Social Headlines December 25

Human traffickers jailed for 80 years

The People’s Court in the southern Tay Ninh province yesterday sentenced 23 defendants to 80 years in jail for human trafficking, illegal money lending and fraud with the intent to appropriate property.

The harshest sentence, 12 years and six months in jail, was given to Nguyen Truong Son, 39, the head of the ring, from Tay Ninh Province. His wife, Tran Thi Co, 34, was given a four-year jail sentence.

The indictment by the provincial People’s Procurary said the couple, along with other members of the gang, cheated and forced some 40 women to work at a karaoke bar. They also lent money to these women as monthly stipends at very high interest rates. The couple is believed to have earned more than VND1.2 billion (US$56,000) from such illegal money lending.

In addition to being loan sharks, the couple also confessed that they had trafficked 20 women.

Man killed in road accident

A man was killed instantly while five persons were injured when a coach and acollided at 2 a.m. today on National Highway 1A.

A man was killed instantly while five persons were injured when a coach and acollided at 2 a.m. today on National Highway 1A.

The two vehicles, coming from opposite directions, collided head-on on the highway that goes past Thanh Hai Commune in Phan Rang – Thap Cham City in central Ninh Thuan Province. The drivers of both vehicles were seriously injured, while three passengers sustained minor injuries. They were taken to the Ninh Thuan Province General Hospital later.

The provincial authorities are investigating the accident.

Bac Ninh suspends 13 unlicenced clinics

The Health Department of the northern province of Bac Ninh has suspended 13 illegal private clinics, which were operating without a business license.

Nine other private clinics were fined over VND28 million (US$1,300) for infringements relating to health service advertisements and pricing.

Nearly 500 private clinics and drugstores in the province have been inspected since the beginning of the year, and 148 of these were found violating medical examination and treatment regulations.

Judgement upheld for man accused of subversion

The Supreme People’s Court Chamber in the central city of Da Nang upheld the original sentence given to a man accused of “conducting activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” at an appeal court on December 23.

Ngo Hao, a resident of Tuy Hoa city, capital of the central province of Phu Yen, will have to spend 15 years in prison.

At the hearing, which was held upon Hao’s appeal against the court’s initial decision, the jury said the first verdict had considered all the evidence and circumstances.

It refused Hao’s appeal as no new evidence or circumstances were found.

According to the indictment, between 2008 and December 2012, Hao wrote many articles and distributed various documents, all of which contained distorted information about the system and defamed leaders.

Hao received money from the “Exiled Government of the Republic of Vietnam” many times and also asked the organisation to send money to those involved in activities organised by him.

The provincial police found out about Hao’s acts and brought legal proceedings against him on February 7, 2013. The provincial People’s Procuracy in August prosecuted Hao for implementing activities to overthrow the people’s administration under Clause 1, Article 79 of the Criminal Code.

Hanoi acts to ensure traffic safety

The Ha Noi Transport Department has taken measures to ensure those traveling on the roads remain safe during the upcoming (Tet) Lunar New Year.

Officials said that during the holiday period, beginning January 28, traffic congestion is forecast to be 3-4 times higher than normal.

Among steps taken, the department has installed new traffic lights at key traffic intersections, including Tran Thai Tong-Duong Dinh Nghe in Tu Liem District; Nguyen Xien-Kim Giang in Thanh Xuan District; and Phap Van – National Highway 1B in Thanh Tri District.

Director of the department Nguyen Quoc Hung said at a meeting late last week that inter-agency inspection teams, made up of traffic police, traffic inspectors, and police in districts, would conduct more inspections to deter violations of traffic laws, especially in inner districts and on stretches of national highways.

The teams would also attempt to stop street vendors from entering onto roads to do business and causing traffic jams, he said.

Lane separators for cars and motorbikes are to be set up between January 15 and February 16, he said.

Also, vehicles with loading capacities higher than 1.25 tonnes would be banned from traveling during rush hours on several streets, including Pham Van Dong, Pham Hung and Thang Long Boulevard, he said.

Depending on the situation, the department could also issue plans to adjust the time for taxis being on the roads to reduce traffic congestion, he said.

Colonel Dao Vinh Thang, head of the Ha Noi’s Traffic Police Office, said that the city now had 49 black zones which often suffer from serious traffic congestion, and 164 other zones which were forecast to have high levels of congestion during Tet.

However, officials said there were not enough traffic police and inter-agency traffic inspectors to control the situation when the traffic density was predicted to be higher than normal, he said.

Thang suggested temporarily suspending coach and taxi drivers from working, if they were found to have violated traffic rules, he said.

In the meantime, Hung, director of the department, said that transportation firms might need to reduce the number of vehicles picking up passengers at bus stations if their coaches or taxi drivers were discovered to be carrying more passengers than allowed, or if they were picking up passengers at undesignated locations.

Border crackdown targets illegal birds

Authorities must crack down on illegal smuggling of poultry to prevent avian influenza from spreading throughout the country, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Cao Duc Phat has ordered.

In provinces bordering China, strict supervision must be provided to animal quarantines, while poultry originating from countries infected with the avian influenza are to be tested for the virus before they are imported into Viet Nam, according to the Minister’s directive, which was adopted on Friday.

In addition, poultry in areas which are highly vulnerable to bird flu are to be vaccinated, following directions provided by the Department of Animal Health, said Van Dang Ky, head of the department’s epidemic section.

“Despite the fact that no case of avian influenza has been recorded in Viet Nam until now, there is still a high risk in the near future of disease outbreaks in the country, especially in provinces where a large number of cases involving the illegal smuggling of chickens have occurred, as Bac Giang, Bac Ninh, Hai Duong, Ha Noi, and Hai Phong”, Ky said.

The Ministry of Information and Communication is also required to direct its units to work at local levels to provide the public with information about the harmful effects of avian influenza, warn them not to eat sick or dead poultry, and ask the public to inform authorities about any deaths of poultry or any outbreaks of avian flu.

Meanwhile, Nguyen Thi Ngan, 41, a farmer from the northern Thai Binh Province’s Dong Hung District, said she heard about the Minister’s directive, which was broadcast over loudspeakers on her commune.

“I have already gotten chickens vaccinated to prevent the virus”, she said, stressing that she would inform local authorities in case poultry becomes infected with the virus.

So far this year, cases of H7N9 avian flu among humans have been recorded in 12 provinces in China, including among 140 people, of whom 47 have died.

There have also been two H7N9 flu patients in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Zone and another flu victim in Taiwan.

New Cold Mass to hit Northern, North Central Provinces

According to the National Hydro Meteorological Forecasting Center the current cold spell to affect the Northern and North Central Provinces will continue until December 29 after a new cold mass hit the northern and north central provinces from December 26 to 27.

Furthermore, temperatures will also continue to drop and the Northern Provinces have been warned against severe ice and frost.

Due to affects of the new cold mass, waters off central coastal and southern provinces will sustain wind speeds of level 6-7 with gusts up to level 8-9.

In Hanoi, the highest daytime temperature will touch 14-17 degrees celsius while in the northern mountainous provinces it will drop below 3 degrees celsius.

Meanwhile, the Southern Provinces will receive morning mist and the temperature in Ho Chi Minh City will remain around 21-24 degrees celsius.

Ministry orders check all private preschools

The Ministry of Education and Training sent a document asking its sub-divisions to enhance supervision to private educational facilities after nursemaids at a preschool in Ho Chi Minh City’s Thu Duc District have been accused of frequently abusing and torturing preschoolers.

The Ministry said that various types of tortures used by the nursemaids including beating, strangling, pressing heads on the ground, holding noses with towels, slapping faces have badly affected children’s health condition and mental growth as well as caused public concerns.

Accordingly the Ministry ordered departments of education and training in coordination with local people’s committees to dress the current situation in private preschools in districts.

Education authorities should publicize licensed private, unlicensed and suspended educational institutes so that parents can best select the most suitable educational establishment for their children.

The Ministry also requested departments to provide training courses as well as professional ethics and love for children to managers and teachers of private schools. Local authorities should pay regular visits to private establishments to discover wrongdoings as well as strictly suspend these violating facilities from opening.

Mekong Delta reports spread of Hand-Foot-Mouth disease

Hand-Foot-Mouth disease is currently spreading quite rapidly in the Mekong Delta, informed Dr. Ha Anh Tuan, Head of Intensive Care Unit of the Children Hospital in Can Tho City.

The spread of Hand-Foot-Mouth disease, a contagious viral infection that affects mostly infants and children, usually occurs at the end of the year. Presently, there are many serious cases of Hand-Foot-Mouth disease in the hospital.

The Children Hospital in the Mekong Delta City of Can Tho is receiving child patients from the Mekong Delta Provinces of Vinh Long, Hau Giang, Bac Lieu and An Giang. In November alone, the hospital admitted 189 cases of Hand-Foot-Mouth. In December, up to 117 cases of Hand-Foot-Mouth were hospitalized. The disease also killed a three-year-old girl infant, Vo Phuong Nghi in Trung Hung Commune in Co Do District in Can Tho City. The baby was hospitalized in critical condition when her pulse and blood pressure could not be measured and she turned blue. Doctors tried their best to save the baby girl but their attempts went in vain.

The disease is characterized by fever and a rash most frequently seen on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, and inside the mouth. Parents should look for early symptoms to provide timely medical treatment for their children.

Unemployment rate among young Vietnamese remains high

The unemployment rate of those aged 15-24 accounted for 48% of total unemployment in 2013, one official said.

Nguyen Thi Xuan Mai, the Director of the General Statistics Office (GSO)’s Population and Labour Statistics Department, said at a press conference held on December 23 that the unemployment rate among university graduates is also high.

According to Mai, the number of unemployed university graduates between the ages of 21 and 29 reached just over 100,000 during the year, representing about 10% of the total number of unemployed in that age group.

The number of unemployed people aged above 15 was around one million more than in 2013, 48% of whom were aged between 15 and 24.

Statistics showed that the country has 53.65 million people above 15, up 1.61% from a year earlier. The number of people who are of working age reached 47.49 million, accounting for about 53% of the country’s population, up just under 1% from last year.

Non-contracted labour accounted for around 34% out of total 52.4 million people 15 and above. The rate of non-contracted labour in urban areas reached above 47%, while in rural areas it was only 28.6%, up 0.6% compared to the figure of 2012.

Nguyen Bich Lam, Director of GSO, attributed the rise in the number of non-contracted labour to the considerable labour transformation from official sectors.

The unemployment rate among those who are of working age was 2.2% in 2013, up 0.24% on year. The rate in urban areas was 3.6% and in rural areas was 1.6%, up 0.37% and 0.19% respectively from a year earlier.

“The increase in the unemployment rate has been a result of economic difficulties faced by businesses and the large number of companies that went bankrupt this year,” Lam commented.

An estimated 60,737 enterprises went bankrupt or were forced to halt operations during the past year, up almost 12% from last year. Of the total, 9,818 enterprises have bankrupt, up 4.9% from the previous year.

Even though the number of new enterprises increased by about 10% to 76,955 in 2013, total registered capital fell, almost 15% compared to 2012, to VND398.7 trillion (USD18.88 million).

Vice President praises youth tech-innovators

Vice President Nguyen Thi Doan said yesterday that the Party and State always encourage young people to conduct scientific research and develop useful projects for the country’s development.

She made the statement at a meeting with 80 outstanding representatives in science research who received the country’s Golden Globe Awards since 2003.

In the past ten years, some 105 young people received the awards, of which 85 were awarded for their achievements in information technology and telecommunications, 9 in medical technology, 6 in environmental technology and 5 in biological technology.

The Ministry of Science and Technology and Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union Central Committee set up the Golden Globe Awards and the Reward for the Brightest Female Student in Information Technology in 2003.

Initially, the award was only given to outstanding individuals in information technology. Since 2011, however, the Golden Globes have been presented to outstanding young individuals in 4 fields: information technology, pharmacy and medical technology, biological technology and environmental technology.

While praising the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union Central Committee and the Ministry of Science and Technology for the initiative, the Vice President asked for the expansion of the award to draw the participation of even more young people.

Treatments empower HIV-positive mothers

Standing on the threshold of her unfinished house, 32-year-old Nguyen Thi Luong lit up with joy thinking about her coming baby.

Three years ago, the thin woman from northern Thai Nguyen Province’s Dai Tu District never thought she would be so happy. That year, Luong lost her husband and first child to HIV/AIDS and found out she too was infected with the virus.

But with the support of her friends and continued counseling, as well as the help of the local branch of Hoa Huong Duong (Sun Flower) Club, an organisation that provides care and support to people living with HIV/AIDS, Luong eventually gained back her sense of self.

When she joined the club of 100 HIV-infected members— 83 of whom were women—Luong found that having HIV did not mean her life was over.

Through monthly discussions, Luong learned about how to deal with her condition. However, the club sessions did not address her primary longing: a baby.

Last year, after much counseling, Luong and her new partner decided to go through with a pregnancy.

“Nobody supports our decision. Neighbours and relatives, even my sister, believed that I would transmit the deadly virus to my baby and it would be a burden to society after I died,” Luong said.

However, Luong is now four months pregnant and receiving antiretroviral therapy (ARV). She strongly believes that her baby will be born without the virus.

“My partner and I are building our house and preparing everything to welcome our baby,” Luong said.

Another woman from Ha Thuong Commune, 33-year-old Tran Thi Thu, has the same desire as Luong but failed twice to become a mother.

Her five-year-old daughter died of the disease five years ago; her son followed, only one hour after coming into the world.

“I participate in several projects for HIV, which makes me busy the whole day. But after work, I’m a lonely woman in the cold house where I so longed to have a child,” Thu said.

She expressed determination to try to have another baby next year.

“Even living with HIV, a woman still deserves to have her own baby,” Thu said. “As long as you are optimistic, I strongly believe that God will not let you down whether you are a healthy person or an HIV sufferer.”

Luong and Thu’s desire to have a baby is common among HIV-infected women in the district, according to Dinh Thi Xuan, head of Hoa Huong Duong club.

“All female HIV carriers in the club talk about their burning desire to have children,” she said.

Xuan added that three members of the club have children who tested negative for HIV. This encouraged other women not to give up hope of having healthy children.

“I will also have a baby when my financial state is better,” Xuan confided.

Without preventive intervention, between 20 and 45 per cent of infants born to HIV-positive mothers contract HIV through mother-to-child transmission during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). The proportion can be reduced to less than 10 per cent through a combination of prevention measures, including antiretroviral therapy (ART) for the expectant mother and her newborn child, hygienic delivery conditions and safe infant feeding.

Thai Nguyen ranks fourth out of ten provinces nationwide with the highest number of HIV cases, according to the provincial department of health. Over 9,000 HIV cases have been reported throughout the province, 19 per cent of them women.

The risk of mother-to-child transmission reported in the province last year was six per cent, said vice director of the province’s HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Centre Truong Binh Minh.

“Motherhood is stipulated to be the legal right of women following the Viet Nam Population Ordinance so nobody can prevent HIV-positive women from having children,” he said.

However, Minh recommended those women ask for counselors’ advice before having children during pregnancy and after delivery. In addition, they should take account of factors that affect a woman’s ability to bring up the child such as financial condition, job and support from relatives.

“Scientists have not found any drugs to eradicate HIV/AIDS, so both HIV-positive women and their children face the risk of mother-to-child transmission. Thus, the government should pay attention to the fact that HIV women are choosing to have children,” Minh said.

The United Nations Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) officially states that parents living with HIV have their sexual reproductive rights protected and can have HIV-free babies.

“All women have the right to choice when it comes to exercising their sexual and reproductive health and rights and protecting themselves from risk of HIV infection,” said UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director, Management and Governance, Jan Beagle. “AIDS is much more than a health issue, it is a development issue, a rights issue, and it is clear that gender equality and human rights are non-negotiable elements to ensure effective HIV and health responses as well as social justice for all.”

In a recent UNAIDS survey, women living with HIV expressed concern about the advice given by many health workers and authorities to avoid having children. They also complained that they lacked information about how to have a safe pregnancy and deliver an HIV-negative child.

“People living with HIV aim to live in a world that protects their sexual and reproductive rights,” the survey concluded. The authors added that this required training health providers to teach HIV-positive individuals considering becoming pregnant about safe conception methods as well as changes in regulations to improve access to fertility procedures that reduced the risk of passing on the virus.

Nation aims for better social welfare

Vietnam looks to reduce the rate of poor households by nearly 2% each year and grant assistance to 95% of needy children between 2014 and 2020.

It was heard at a conference on social welfare by the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA) in Hue city, the central province of Thua Thien-Hue on December 23.

During the period, the rate of the mentally ill under rehabilitation treatment in care centres will rise from 3-10%.

The MOLISA will perfect the social support system step by step while restructuring over 432 care facilities to extend help to all living below the poverty line.

The sustainable poverty reduction schemes will come aligned with growth and development, making it easier for residents to earn stable income.

Delegates also mulled over the framework project on national archive on social welfare for the 2015-2025 period, and the 2014-2015 plan to provide the mentally-disabled with social care and rehabilitation services.

At present, the underprivileged group makes up 28% of total population. Nearly 8.5 million of them are the elderly, over 6.7 million living with disabilities, over 3 million households in financial need and nearly 170,000 drug abusers.

Each year, around VND6 trillion (US$28.5 million) in State allowance is earmarked for social beneficiaries.

The coverage of social care policies has so far risen to 3% of the population. By late this year, the rate of poor households has fallen to 8% from 9.6%.

VAVA marks the 10th founding anniversary

Chairman of the Vietnam Fatherland Front Central Committee Nguyen Thien Nhan has lauded the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange (AO)/dioxin (VAVA) for its strenuous efforts in support of AO victims over the past 10 years.

At a ceremony celebrating its 10th founding anniversary in Hanoi on December 23, Nhan asked VAVA to strengthen its activities and mobilise all social means to care for the victims in their lives and the fight for justice.

He also called on the Vietnamese both at home and abroad, and friends across the globe to stand side by side with the victims in the struggle for justice.

Established on January 10, 2004, VAVA now groups chapters in 59 cities and provinces with over 315,000 members. It has set up funds in 33 localities and 24 rehabilitation centres in 20 provinces and cities.

It has raised nearly VND718 billion (US$34 million) in and outside the country to repair and build houses, grant scholarships, generate jobs and offer storm relief to AO victims and their families.

The association has played a core role in putting pressure on the US chemical companies to be responsible for consequences of their toxic chemicals used by the US troops during the war in Vietnam.

Vietnam trains Lao journalists

The Ministry of Information and Communications of Vietnam and the Lao Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism is jointly holding a training course for 30 Lao journalists, starting on December 23.

As Laos is striving to realize its recent Party Congress resolution towards the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015 and international integration, it requires its journalists to be equipped with new knowledge and journalistic skills to meet the country’s development requirements.

A Lao Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism representative thanked Vietnam for providing accommodation for the students, demonstrating the solidarity and friendship between the two countries.

Workshop discusses nuclear safety

Nuclear power lecturers and students have gathered at a seminar in Hanoi to discuss light water reactor (VVER) technology as well as post-Fukushima experience and assessments.

The December 21 event, co-organised by the Electric Power University and Russia’s Rosatom State Energy Corporation, provided an opportunity for Vietnam’s future nuclear energy experts to access modern knowledge, especially the safety in nuclear power plant operation.

Dr. Alexander Khrobostov from Russia’s Nizhny Norgorod Technical University talked about the modern trend in building nuclear power plants and Russian advances in nuclear power safety technology following the incident at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi reactor two years ago.

He also answered students’ questions on waste treatment, VVER technology and nuclear safety principles.

At present, six universities and institutes nationwide are offering nuclear technology training. Some 160 students have been sent to Russia and several countries for short-term, master and PhD courses during 2012-13.

In addition to theory, the learners will take at least 1-3 years for practice before working officially at reactors, Alexander affirmed.

Under an approved national energy master plan, Vietnam’s first nuclear power plant will be put into operation by 2020.

The country’s nuclear power capacity is expected to reach 10,700 MW by 2030, making up 10% of the national power output.

Museum mirrors Vietnamese press’s history

The Vietnam Journalists’ Association (VJA) on December 20 launched a drive to encourage the donation of documents and objects to the Vietnam Press Museum.

The drive was part of the activities in a project to collect documents, artifacts and photos conducted by the association.

Addressing the event, VJA Permanent Vice President Ha Minh Hue thanked journalists, individuals and organisations for their donation of valuable objects to the museum.

Hue called on them to make more contributions to the preservation and development of the traditional values of Vietnam ‘s revolutionary press.

Hue further said that the museum aims to preserve and uphold the traditions of the Vietnamese press while serving as a venue for journalists to exchange their professional experience.

Objects to be displayed at the museum reflect the development history of Vietnam ‘s revolutionary press and feature outstanding figures in the domestic and foreign press circles, he added.

Initiated in 2012, the project to collect documents, artifacts and photos is one of the four activities in the Vietnam Press Museum Scheme. It has so far collected more than 150 objects from 11 journalists and their families.

In July 2013, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung agreed to add the Vietnam Press Museum into the master plan of the country’s museum system by 2020.

Construction of the museum is scheduled to begin in early 2014 in Hanoi’s Cau Giay district and be completed six months later.

EVN targets remote communes in Lai Chau

The Electricity of Vietnam (EVN) said on December 23 that the group will supply power for remote and far-flung communes of the northern mountainous province of Lai Chau, seeing it as a priority in its assistance plan for the locality from now to 2015.

This is part of the group’s 480 billion VND (22.56 million USD) package that looks to help the districts of Than Uyen, Tan Uyen and Phong Tho, apart from accessing the national power network, build boarding schools, open vocational training courses and purchase health and schooling equipment.

Nguyen Tan Loc, EVN Deputy Director, said the group will allocate the capital in a suitable manner to enable 90 percent of households in the targeted communes to access the national power grid.

The benefiting localities have suggested the group pay more attention to resettlement communes and sites, particularly infrastructure development in Pha Mu and Ta Hua communes in Than Uyen district, where communal officials are working in poor conditions.

Holding an important geographical position, Lai Chau boasts the largest number of hydroelectric projects nationwide, which allows it to play a decisive role in ensuring energy and water security in the northern region.

The locality is one of the poorest localities in Vietnam with its per capita income last year being 12 million VND.

With exerted efforts made by local authorities and people and assistance provided by the Government, the number of poor households in the province dropped by 7.5 percent annually on average.

State budget investment in mountainous areas reviewed

Party and State policies and investments have brought remarkable changes, especially in infrastructure, in mountainous and ethnic group-inhabited areas.

The view was heard at a workshop reviewing State budget allocations to mountainous and ethnic group-inhabited areas.

The workshop was co-hosted by the National Assembly’s Council for Ethnic Affairs and the United Nation Development Programme in the central province of Thua Thien-Hue on December 23.

The NA Council’s Vice Chairman Danh Ut said the Party and State have issued a number of policies covering almost all fields for mountainous and ethnic group-inhabited areas. They have helped foster socio-economic development and significantly reduce poverty in these regions.

Thua Thien-Hue NA deputy Dong Huu Mao, however, pointed out that a considerable overlap between the management and implementation of the annual State investments to these regions is hampering the effectiveness of those investment policies.

At the workshop, besides looking into shortcomings, participants also proposed measures to better the State budget allocation so as to enhance the efficiency of the programmes and projects funded by the investment source.

Efforts made to help poor people enjoy Tet

The movement “Tet for the poor and Agent Orange (AO) victims” will be continued to help the poor and disadvantaged people better celebrate the Lunar New Year, or Tet holiday, the largest festive time for the year which falls at the end of next month.

A text-message drive will be launched to raise funds for AO victims and needy people. Donors can text TET to 1409 to support the movement.

The Vietnam Red Cross (VRC) also mobilises sources from organisations, enterprises and benefactors to donate money and gifts to the poor.

Arts performances and public fund raising programmes were organised in and outside the country in response to the programme.

In addition to financial support, VRC branches nationwide also presented charity houses, production tools and materials to farmers and teaching aids to students, while providing free medicine and food to patients during Tet holidays.

Started in 1999, the charity movement has so far helped 60,000-80,000 AO victims, disadvantaged and old people across the country enjoy a warm Lunar New Year festival.

Students to convene national congress

The Central Committee of the Vietnam Students’ Association (VSA) will convene its ninth National Congress in Hanoi from December 27-29 to set out its tasks for the next tenure and elect a 99-member executive board.

With the slogan “Vietnamese students striving to study, to be creative, do voluntary work and integration”, 650 students representing their two million peers across the nation will adopt key documents, said VSA Chairman Nguyen Dac Vinh.

He said that they will hold dialogues with officials of the Government, the Ministry of Education and Training and other relevant agencies, whereby they will gain a better understanding of the Party and State’s policies on high-quality human resources training and employment, among others.

They will also offer incense at a memorial dedicated to fallen martyrs and pay tribute to late President Ho Chi Minh at his mausoleum.

Earlier, the VSA launched a 30-day emulation campaign running until December 16, a festival of young creative students on December 15, and a music tour from November 5 – December 27.

Those who achieve academic excellence and contribute efforts to students’ movements will be honoured at the annual January Star award ceremony in Hanoi on December 27.

As a socio-political body with 22 chapters in cities and provinces nationwide, the VSA also groups 47 centrally-run school-level chapters, and five abroad in France, the Republic of Korea, the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium.-

Cao Dai dignitaries update security policies

The southern province of Tay Ninh on December 23 opened a training course on national security and defence for 300 dignitaries of the Cao Dai Tay Ninh Church.

Among the attendees are Monsignor Thuong Tam Thanh, head of the Church’s Executive Council, and its deputy heads.

During the three-day course, the dignitaries study five topics relating to security-defence, the Party and State policies in the field as well as the responsibilities of religious dignitaries.

They also learn about hostile forces’ plots and schemes to abuse religions to carry out a “peace revolution”.

They are provided with contents of a number of laws and religious policies of the Party and State, as well as the socio-economic situation of the province in 2013 and key tasks for 2014.

Founded in the 1926 in Tay Ninh province, the Cao religion worships the Divine Eye, known as the eye of heaven and a symbol of the supreme being of the Cao Dai religion. Cao Dai’s doctrine honours the Divine and the miraculous quality of supreme spirits, and considers them as the means for human beings to unify with the God./.

Dai is the third largest religion in Vietnam with over 46,000 followers nationwide.

Vietnam helps Laos train political officials

The Ho Chi Minh Academy of Politics and Public Administration on December 23 held the closing ceremony for the training courses organised for popularisation officials and lecturers from politics and public administration schools of Laos .

Through the courses, Lao trainees were provided with new knowledge on theoretical research and popularisation work in Vietnam as well as studying and teaching skills at politics schools.

Participants became familiarised with Marxism-Leninism and Ho Chi Minh’s thoughts.

They also studied the leadership of the Communist Party of Vietnam and the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party, the two countries’ national defence, renewal and construction.

Along with studying at the academy, Lao participants made fact-finding tours to several localities in Vietnam to understand more about the country and its people.

The courses contributed to further strengthening the friendship and special cooperation between the two Parties, States and their people.
Charity donors spread holiday spirit across the country
Phan Hoang Thu Anh, a third-grade student at the Vietnam-Australia International School, began crying when she saw the children holding up signs reading “We need food”, “We need water” and “We need help”.

“I wanted to give away my best items to my friends in the Philippines,” Anh said after watching a video about Typhoon Haiyan, which has left 1 million children homeless.

Deeply affected by the images of the children, Anh and her classmates decided to give away their most beautiful clothes and shoes to their school’s Philippines Donation Drive.

“Dear Santa, I don’t need any gift from you. I hope you visit and present food, water and other presents to my friends in the Philippines. They need you,” Anh wrote in her letter to Santa.

Her teachers were behind the programme, which emphasises the need to give rather than receive. “The drive includes 1,000 students on our campus. We hope the students think more about disadvantaged children,” Phan Thi Ngoc Anh, Anh’s core teacher, said.

“We have encouraged our students to take part in charity activities by themselves, not through adults,” she added. “We believe this improves both their mental and living skills.”

The programme has won support from all the parents, who want to develop their children both spiritually and emotionally. “When Anh told us she wanted to present her money and clothes to Filipino friends, we supported her at once,” Anh’s father, Phan To Hong Hai, said.

Besides the students at the international school, other children around town are also doing good deeds by playing Santa to underprivileged children.

Many of them are taking part in programmes launched early this month by the Vietnam Youth Association, the Ho Chi Minh City Women’s Association, and the Cultural House for Young People.

Gifts, scholarships and charity houses are being donated to children and indigent women within the framework of the programmes.

As part of the holiday season, social workers have visited outlying Binh Chanh, Hoc Mon and Thu Duc districts, providing families with mosquito nets, blankets, books and radio sets donated by local and foreign benefactors.

“We want Christmas to be about giving, and making kids happy and comfortable,” Tran Thanh Binh of the Vietnam Youth Association said.

Binh and his colleagues also plan to visit shelters and open houses on Christmas Eve dressed as Santas who will sing and offer meals to children.

About 160 children who have no homes or are disabled have already taken part in Christmas parties at the Hoang Mai Shelter and Tam Binh Centre in Go Vap and Thu Duc districts, respectively.

The meals were prepared by the Lotte Legend Hotel Saigon and Sheraton Saigon Hotel, and toys and candies were handed out. Songs and games were also part of the activities.

While charitable events are always part of the Christmas celebrations, the city has also continued to highlight the gaiety of the season by decorating the streets with glittering lights and millions of flowers.

Thousands of lights and lanterns are strung along downtown streets like Dong Khoi, Nguyen Hue and Le Loi, as well as major public areas like Notre Dame Cathedral.

Dozens of seasonal activities, including art exhibitions and circus and music shows are being organised in downtown areas.

“This year has been very difficult for migrant workers. We have to take care of our children, so we have no money for shopping and entertainment,” said Nguyen Van Son, father of a seven-year-old daughter and a three-year-old boy, said.

He and his wife toured Dong Khoi street on December 22, and spent 15,000 VND on balloons from a dealer in a clown costume. “For me, it’s enough for a merry Christmas,” he said as he took photos of his children with his cellphone.

Another child, Nguyen Thi Thuy Dung, 9, of Binh Chanh district, was downtown to enjoy the lights, too. Hugging her brother, she said: “I love to walk around and see people’s faces in the lights. My mom promised us she would buy a small Yule log to enjoy later at home. I love Christmas.”

As in previous years, local authorities will also organise fireworks shows in Districts 2 and 11 on New Year’s Eve.

During the festival week, dozens of comedy, music and song performances will be held for free in industrial parks and export and processing zones. Dam Sen, one of the city’s biggest parks located in District 11, will stage entertainment shows during the week.

The special week, called Noel Tung Bung- Don Chao Nam Moi 2014 (Joyful Christmas, Welcome to a Happy New Year), will start on December 24, offering music, dance, comedy, circus and puppet shows.

Shopping centres are also having special sales, with Vincom Centre, Diamond Plaza and Crescent Mall in Districts 1 and 7 beginning promotions last week on ornaments, consumer goods, food and entertainment.

Restaurants and hotels are also adding cakes, candies and special menus for the holiday. Hotel Equatorial, for example, will have the traditional stuffed turkey with carrots, roasted potatoes and green beans, and sauce. At InterContinental Asiana Saigon, a Christmas choir performance will take place at 8pm on Christmas Eve.

Roasted turkey, honeyed ham and duck, as well as lobsters, mussels and oysters, will be on offer. Bartenders and DJs, like many others in town, will stage a dazzling New Year’s Countdown Party.

For cooler temperatures, many holiday revellers will travel to Da Lat, a resort in the Central Highland province of Lam Dong famous for its flowers and tea farms. Although its annual Festival of Flowers will open on December 27, many locals and expatriates have decided to go earlier to enjoy the Christmas holiday.

The festival to celebrate the 120th founding anniversary of the city will be the biggest ever with many cultural activities.

“My family and I are going to Da Lat instead of staying at home in the hot and noisy atmosphere,” said Don Nguyen, an overseas Vietnamese visitor from California, who has arrived to celebrate the New Year. “I hope a good year is coming to all people,” he said.-

Rice support for students in difficult areas

A batch of rice as the Government’s assistance to needy ethnic students of schools in areas with difficult socio-economic conditions has been handed over to the People’s Committee of northern mountainous Ha Giang province.

Under the Prime Minister’s decision dated June 18, 2013, more than 55,000 students of 115 primary and secondary schools in Ha Giang province are eligible for the assistance and each of them will receive 15kg per month for nine months.

Le Xuan Minh, Deputy Director of the State Reserves Department, said the move shows the Party and State’s special attention to ethnic students.

He said he hopes the beneficiaries will overcome their difficulties to continue their education, becoming an important resource to the province’s socio-economic development.

In addition, local authorities have taken measures to help ethnic people against cold weather in recent days.

The Committee has urged district-level education offices and nursery schools to allow students to stay at home during these cold days.

The provincial Heath Department has also asked hospitals and medical units in the province to prepare medicine and equipment for treating patients. Medical centres in 11 districts sent their staff to communities.

Chilly weather is forecast to continue in Ha Giang province in the next few days.-

Television festival gives special gold to langur preservation

The 33rd National Television Festival has presented two special gold prizes to a programme on the preservation of Delacour’s langur of the Vietnam Television (VTV) and a reportage that unveiled dishonest acts to fake martyrs’ remains of VTV centre in Ho Chi Minh City.

At a closing ceremony in northern Quang Ninh province on December 21, the festival’s organising board also presented 33 gold and 62 silver prizes and 139 certificates of merits to outstanding works.

During the four-day festival, the organising board assorted and assessed 527 entries made by 104 production units competing in nine categories, including children’s programme, documentary film, reportage, scientific and educational programme, dialogue-talks, ethnic language programme, musical, and soap opera.

Hosted by the Vietnam Television, the event played a platform for television programme makers to share information and experience to overcome challenges facing the sector.

The 34 th festival will be held in Hue imperial city, central Thua Thien-Hue province.

War monument inaugurated at Dong Loc T-junction

The central Ha Tinh provincial People’s Committee on December 21 inaugurated a park and a monument dedicated to those who laid down their lives at the Dong Loc intersection during the American war.

Covering 3,000 sq.m, the complex saw its construction started in August at a cost of 4.4 billion VND (206,800 USD).

During the war, Dong Loc junction was heavily bombarded by US forces as it was one of the most important sites on the North-South supply route where trucks carrying soldiers, food, arms and munitions passed through.

The historic site witnessed the death of thousands of soldiers, volunteers, traffic workers, drivers and civilians.

Hanoi’s poverty reduction efforts hailed

The capital city of Hanoi is taking the lead nationwide in poverty reduction with local poor households cut by half to 40,000 over the last five years, said a report by the municipal People’s Committee.

The report was delivered at a December 20 working session between a National Assembly’s delegation on supervising poverty reduction and the municipal leaders.

Chairwoman of the NA Committee for Social Affairs Truong Thi Mai praised Hanoi ‘s new and practical social welfare policies, especially those on tuition and housing.

She urged the city to take proper adjustments in order to achieve a breakthrough in the field.

Minister of Labours, War Invalids and Social Affairs Pham Thi Hai Chuyen also asked the capital to build more appropriate and concrete poverty reduction policies, with a particular priority given to ethnic people.

Speaking at the session, Chairwoman of the municipal People’s Council Ngo Thi Doan Thanh affirmed the city always regards poverty reduction as a leading task.

In the coming time, the city will strive to narrow the gap between urban and rural areas, ensure sustainable poverty reduction and take fair and open policies, she said.

Over the past five years, Hanoi has promulgated 21 documents relating to policies for the poor while spending its own budget aiding them in production and vocational training.

It has helped 1.75 million people access preferential loans worth nearly 11,000 billion VND (5.2 million USD) from the Bank of Social Policies.-

Tay Ninh to build waste-based production plant

The Department of Planning and Investment of southern Tay Ninh province has approved a project to build a plant to manufacture mechanical products from industrial waste in the locality.

Accordingly, Hue Phuong Green Environment Co. Ltd, which operates in the field of waste treatment in the province, will invest 50 billion VND (2.35 million USD) to implement the project.

The 6,000 sq.m plant will be constructed in Thanh Duc, Go Dau district with a daily capacity of 300 tonnes of products, specialising in producing rivets, screws, shaped steel, and slabs of bronze, lead and aluminium.

The provincial People’s Committee asked the investor to use advanced and environmentally friendly technologies in the plant while ensuring regulations on waste treatment. The investor is also asked to prepare a report on the environmental impact to submit to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment for approval.

The department said solid waste in the locality was usually buried, wasting money and land, and causing groundwater pollution.

Once operational, the project is expected to contribute to protecting the environment and bring economic benefits to the locality.-

Hanoi to invest in industrial wastewater treatment

The capital city of Hanoi will set up concentrated wastewater treatment systems at its 16 industrial clusters during the 2014-2015 period.

Under the project, which has been recently approved by the Hanoi People’s Committee, the first seven clusters with such wastewater treatment systems are scheduled to run in 2014.

The municipal Department of Natural Resources and Environment is partnering with other departments, branches, agencies, districts and organisations to accelerate communications campaigns to raise public awareness of industrial pollution management.

In the short-term, the city will form a network of communications workers covering industrial pollution management and establish models of environmental protection with the participation of residents and workers at craft villages and industrial areas.

Hanoi, at present, houses 47 industrial clusters, of which only seven has concentrated wastewater treatment systems.

More than 90 percent of wastewater volume in Vietnam has not yet been treated so far, causing serious environmental pollution, experts said.

The nation targets to treat over 80 percent of its total wastewater volume by 2025.

HCM City moves to deal with climate change

Ho Chi Minh City is implementing a series of solutions to adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change towards achieving a green growth and sustainable development from 2014 to 2020.

Experts pointed out that Ho Chi Minh City is among ten cities worldwide vulnerable to climate change, especially sea level rise.

After the Government adopted a decision on building a national action plan against climate change, the city has taken numerous measures to mitigate the diverse impacts of climate change on its socio-economic development.

This year, it has worked with experts from the Netherlands to revise a report on climate change resilience. However, there are difficulties in implementing the solutions.

According to Ha Minh Chau, deputy head of the municipal Office on Climate Change, finance is the first difficulty and it comes then the selection of suitable technologies.

Chau also stressed that how to accurately assess the nature of climate change that affects each service and each area is also very important to dealing with this weather phenomenon.

In recent years, climate change has occurred more and more severely in the city. It has experienced more stormy weather and higher tides, which greatly affected citizens’ daily activities and businesses’ operations.

According to experts, the city should push forward urban planning and plans on land use, and pay more attention to urban water resources management to adapt to climate change.

Nguyen Dinh Hung, Vice Director of the municipal Planning and Architecture Department noted the need to conduct a full and exact assessment of all actualities in order to have a basis, research and information on surrounding impacts.

He pointed out that previous planning schemes have yet taken into account such changeable conditions so the planning work now must follow a new approach, and thinking in planning must also be innovative.

In its long-term effort, the city has taken scientific solutions, including the application of scientific and technological advances in coping with the globe’s changeable weather.

HCM City is Vietnam’s largest economic hub. It is forecast to be heavily affected by climate change. Therefore, an active response is necessary for its sustainable socio-economic development.
Source: VNA/VNS/VOV

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