employment on Jeju Island.

Thanh and her husband are missing, along with their six-year-old son. Their five-year-old daughter was the youngest survivor of the disaster.

The embassy also sent officials to the accident site to learn more about the incident and support Thanh's family.

Nonprofit funds reproductive care

The non-profit organisation Maries Stopes International will contribute US$15 million to provide sexual reproductive healthcare services and family-planning products and services to Viet Nam.

The services are expected to help create 5.5 million CYPs (Couple Years of Protection) for more than 8 million people by the end of 2015, the organisation said.

The CYP is the estimated protection provided by a particular contraceptive method (such as an intra-uterine device or an oral contraceptive) during a one-year period.

CYP is used to measure programme performance, and is calculated from data that programmes routinely collect.

It reflects distribution and is a way to estimate coverage and not actual use or impact, according to the US Agency for International Development (USAID), which uses the measurement.

Last year, Marie Stopes in Viet Nam contributed 2.1 million CYPs. More than 800,000 unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortions were prevented, resulting in US$30 million in savings for families and society, according to the organisation.

The investments for the CYP effort come from businesses in Viet Nam and support from overseas and in-country donors, as well as corporate partners.

Marie Stopes International works with Viet Nam's General Office for Population and Family Planning to deliver family planning and sexual reproductive healthcare services as well as capacity-building for local-service providers in nearly 30 provinces in Viet Nam.

Korean, Vietnamese students promote exchange

Fifty-seven students from the Republic of Korea have completed a training course at Hanoi-based University of Industry (HaUI) to explore Vietnam’s history and culture.

These students from Kijeon University started one-month training at HaUI on March 22 as part of an internshipexchange programme between the two universities.

While staying in the capital city, the students had the opportunity to gain valuable life experiences, deepening their understanding of the cultural and historical values of the Vietnamese people. They even took some time off to practice Vietnamese martial arts (Vovinam).

They visited a number of museums, cultural heritage sites and tourist destinations in Hanoi, Ninh Binh, and Quang Ninh, along with participating in a variety of traditional music, dance and cuisine activities.

At the graduation ceremony on April 18, a representative of Kijeon University spoke highly of the training course, saying it helped the Korean students increase their awareness and understanding of the world outside Korea.

The Hanoi-based university has maintained exchange programmes with its Korean counterpart over the past six years.

National action plan on green growth released

The Ministry of Planning and Investment on April 18 announced a national action plan on green growth, aiming reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase the use of clean and renewable energy.

Deputy Minister Nguyen The Phuong said that green growth is an important goal in the country’s industrialisation and modernisation, and the world’s common development tendency of green production, environmental protection and energy conservationin the 21st century.

It attracts the attention of the international community as well as domestic and foreign development organisations as it focuses on support and cooperation in coping with climate change, a global issue, he added.

The official said that Vietnam always treasures contributions by its foreign partners including the World Bank, the US Agency for International Development (USAID), Belgium and the Republic of Korea, in drawing up the country’s strategy and plan on the issue.

He urged businesses to apply environmentally friendly technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, saying that they are a decisive factor in the country’s green growth strategy.

Representatives from international organisations shared their experience in studying and implementing green growth-related activities in different countries, and affirmed their continued support for Vietnam in this field.

HCM City, Guangxi promote technology transfer

Experts from Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City and China’s Guangxi province gathered at a seminar, on April 18, to discuss energy technology transfer between the two localities.

The seminar is part of a cooperative agreement between the two localities’ Departments of Science and Technology to share real experience in solar energy technology application and promote technology transfer.

Delegates presented solar energy development trends in Vietnam and China, recent cooperative renewable energy technology transfer models between the two countries and Vietnam’s support policies on solar energy.

A representative from the HCM City Energy Conservation Centre introduced Vietnam’s national energy development strategy by 2020 with a vision to 2050, aiming to increase renewable energy sources to 5% by 2020 and 11% by 2050.

Vietnam has great potential for solar energy development with an average radiation intensity of 5kw/m2. Eleven solar energy research institutes have been set up across the country.

Phan Minh Tan, Director of the municipal Department of Science and Technology, said the city has implemented a number of scientific technological programmes on energy and encouraged businesses to invest in developing new and renewable energy. However, the new energy industry is in its infancy and lack funding.

The seminar is expected to help domestic businesses access new solar energy technologies and acquire opportunities to cooperate with Chinese partners in this field.

At the seminar, the China-ASEAN Technology Transfer Centre and Guangxi province’ businesses shared experience in developing solar energy in China and introduced solar thermal application technology and solar cell production lines.

WB improves sanitary conditions for Red River residents

A safe water supply and rural sanitation project, funded by the World Bank (WB), is being implemented in eight Red River Delta provinces from 2013-2017.

The project aims to help local people in Phu Tho, Vinh Phuc, Bac Ninh, Hung Yen, Quang Ninh, Hanoi, Ha Nam and Thanh Hoa access safe water supply and rural sanitation services sustainably and effectively.

At a meeting with the WB working delegation on April 18, Ha Nam provincial leaders reported that 6 out of 10 safe water supply works have been built to supply water for 11 out of 30 communes. The province has built nearly 2,600 sanitary latrines for families, and 13 standard toilet systems for schools and medical centres.

However, limited financial support for poor families is one of the main causes for slow progress of the project.

The provincial leaders proposed the WB increase finance and raise subsidies for poor families to ensure the project is undertaken on schedule.

The WB delegation shared experience in implementing the project, such as management and operation of water supply stations post-investment and land clearance compensation for local people.

They asked the province to pay more attention to the quality of water sources and information dissemination to raise local people’s awareness of environmental sanitation and implementation process.

As scheduled, an additional 10,000 households in Ha Nam will access safe water this year. More than 1,900 household latrines  and 17 standard toilet systems will be built.

People's needs should guide forest allocation

The people and community should be given priority in the forest allocating policy to help ensure social welfare, reduce poverty, and improve the efficiency of land use and forest protection.

This was jointly agreed by participants at a recent conference on the role of forest allocation in restructuring the forestry sector, which was held in Ha Noi recently by Tropenbos International Vietnam, Forest Trends and Sustainable Forest Management Institute.

According to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Viet Nam has 15.4 million hectares of forestry land, of which 12.1 million hectares or 79 per cent have been allocated to land users including companies, households, and state agencies.

The policy of allocating forest land to households living in the areas has been launched for over a decade, improving the livelihoods of local residents, and protecting the ecosystem.

However, Viet Nam currently has more than 76,000 hectares of disputed forest land between the State Forest Enterprises (SFEs) and the people, and between the people themselves, the officials stated, thereby affecting socio-economic development and the society as a whole.

Dr To Xuan Phuc, an expert from Forest Trends, an international non-profit organisation promoting sustainable forest management, claimed that one of the key reasons was the people's lack of access to production land and concurrently, some SFEs were not able to generate effective economic use of forest land due to a shortage of human resources coupled with poor means of production, among several other factors.

The participants also raised concerns that in some localities, the authorities allocated forest land belonging to SFEs to private companies instead of using them for poverty reduction efforts.

Nguyen Van Tien, the head of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Areas of the Party Central Committee's Economic Commission, remarked that the management of forests should be reformed and transferred from the state to households and communities living around the forests.

He pointed out that the management capacity of the beneficiaries, forest conditions, infrastructure, and the state investment policies must be meticulously evaluated.

Moreover, there are rising concerns over the issue of some local governments being rather slow to allocate land to the people for production. Currently, there are about 3.2 million hectares of unallocated forest land under the management of People's Committees of communes.

The forestry restructuring scheme targets that the state agencies manage 50 per cent of forests nationwide instead of the current 60 per cent.

Farmers abandon fish ponds as snakehead prices plunge

Hundreds of households in southern Tra Vinh Province have suffered serious losses after the price of snake-head fish kept falling for a month. Many have abandoned their ponds.

The problem was exacerbated by oversupply and a rash that leaves many fish with ulcerated skin.

So far, more than one million fish have died from the rash and from problems caused by high density farming.

Farmers in the province are reported to have suffered individual losses of between VND80 million and VND500 million ($3,800-23,800).

Nguyen Van Ut, Chairman of the People's Committee in Tra Cu District where fish farms dominate, said that nearly 2,000 households in the district had raised snake-head fish on about 200 hectares of water.

As supplies started flooding to market, the price of fish fell from VND42,000 (US$2) to VND26,000 ($1.23) per kilo. However, production costs were reported to be VND30,000 ($1.4) per kilo.

Ngo Van Nghiem, a farmer in Tra Cu District's Dinh An Commune, said he earned VND100 million ($4,760) in five months of raising snake-head fish last year.

But this year was a big failure. Nghiem said traders only paid between VND27,000-28,000 ($1.28-1.3)d per kilo. In the ponds stocked with the rash-affected fish, the price was even lower.

Phan Van Giang, another farmer in Ngai Xuyen Commune, complained that he quit his sugarcane field to dig a fish pond to raise snake-head fish. He saw villagers getting rich from raising fish last year. Profits were 50 times higher than from farming sugarcane.

But he had created nothing but debt.

Tran Van Dong, deputy director of the district's Sub-department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the authority had warned farmers of possible diseases and losses after farmers in the districts of Tra Cu, Tieu Can and Cau Ke removed their crops to dig fish ponds last year.

The provincial authority has asked agricultural officers to guide farmers on switching to other crops, such as green shrimps or tilapia.

Clam farmers in Tra Vinh Province have begun their harvest and hope to earn high profits because of high yields and prices, according to the local Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

The Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta province has seven clam farming co-operatives and so-called co-operative teams – the former requires a minimum of seven members and the latter, three - that are harvesting 740ha and expect a total output of 4,200 tonnes, it said.

The farms are in Chau Thanh, Cau Ngang, and Duyen Hai districts.

At current prices of VND23,000-28,000 (US$1.09-1.3) for a kilogramme of clam, the farmers stand to make a profit of nearly 50 per cent.

Nguyen Van Sanh, chairman of the Dong Tien Clam Co-operative in Cau Ngang, said his co-operative expects to harvest more than 400 tonnes this season, 40-50 tonnes higher than in 2012-13.

The co-operative has a 40ha farm.

If prices remain stable at around VND25,000, each member will earn a profit of VND10-60 million ($476-2,800), according to the co-operatives.

Tra Vinh has around 1,200ha of coastal alluvial grounds and 800ha are suitable for clam farming.

Since 2005 the province People's Committee has encouraged locals, especially poor families without crop lands, to set up clam farming co-operatives and co-operative teams in these areas.

The co-operatives and teams have attracted more than 21,000 members, 6,000 of them poor, who have managed to rise above the poverty level now.

Last year the province approved a plan to farm clam and blood cockle for export on an area of 1,500ha in Cau Ngang, Duyen Hai, and Chau Thanh districts.

The VND750 million ($35,700) programme provided clam fry and farming techniques to poor farmers.

Central Highlands aims to give more land to ethnic communities

Central Highlands provinces are striving to provide farmland and residential land to almost all ethnic minority households in the region by 2015.

According to the Steering Committee for the Central Highlands, there are more than 30,000 ethnic minority households in the region in need of farmland and residential land, which amounts to 17,000ha.

The worst situations have been recorded in Gia Lai, Lam Dong and Dak Lak provinces, due to the underperformance of local authorities in devising measures to overcome land deficiencies. Meanwhile, spontaneous migration has put further pressure on land provision.

To tackle the problem, the regional provinces plan to reclaim agricultural and forest land that has been used inefficiently or for the wrong purposes in order to give it to the target group.

The localities will continue to involve communities in protecting forests, while providing them with jobs at plantations and offering them vocational training.

Since 2002, the Central Highlands provinces – Gia Lai, Kon Tum, Dak Lak, Dak Nong and Lam Dong – have provided over 30,000ha of land for some 74,970 ethnic minority households.

Thai Nguyen discusses poverty reduction programme

A conference has been held in the northern province of Thai Nguyen to discuss policies helping ethnic groups improve their living standards.

The locality is home to seven ethnic minority groups, residing in 1,985 hamlets with over 660,000 people, and making up nearly 60 percent of the total provincial population, the function on April 18 heard.

Work has already done to improve the lives of local people. As a result of the 2012-2015 ethnic development work, the ratio of poor households was reduced to 15.9 percent in 2013 from 27 percent in 2011, while 80 percent of the population gained access to clean water and 62 percent of schools met the national standards.

Local authorities have prioritised investment to building infrastructure and supporting production for poverty-stricken Mong families. Twenty out of the 47 hamlets where Mong people live see over 40 percent of households living under the poverty line.

Participants cited lack of education in these areas for low living standards and said inefficient poverty-reduction work there was responsible for the high proportion of poor households.

Local authorities plan to build 18 agriculture and forestry models worth 555 million VND (26,085 USD) at 12 poor Mong-inhabited areas in Dong Hy, Phu Luong, Vo Nhai, and Dinh Hoa districts.

Relevant agencies were asked to increase the number of officers involved in ethnic development work to help the beneficiaries during the realisation of ethnic policies in the coming time.

Gateway for soldiers, supplies to Dien Bien Phu revisited

Located in Yen Bai city, capital of the northern mountainous province of the same name, 200km of Hanoi, the Au Lau wharf is one of the most famous historical relics associated with the Dien Bien Phu victory as it is a gateway for reinforcement and supplies to the Dien Bien Phu campaign 60 years ago, reported radio The Voice of Vietnam (VOV).

The Au Lau wharf remains busy today. For nearby residents, the sound of boats evokes the glorious years of the anti-French resistance and its pinnacle - the victory of Dien Bien Phu. The image of Vietnamese soldiers, proud and free, shipping out in silence for Dien Bien Phu, remains etched forever in local people’s memories.

Sixty years ago, Au Lau wharf was a pipeline for reinforcement and supplies to the Dien Bien Phu battle. It was bombed for more than 200 days and nights during the campaign. The French army dropped more than 2,700 tonnes of bombs destroying many boats and supplies and killing a number of people. But the bombings failed discourage the boat crews whose indomitable spirit were praised by General Vo Nguyen Giap during his visit to the area.

Pham Trung Ton was one of the ferry drivers in those days. For him, memories of those hard days in Au Lau wharf remain fresh: “At about 4 in the afternoon, both banks of the river were crowded with ferries and boats carrying artillery, weapons, and soldiers. People were very excited. Artillery and heavy weapons were transported by ferry at night. At the time, enemy planes dropped bombs and flares, but the soldiers were very brave”.

Au Lau wharf was the place from which a bicycle transport team from Phu Tho province carried rice to Pha Din Pass. Au Lau wharf was also the place where soldiers of a regiment brought heavy 105-mm artillery for transport to Dien Bien Phu. This was the place where the Ben Tre Brigade covered their stocks before transporting them to the battle. Through this wharf, mountains of weapons, ammunition and motor vehicles passed to the front.

Da ng Ngoc Chi, 87, a former political commissar of Company 395, still remembers clearly the soldiers marching through Au Lau 60 years ago.

“At that time, the only way to the battlefield was to cross the river at Au Lau wharf. The enemy were heavily bombing that area. We were assisted by hundreds of local boats. Within an hour, our regiment crossed the river to advance to the battle field,” he said.

During the Dien Bien Phu campaign, Yen Bai province mobilised more than 31,000 locals to serve the campaign. In the small Au Lau commune, more than 300 people joined the campaign while others went to the river wharf to help move weapons and soldiers to the front.

From April, 1952 to May 7, 1954, when the Dien Bien Phu campaign ended, more than 300,000 tonnes of weapons and food and tens of thousands of soldiers passed safely through Au Lau wharf.

“We mobilised hundreds of boats to assist the transport of weapons, ammunition and soldiers. During the day, we hid the boats, and rowed them when night fell. It was dangerous but we were all determined to do this work,” said 85-year-old Nguye n Thi Phe, a resident in Nguyen Phuc ward, Yen Bai city.

“Everything for the victory" was the motto of everybody who worked at Au Lau wharf.

In 2012 the wharf was designated a national historical relic site. A monument was built to commemorate the glorious past and remind younger generations of the historic significance of the site. Au Lau wharf will always be a symbol of resolute spirit and a source of pride for Vietnamese people.

Capital city sponsors Dien Bien’s school building

Secretary of the Hanoi Party Committee Pham Quang Nghi on April 20 presented the city’s 10 billion VND to the northern mountainous province of Dien Bien to build a school in Sin Thau commune, Muong Nhe district – one of the poorest localities in the province.

Nghi, who is accompanied by other officials in a working trip to Dien Bien, also met with provincial leaders.

He praised their efforts to develop the locality and preparations for the celebration of the upcoming 60th anniversary of the Dien Bien Phu victory, which helped end French colonial rule in Vietnam .

By giving spiritual and material support to Dien Bien, Ha Noi and the rest of the country have shown special sentiments to the land of revolutionary tradition, he said.

On the occasion, the municipal Fatherland Front Committee presented 1 billion VND to poor students in Dien Bien.

Lo Mai Trinh, Secretary of the provincial Party Committee thanked Hanoi and localities nationwide for their warm sentiments to the locality.

Also on April 20, Nghi and the Hanoi team paid tribute to soldiers fallen in the Dien Bien Phu campaign at the A1 Hill cemetery. They also visited a number of historical relic sites there.

Quang Ninh starts to connect Van Don island with grid

The northern province of Quang Ninh on April 19 kicked off a project to bring power to island communes of its Van Don district.

The work, which is expected to be completed by 2015, will be undertaken by the Electricity of Vietnam and the Northern Power Corporation, which sent representatives to the launching ceremony.

The beneficiaries include Quan Lan, Minh Chau, Ban Sen, Ngọc Vung and Thang Loi communes.

Over 311 billion VND is poured into the project, of which 100 billion VND comes from the provincial budget, 100 billion VND from the Electricity of Vietnam and the rest of 112 billion VND from the Northern Power Corporation.

Vice Chairman of the provincial People’s Committee Do Thong said the project boasts immense political, social and economical meanings, helping realise the development of the Van Don Special Economic Zone in the future.

Van Don was selected by the Vietnamese government to grow into a special administrative and economic zone.

It is the biggest island in the north of Vietnam and still largely untapped. The island has easy access to other economic and political centres in Asia as it is located in a corridor linking China and ASEAN.

A Van Don special administrative and economic zone is seen as the driving force of economic growth in Quang Ninh, contributing to the locality’s transition of an economy based on agriculture to one of tourism services.

The province outlined preparatory steps. By 2015, it will complete the legal framework, administrative structure and select strategic investors for key projects. From 2016 to 2025, it will finish the infrastructure system and promote tourism and entertainment projects. And, from 2026 to 2030, the province is to complete the zone and make it effectively operational.-

Lam Dong subsidises vocational training

The Province People's Committee of Central Highlands Lam Dong province has approved a project to provide vocational training for rural labourers at a cost of more than 115 billion VND (5.5 million USD) from 2014 to 2020.

About 7,000 - 10,000 rural labourers will be trained each year, with 60 percent of them expected to take jobs in the agriculture sector. The remaining 40 percent will work in industrial, non-agricultural sectors or as guest labourers in other countries.

Under the project, at least 80 percent of the trainees will either continue their current job at a higher income or be hired by another company.

Each worker will be offered a grant of 2-3 million VND (95 – 140 USD) to take a three-month short-term training course.

The province has 10 vocational training centres and over 50 vocational training establishments. About 70 percent of vocational training courses focus on the agricultural and rural sectors.

Since 2010, Lam Dong has provided vocational skill training for about 30,000 labourers, most of whom live in rural areas.

Conference seeks to improve hydro-meteorological forecast quality

A conference discussing how to improve the quality of hydro-meteorological forecasts in the country was held in Vinh city, the central province of Nghe An, on April 18.

The event saw the participation of representatives from the National Steering Committee for Flood Prevention and Control, the National Committee for Search and Rescue, the High Command of Border Guards, and forecasters across the country.

Participants discussed measures and plans to better the work, especially on the velocity, direction, timing and place that storms and tropical low pressures will make landfall.

Le Cong Thanh, General Director of the National Centre for Hydro-Meteorology Forecasting (NCHMF), asked the centres across the country to pay more attention to raising public awareness on dangerous phenomena as well as measures to cope with them and minimise their damage.

New generation e-textbook debuted

A new generation electronic textbook named Classbook was released in Hanoi on April 18.

The device contains the full content, which can be updated free of charge, of more than 300 textbooks from grade 1 to 12, plus a number of reference books in accordance with the curriculum standards of the Ministry of Education and Training.

The product is also loaded up with a number of applications helping users at different grades interact with the content of many subjects.

Notably, it is integrated with the Vietnamese version of the “Shaping the way we teach English” programme of the US’s Oregon State University for educators, a teacher training programme, and English lessons compiled by the University of Languages and Foreign Studies under the Vietnam National University in Hanoi.

It is hoped to provide Vietnamese students with a modern way of study in the digitalisation era.

The launching ceremony was held by the Vietnam Education Publishing House, Intel Corporation, the US Embassy and the University of Languages and Foreign Studies.

e-text book, EU, forest law pact, border