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VIETNAM: Writer faces increasing official harassment, fears imprisonment

December 23, 2004
www.cpj.org

New York - The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply concerned byVietnamese authorities' intensifying harassment of writer Do Nam Hai. Thewriter, who penned articles critical of the Vietnamese government under the namePhuong Nam, fears that authorities are planning to arrest him, sources close tothe journalist told CPJ.

"Vietnam's record of imprisoning dissenters and writers who question governmentpolicy, as Do Nam Hai has, is appalling," said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. "We call on authorities to stop harassing Hai, and to respect his rightto express his opinions freely."

In the last five months, authorities have repeatedly detained Hai for interrogation. On August 6, police held him for two days, and on December 3, he was held for 24 hours. A man whom the writer identified as a plainclothes police officer recently confiscated Hai's computer and said he would remove documents from it.

While living in Australia in 2000 and 2001, Hai, who now works at a bank in Ho Chi Minh City, posted on the Internet a series of long articles on Vietnamese history and politics. The five articles, which included "Vietnam, My Land" and "Writing about President Ho Chi Minh," expressed his thoughts on aspects of
Vietnamese history, called for democracy and a multiparty system, and proposed ideas for peaceful political reform.

On December 10, Hai wrote an open letter to the Vietnamese government disclosing his full name and address, reiterating thoughts expressed in his articles, and detailing the harassment he has faced from authorities during recent months.

"You labeled my articles ... as counter-revolutionary, against the Party and the government," he wrote. "But I have a different opinion; I believe they are materials for democracy."

Four Vietnamese writers-Nguyen Khac Toan, Nguyen Vu Binh, Pham Hong Son, and Nguyen Dan Que-are currently imprisoned for writing or distributung articles criticizing the government.

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Vietnam opposes US religious freedom decision

Dec 23, 2004
news.xinhuanet.com

HANOI, Dec. 23 (Xinhuanet) -- Vietnam strongly opposes a recent decision by the United States to enlist it as one of "the countries of particular concern" on religious freedom, asking the US side to have proper decisions.

"We request the US side to take right decisions inconformity with the principles of relations between the two countries on the basis of mutual understanding and respect so as not to undermine the broad interests of the two countries," Vietnamese foreign ministry spokesman, Le Dung, said in a press briefing here on Thursday.
Many representatives of religious organizations in Vietnam haveprotested the decision of the State Department of the United States about the enlistment in its annual report on religious freedom, requesting it to remove the country out of the list, he said.
Vietnam always guarantees the rights to freedom of beliefs and religions and rights to freedom of non-beliefs and non-religions, which is specified in legal documents, especially the state ordinance on belief and religion, he noted.
The US State Department released in mid-September 2004 its sixth Annual Report on International Religious Freedom, which examines the "status of religious freedom around the world." The report cites Eritrea, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam as new "countries of particular concern."
The report is mandated under a 1998 law approved by the US Congress which requires that within 90 days, a period that can be extended to 180 days, consideration must be given about some sort of consequence.

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Vietnam to deepen ties with key partners in 2005

Dec 23, 2004
news.xinhuanet.com

HANOI, Dec. 23 (Xinhuanet) -- Vietnam attaches great importance to beefing up relations with its major partners, and proactively integrating into the international economy next year, Vietnamese foreign ministry spokesman said on Thursday.
"One of our focal tasks in 2005 is to continue reinforcing andperfecting the framework of stable and long-term cooperation relations with our major partners in the world.. The agenda of high-ranking visits by our leaders to foreign countries is underway. Certainly, we take Vietnam's important partners into
consideration," spokesman Le Dung said in a press briefing here. Vietnam will next year keep on accelerating the international economic integration, especially the progress of establishing multilateral and bilateral free trade areas, he said, noting that the country is striving to join the World
Trade Organization (WTO)as soon as possible. The 9th round of meetings of the WTO Working Party on Vietnam accession took place in Switzerland in mid-December 2004. Along side the 9th meeting, Vietnam held bilateral negotiations with some partners, including Mexico, Colombia, Paraguay, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Canada, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland.
Previously, Vietnam had concluded bilateral negotiations with six partners, namely, the European Union, Cuba, Argentina, Brazil,Chile and Singapore. Vietnam hopes that her future negotiations with other countries,including its major trading partners such as the United States, China and Japan will take
place favorably, paving the way for it to soon join the WTO, expected in December 2005.

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VIETNAM'S ACCESSION PROGRESSES; CIVIL SOCIETY CONCERNS RAISED

Dec 23, 2004
www.ictsd.org

After finishing the ninth round of its WTO membership talks at the 15 December meeting of the Working Party on its accession, Vietnam is looking to complete the negotiations in time for the Hong Kong Ministerial Conference in December 2005. Entry talks have been underway for ten years. The 63 Members that are negotiating a membership package with the Southeast Asian country used the meeting to review the first draft of the report that they will submit to the General Council for approval by consensus at the end of the accession process. Vietnam announced that it had signed six of the bilateral
market access deals (with Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, the EU, and Singapore) that play a crucial though controversial role in ensuring that Members agree to an applicant's accession, and was close to concluding another seven. Other members of the Working Party on the Accession of Vietnam include the US, Canada, Japan, India, Switzerland, and Australia.
Members applaud Vietnam's efforts; say more needs to be done Vietnam reported on how it was bringing its trade regime into line with WTO law, and said that it would speed up the passage of pending WTO-related legislation in 2005. Members praised it for its "hard work," paying particular attention to the bilateral market access negotiations. Members unanimously reiterated that they would like to see Vietnam join the WTO as soon as possible.
Members did have some criticisms of Vietnamese policy. Several pointed to discrimination between domestic and foreign investors in the country's investment regime -- even though, as pointed out by some observers, investment is not a subject of WTO negotiations -- and asked for a list of sectors in which
investment was prohibited. Others contended that Vietnamese law discriminated between domestic and foreign enterprises with regard to trading rights, saying that it was in violation of WTO provisions on national treatment and quantitative restrictions.
Civil society: Bilateral market access talks unfair, dangerous Civil society organisations have criticised the way Vietnam's accession talks have proceeded thus far, arguing that it is being forced to accept commitments that go above and beyond the requirements of WTO rules, and thus runs the risk of liberalising its economy faster than may be desirable from a developmental
standpoint. Oxfam researchers Duncan Green and Le Kim Dung have described the bilateral market access negotiations as "a form of political tag wrestling in which the world's mightiest economies take it in turns to climb into the ring and squeeze yet more concessions, with scant regard to an applicant's development needs." They point out that Vietnam has been compelled to accept a far higher level of liberalisation in farm products than any of its neighbouring WTO Member countries. Green and Le warn that as part of its accession process, Members might try to make Vietnam multilateralise several provisions of its "heavily 'WTO-plus'" bilateral free trade agreement with the US, including those on market access and intellectual property rights.
Indeed, in the accession talks, some Members have seemed less than willing to accord Vietnam the special and differential treatment ordinarily due to developing countries on some aspects of its potential future WTO commitments.
Though one developing country Member of the Working Party argued that Vietnam should be entitled to special and differential treatment on subsidies, several other Members wanted it to implement the Subsidies Agreement upon accession.
Vietnam has already dropped its request for a gradual implementation of the WTO Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures, and has agreed to comply with it from the date of its accession.
The date for the next meeting of the Working Party has not been set, but is likely to be in the first half of 2005.
Background An applicant for WTO Membership must first describe all of its WTO-related trade and economic policies to the Working Party set up for its accession. Members of the Working Party -- which will subsequently vote on the applicant's accession in the General Council -- may then ask it to engage in bilateral negotiations on market access. Commitments made in these bilateral talks must be extended multilaterally to all WTO Members as part of the applicant's 'accession package.' The tiny Pacific island of Vanuatu completed accession talks in 1999 but turned down the WTO's offer of Membership, judging the high cost of its terms of accession -- including full and immediate compliance with WTO disciplines on intellectual property rights -- to exceed any likely benefits.

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Over 1,700 Vietnamese policemen use illegitimate degrees, certificates

23 December 2004
Xinhua News Agency

HANOI, Dec. 23 (Xinhua) -- Vietnam has recently found that 1, 704 staff of the Ministry of Public Security are using fake degrees and certificates, local newspaper Pioneer reported Thursday. The people use the papers mainly to enjoy promotion and higher salaries, the paper quoted Deputy Minister of Public Security Le The Tiem as saying. Among the people, the ministry has sacked and offered early retirement to 97, suspended eight from their duty, and given warnings to 390, he said.


 

IMPORTERS SEEK QUOTA BREAK FOR VIETNAM

22 December 2004
Women's Wear Daily

WASHINGTON -- Vietnam, which is not yet a World Trade Organization member, will be left out in the cold when the group's 148 nations drop quotas on textiles and apparel on Jan. 1.

Seeking to increase the Southeast Asian nation's prospects, the U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles & Apparel on Tuesday called on the U.S. government to consider lifting Vietnam's quotas next year. The European Union and Canada have already decided to do so.

In a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick and Commerce Secretary Donald Evans, the USA-ITA asserted that maintaining quotas on Vietnam when its largest competitors, such as China and India, face none, "undermines the ability of American firms to do business in Vietnam."

Vietnam is the U.S.'s sixth-largest supplier of textiles and apparel, shipping $2.61 billion worth of those goods through the year ended Oct. 31. It is applying for WTO membership.

The only country that will be covered by U.S. quotas next year will be Belarus, which shipped $48.1 million in goods, for a ranking of 69.

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Foreigners to enjoy single price for electricity supply in Vietnam

23 December 2004
Xinhua News Agency

HANOI, Dec. 23 (Xinhua) -- Foreign organizations and individuals in Vietnam will enjoy the same electricity prices as Vietnamese citizens from January 1, 2005, Vietnam News Agency reported on Thursday.

In comparison with 2004, the application of a single-price mechanism for electricity will help foreign organizations and individuals in Vietnam save around 300 billion VND (nearly 20 million US dollars), Minister of Industry Hoang Trung Hai was quoted as saying.

The move is part of a roadmap to apply a single price mechanism and slash a number of public service charge rates for complete elimination of the dual pricing system in 2005, the minister added.

Since early this year, a single price has been applied to both Vietnamese and foreigners for airfares on domestic routes, according to Ministry of Planning and Investment, which is in charge of executing the roadmap.

Additionally, ports and telecommunication rates, especially the Internet service charge, have been slashed substantially. Investors have also been given financial support for ground clearance to help reduce projects'cost as well, the ministry reported.
 
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Vietnam's courts ditch infamous striped pyjamas


Fri Dec 24, 2004


HANOI (AFP) - Accused criminals in Vietnam have been given a reprieve from the infamous government-issue green-and-white pyjamas that have long marked them out at trial, state media reported.


After a heated debate that lasted half a day, a parliamentary committee has decided all defendants can from now on wear civilian garb in court, report said.


The decision changes an old practice under which defendants in detention had to wear prison clothes while those out on bail were able to dress as they wished.


While detainees might welcome the ruling, law enforcement agencies are not so sure.


"If we allow (defendants) to wear ordinary clothes, they can easily escape," Deputy Minister of Public Security Le The Tiem said in the Phap Luat Ho Chi Minh (Law) newspaper.


In reply, National Assembly chairman Nguyen Van An said it was the responsibility of authorised agencies to ensure security at the court, regardless of the defendants' clothing.


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Tarboro college student to help in Vietnam visit


Thursday, December 23, 2004
www.rockymounttelegram.com


After hearing stories about a country overseas, one Tarboro resident decided she will make conclusions for herself.


Wake Forest University senior Vicky Mooring, 21, will be venturing to the Lam Dong province of Vietnam to help build a school with 11 other students and three advisers.


Through the university's Peacework Ambassadors Program, which is part of Peacework Development Fund a nonprofit organization that arranges international volunteer service projects Mooring had an option of going to Costa Rica, Honduras, Vietnam or India. She picked Vietnam.


"The one to Vietnam was most interesting to me because my father used to live there," she said. "So he talked a lot of its culture when | was growing up. I thought this would be a great opportunity to experience it firsthand."


Mooring's father, Issac Mooring Sr., 63, spent 35 years in the Foreign Services Branch of the Department of Defense and said he got to spend a large portion of his career overseas. Issac agrees that the trip will be a great opportunity for his daughter.


"She's heard quite a bit from me," said Issac, who lived in Vietnam for three years. "She'll get to see how the children there live different from children in the U.S. And it will give her a chance to experience the difference between Vietnam and other places she has lived. It'll be a learning experience for her."


The graduating biology major and Tarboro High School graduate is not foreign to travel. Born in Washington, D.C., Vicky has lived in Maryland and in Turkey for five years before settling in Tarboro.


"I don't think it will be a culture shock because I've somewhat been exposed to cultures much different than mine," she said. "But it might be. I've never experienced extreme poverty before.


"I think this trip will definitely open my eyes to the inequalities, and make me more appreciative of what I have now."


The trip will last two weeks two weeks during Vicky's Christmas break from college. She will leave Monday and return on Jan. 10.


"I'm excited to go," Mooring said. "We're leaving from Greensboro and flying into Atlanta. From there we will fly to Los Angeles and from there to Seoul, South Korea. We will go from there to Ho Chi Minh City and from there to Dalat, where the school is."


Mooring said other than looking forward to touring places like a Buddhist orphanage and engaging with college students in Ho Chi Minh City, she is also looking forward to helping build the school.


"The schools there don't look like schools," she said. "They have dirt floors, barred windows and walls that are peeling apart. Just knowing the conditions is horrible. So this is a great opportunity to help them out."


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Safe Haven: Family brings home early Christmas present from Vietnam


Dec 24, 2004

By Kaylea Hutson, Of The Press Staff
www.carthagepress.com

The Shepherd family of rural Carthage will celebrate Christmas tomorrow with a special Christmas present.

The present did not come wrapped in ribbons or bows, and does not contain the latest gizmo or gadget.

Instead, the special package came with a bright smile and an outgoing personality in the form of a now-21-month-old girl, known as Haven Faith.

Their Story

In November, Shelly and Rob Shepherd decided to accompany their friends, Randy and Pam Cope of Neosho, to Vietnam in order to bring home a 19-month-old youngster in need of medical treatment.

An explosion involving the young girl and her parents left her an orphan. It also left her without legs from the knees down.

Shelly Shepherd said at first, Haven Faith was going to live in a recently established Vietnamese orphanage for handicapped children.

Then the Copes, through their ministry "Touch A Life" decided to explore bringing her to Missouri for medical treatment.

"It's a process that usually takes several months or years," Shelly said. "We got the whole thing done in six weeks.

"God just moved. It was amazing."

Initially, Shelly and Rob planned to travel to Vietnam with the Copes to learn more about the ministry and to help bring Haven Faith back to Missouri.

It was love at first sight for both the Shepherds and Haven Faith.

"We fell in love with her," Shelly said. "It was amazing. God prepared her heart for us before we came.

"I put my arms out and she came right to me, 'like where have you guys been?'"

Rob agreed with Shelly's assessment.

"We went over to bring her back," he said. "But we fell in love with her."

They named her Haven because they always want her to know that she has a "safe haven" with their family.

Medical visa details

In order to bring Haven Faith to the United States on a medical visa, the Shepherds and Copes had to show proof that donated medical treatment was available.

Numerous doctors and dentists in the four-state area, along with Freeman Hospital, volunteered to treat the youngster at no cost.

Haven Faith's medical team includes Dr. Ganesh Gupta, an orthopedic surgeon at Children's Mercy Hospital, Kansas City; Dr. Benjamin Rosenburg, Dr. Melvin Karges, Nurse Practitioner Stephanie Stuart and Dr. Frank Kerd.

"It was amazing, when people heard about her story, I don't think anyone turned [requests for treatment] down."

When the Shepherds arrived in Vietnam, questions still remained about Haven Faith's true medical condition.
 
The youngster lived in the remote Danang mountains, away from major medical
sources.

"Once we flew into Saigon [Ho Chi Minh City], we drove four hours into the mountains," Shelly recalled. "Then we had to get on motorcycles to drive up to where she was.


"It was really just a path."

At that time, Haven Faith was living with her grandmother. Because of limited financial resources, the elderly woman had decided to place the youngster into the care of the Americans.

Shelly said options are limited for orphans with disabilities, and many become street beggars.

Since their return in Mid November, Haven Faith has been examined by numerous doctors.

Her surgeon, Dr. Gupta, expected to find problems with her amputations.

"He said it was miraculous," Shelly said. "He expected to do more surgeries.

"But he said her scars are beautiful. The [other doctors] did wonderful work."

Beyond needing to have some dental work completed, Haven Faith has been given a clean bill of health.

In January, she will be fitted for her first set of prosthetic legs. Physical therapy will follow as she learns to get around using her new limbs.

For now, the Shepherds and their other children, are spending this Christmas rejoicing with their newest family member.

"She may be black-headed and dark-eyed, and the rest [of the children] are blondes, but she just fits in to the family amazingly," Shelly said. "I love her just like my other six kids, which is amazing, because you are just passionately in love with your children."

Because Haven Faith was walking before the accident, she remains quite mobile.

The youngster walks around, using her knees as feet. She also gets into numerous things--like a typical toddler.

"She still tries to put shoes on," Shelly said with a grin, as she watched Haven Faith play on the floor.

In addition to Haven Faith, the Shepherds have six children.

Zac, 21, and his wife Sara, are students at Pittsburg State University, Pittsburg, Kan.

Hannah, 19, resides in Carthage and works in the family's business.

Haley, 17, and Ivy, 12, are students at Carthage High School and Junior High, respectively.

Chloe, 10, and Sawyer, 8, are both students at Steadley Elementary School.