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14 December 2004
US Fed News

WASHINGTON, Dec. 14 -- Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif. (16th CD), issued the following press release:

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose) joined her colleagues in the Congressional Caucus on Vietnam last Friday in sending a letter to the heads of state from the Socialist Republic of Vietnam regarding the unjust imprisonment of Reverend Nguyen Hong Quang, Vice President and Secretary General of the Mennonite Church and five other evangelist workers who were sentenced to excessive and unmerited sentences from the People's Court of Ho Chi Minh City.

The charges against Reverend Nguyen Hong Quang and his Mennonite associates restrict religious freedom and fail to respect human rights in Vietnam. The Representatives called upon the Vietnamese government for a prompt release of the prisoners.

The following is a copy of the letter:

December 10, 2004 H.E. Tran Duc Luong President Socialist Republic of Vietnam Office of the State 1 Bach Thao Hanoi, Socialist Republic of Vietnam 

H.E. Phan Van Khai Prime Minister Socialist Republic of Vietnam Office of the Prime Minister Hoang Hoa Tham Hanoi, Socialist Republic of Vietnam

H.E. Nong Duc Manh General Secretary, Communist Party of Vietnam President of the National Assembly Central Committee Headquarters

Nguyen Canh Chan 1A Hung Vuong Hanoi, Socialist Republic of Vietnam

H.E. Nguyen Van An Socialist Republic of Vietnam National Assembly 35 Ngo Quyen
Hanoi, Socialist Republic of Vietnam

Dear Sirs,

As members of the Congressional Caucus on Vietnam, we are writing once again regarding the unjust imprisonment of Reverend Nguyen Hong Quang, Vice President and Secretary General of the Mennonite Church. We are respectfully petitioning for the release of Reverend Quang and five other evangelist workers who were sentenced to excessive and unmerited sentences from the People's Court of Ho Chi
Minh City on November 12, 2004.

As we stated in our previous letter, we have been informed that the charges brought against Reverend Quang and his Mennonite associates are unwarranted and a veiled attempt to restrict religious freedom in Vietnam. Reverend Quang was sentenced to three years in prison for "resisting officers of the law while
doing their duty." However, Reverend Quang's record as a peaceful spokesperson for religious freedom and human rights seems to contradict these charges.

Furthermore, our State Department has informed us that representatives from the American Embassy were barred access to the trial. The denial of open trial proceedings is particularly alarming and further raises suspicion regarding the legitimacy of the charges against the Mennonites. Additionally, it appears
public support for the detained Mennonites was suppressed during the trial proceedings.

The sentencing of Reverend Quang and his associates, along with the Vietnamese Government's continued aggression toward religious leaders in the country, is viewed unfavorably by the United States and all free nations alike. We urge you to take the steps necessary to respect human rights by facilitating the release of Reverend Quang, his associates, and the hundreds of political and religious prisoners in Vietnam. Taking action in Reverend Quang's case will strengthen our diplomatic relations and send a positive message to the world that Vietnam is committed to affording its citizens human rights and religious freedom.


ZOE LOFGREN, Member of Congress

LORETTA SANCHEZ, Member of Congress

CHRIS SMITH, Member of Congress

TOM DAVIS, Member of Congress

W. TODD AKIN, Member of Congress

Vietnamese youth embrace modernisation

Posted: 15 December 2004

HANOI : Vietnam has one of the world's fastest growing economies, and with over 30 percent of the population aged under 14, it is also one of the most youthful in Asia.

It is the country's young people who are eagerly embracing rapid modernisation and integration with the global economy.

With its bustling streets and growing tourist market, Vietnam's capital Hanoi is a city of golden opportunities for many of its people, especially the young.

Vietnam's growth is expected to be over 7 percent this year and it has plans to join the World Trade Organisation by the end of 2005.

So it is no surprise that young Vietnamese preparing for an influx of foreign investment and tourists say that learning English is the best way for them to get ahead.

One who finds the language indispensable is Nguyen Tho Dung, a 24-year-old university graduate who works at a silk shop.

"English is a popular language and many countries use English, so as a young graduate I find English very important to find a good job, especially in a big city like Hanoi," said the shop assistant.

Tran Quynh Nga, 26, took on a second job for financial and educational purposes.

She earns only US$30 a month as a chemistry teacher, but can earn US$40 more working weekends at a souvenir shop.

Her second job also helps her to practice her English and get an insight into Hanoi's fast-changing landscape.

"More motorbikes, more money, so they all go more shopping," she said.

Also benefiting from the tourism boom is Bui Anh Tran.

He studied banking but because of an under-developed financial sector, he could
only find a job as a hotel receptionist.

Still he has high hopes for Vietnam's future.

"I hope that our country has more and more development and can join the WTO and make friends to other countries," Anh Tranh said.

If their friendly smiles are anything to go by, the future does indeed look promising for these young Vietnamese.

Rapid economic growth sparks rush to develop office projects in Vietnam

15 December 2004
South China Morning Post

Vietnam-based developers and foreign real estate firms have rushed to enter the office property market, taking advantage of the rapid pace of economic growth.

Property consultants said supply of office space was limited, but next year at least two dozen major projects would get under way in Ho Chi Minh City to meet the increasing demand.

Some Vietnam-based companies, which used to be located in villas, were starting to move to commercial buildings as the economy grew, said Eric Chu, a Hong Kong developer who has been working in Vietnam for 15 years.

Vietnam has a high economic growth of about 7.5 to 8 per cent annually, which is boosting the investment trend.

"The tallest building in Vietnam is 32 storeys. The next stage will be 40 storeys and above. We are currently consulting on one project that is 65 storeys. We will see a lot more integrated developments," said Marc Townsend, CB Richard Ellis Vietnam managing director.

In Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, integrated urban development projects in areas where land is plentiful and inexpensive are picking up speed, after stalling in the late 1990s.

Indonesia's Ciputra is developing 300 hectares in western Hanoi, mixing offices, retail and residential properties. Two apartment blocks are just entering the market along with a few hundred houses. And there are many more to follow. A Korean consortium is developing Hanoi New Town.

More comprehensive is Ho Chi Minh's Saigon South, called Phu My Huong, which includes offices, malls, parks, universities and housing. Taiwan's CT&E is responsible for the overall 700 hectare site, building infrastructure in return for development rights from the Ho Chi Minh City People's Development Committee or city council.

"Manulife has just bought a plot for their headquarters down there. A large, fast-moving consumer goods company is also looking," said Brett Ashton, property consultant Chesterton Petty's Ho Chi Minh director.

Saigon South could help prevent rash development in leafy Saigon proper, protecting property values there. "I would imagine [Saigon] will be more of a Shanghai than a Bangkok or Jakarta. I think they are a lot more switched on in some ways. I also think the economic growth and therefore the city's growth and modernisation is going to be quite phenomenal over the next 15 to 20 years," said David Clarkin, an Australian developer operating in Vietnam for more than a decade.


Vietnam facilitates forex market

15 December 2004
Xinhua News Agency

HANOI, Dec. 15 (Xinhua) -- Vietnam has just allowed more organizations and individuals to conduct more kinds of foreign exchange (forex) transactions, while simplifying related procedures to boost the business in the country, local newspaper Vietnam Economic Times reported Wednesday.

Under a decision recently issued by the State Bank of Vietnam, organizations and individuals are permitted to engage in most of forex transaction modes, excluding swap, instead of only spot.

Spot deals refer to the immediate exchange of currencies at the prevailing market rate as determined by the size of the transaction.

Earlier, only credit institutions and economic entities were allowed to conduct forward, option and swap transactions.

Forward dealing means the buying or selling of currencies for delivery at a specified future date and a fixed price, and swap currency refers to an arrangement in which two parties exchange a series of cash flows in one currency for a series of cash flows in another currency, at agreed intervals over an agreed period.

The decision also regulates that all credit institutions licensed for forex business are allowed to engage in all kinds of transactions. Earlier, they had to ask for sub-licenses for certain modes such as forward and swap.

The decision aims to increase the number of credit institutions' customers, enhance ability and expand business scopes of participants in Vietnam's forex market, and offer them a tool to reduce forex rate risks, the paper said.

Option, common in foreign forex markets but new in the Vietnamese one, helps objects, especially enterprises to avoid high risks regarding forex rate changes, since an option takes the form of a contract that gives its holder the right but not the obligation to buy or sell a fixed number of currencies at a fixed price on or before a given date.


Vietnam's Largest Insurance Firm Secures Nationwide Infrastructure with Juniper
Networks SSL VPN Products

Dec. 15, 2004-


BAOVIET Deploys Leading SSL VPN to Enable Secure Remote Access to Corporate Resources for Faster Claim Processing, Response Times to Customers

Juniper Networks, Inc. (Nasdaq:JNPR) today announced that BAOVIET Insurance has selected its Secure Access SSL VPN products to provide robust, secure remote access to its corporate infrastructure. BAOVIET, established in 1965, is Vietnam's oldest and largest insurance company. It has a head office in Hanoi
and branch offices throughout the country.
"BAOVIET has a long history in Vietnam, and our business is evolving to leverage modern technologies," said Dr. Nguyen Thanh Quang, BAOVIET's director of the Information Systems Center. "With Juniper Networks' solution, we realize a 'concentrated model' for our information systems. By deploying the Juniper Networks SSL VPN platform, we gain the ability to connect remotely to operational level databases and corporate resources located at our headquarters.
This enables our numerous field agents to obtain and update customer information, no matter where they are located, as well as remotely process insurance quotes. We had to ensure that remote access could be implemented in a secure manner, and with the Juniper Networks SSL VPN, BAOVIET and our customers will enjoy faster response times, and be able to explore other value-added services enabled by secure remote access."
The Juniper Networks Secure Access is a feature-rich SSL VPN appliance that enables medium to large-sized organizations to provide cost-effective remote access, partner extranet services, and intranet security. It utilizes Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) as a secure transport mechanism, and does not require a
client to be deployed on mobile and remote users' computing devices. Little or no changes are required to internal servers. Based on the award-winning Juniper Networks Instant Virtual Extranet (IVE) technology, the Secure Access appliance also features rich access privilege management functionality, performance scalability, and a high availability design, meeting enterprise-class needs.
"BAOVIET, by nature of its business, requires stringent and robust security solutions," said Ha-Huy Hao, country manager, Vietnam, for Juniper Networks. "By using the Juniper Networks solutions, Vietnam enjoys a unique position of immediately leveraging the latest advances in network security, unencumbered by legacy technologies. BAOVIET's implementation of secure remote access via
Juniper Networks underscores the growth of SSL VPNs within Vietnam, and the greater APAC region."
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Vietnamese refugee finds answers, home in his art

Dec. 15, 2004

"Who am I?"

It is a question artist Thuong Nguyen asks himself again and again. After the fall of Saigon in 1975, Nguyen became a Vietnamese refugee. He stayed in camps in the Philippines, Guam and San Diego before joining one of his sisters in Hawaii. When you're a refugee and the youngest of 15 children, it makes sense that you might have identity issues. It also makes sense that as an artist, you would seek answers and refuge in your art.

Painting was Nguyen's major at Arizona State University until one day in his second-floor painting class he heard laughter outside his window. He looked down into the sculpture studio courtyard and saw students at work creating art and, to Nguyen's surprise, actually having fun. The contrast between the rules and traditions of painting and the freedom of sculpting was too great. In that moment, Nguyen became a sculptor.

Just east of Central Avenue, in the middle of what might be labeled "the Roosevelt Arts District," sits the MonOrchid Gallery. It's home to Nguyen's current exhibition, "Toward the East." Like Nguyen, East Roosevelt Street is an area struggling with its identity. The interests of commercial development and
affordable rents for galleries giving young artists a place to show their work often seem at odds with one another.

Nguyen lives in both worlds. He has made a living for 20 years by working for Intel, and has, in his spare time, made art. Duality seems to be his destiny. He respects and romanticizes the traditions and mystique of the Far East while simultaneously embracing the West's high-tech and materialistic culture. He was born in Vietnam and grew up in America. He says he's witnessed the good and bad in both worlds.

"With my double nationality, language and career, I often question my place in the world," Nguyen says.

His present work combines common objects, images and icons from both the Far East and the West. Common nails find their way into a lot of his art.

"Nails have been used for centuries to hold together buildings for humans, and yet we take them for granted," Nguyen says.

He says he uses found objects in his art as witnesses and evidence of the struggle of man and nature over time.

Time seems to fade from your mind as you stand before a Nguyen piece. As busy as the work sometimes is, there is a simultaneous feeling of serenity in each piece. Your left brain may be encouraging you to move on to the next work of art, but your right brain is calmly saying, "Let's spend more time right here."

The time will soon come for Nguyen to retire from the world of semiconductors. When that happens, he's planning on going abroad to study and earn his master of fine arts degree. He says he wants to work with young people and through art share his experiences of living in both Vietnam and the United States.

As students here and abroad will find out, Thuong Nguyen has found a few answers during his life but still has a lot of questions.