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Social News 5/1

19 localities put on forest-fire alert; 'Money trees' popular for upcoming Tet; 136 Vietnamese women freed from prostitution den in Malaysia; 1,751 organizations, individuals fined for environment pollution

19 localities put on forest-fire alert


Nineteen localities in the country are on high alert for forest fires due to prolonged dry weather, the agriculture and rural development ministry's Viet Nam Administration for Forestry warned yesterday.

The alert status in six of these provinces - Bac Giang, Bac Kan, Binh Thuan and Dien Bien, besides Hoa Binh and Son La - is of the highest level.

The National Steering Committee for Forest Protection and Development Plan has ordered the People's Committees of the localities to take prompt action to prevent forest fires.

Vietnamese gov’t gives premium subsidies for greater family enrollment

Vietnamese government will give support to family members’ health insurance aiming to expand coverage even further, to at least 70 percent of the population by 2015 and 80 percent by 2020, said Tong Thi Song Huong, head of the Department of Health Insurance under the Ministry of Health.

As per an amendment of Medicine Insurance Law which takes effect on January 1, 2015, it is mandatory to purchase health insurance. In a bid to encourage people to purchase health insurance, the government will give premium subsidies for greater family enrollment.

For instance, the first member of a family will buy health insurance with 4.5 percent of their basic salary, then the second, third and fourth members of the family will just pay 70 percent, 60 percent and 50 percent of the first’s payment respectively.

Furthermore, the government will buy health insurance for those who live in disadvantaged districts and islands. The poor, people from ethnic minority groups and relatives of martyrs will not pay 5 percent of treatment cost like before. The government will cover all.

Moreover, the new law also stipulates that those who live in islands and disadvantaged districts will enjoy benefit when they are outpatients even.

Khanh Hoa gives first aid to foreign fisherman

Rescue ship SAR 27-01 of the Vietnam Maritime Search and Rescue Coordination Centre (VMRCC) on January 3 brought an injured foreign fisherman to Nha Trang port, Khanh Hoa province for first aid.

Edward Cupisz, 63, of Malta nationality was seriously injured while working on board the ship Atamaca from China to Singapore. The injury led him to hemiplegia.

136 Vietnamese women freed from prostitution den in Malaysia

Malaysia’s New Straits Times on January 4 reported that local police had freed 184 women aged between 21-38 including 136 Vietnamese from a prostitution den in Kuala Lumpur.

Police raided a night club in P Ramlee Street in the evening of January 3 and arrested two local managers suspected of being members of a human trafficking ring and 13 security guards.

The young women, including those from Vietnam were enticed to lucrative jobs in Malaysia. However, after arriving in the country, they were forced to work as sex slaves.

Other victims come from the Philippines, Uzbekistan, Indonesia, Thailand, Armenia and Russia.

First members of Bahamas wrecked ship found off Vietnam coast

Maritime rescue forces from Vietnam’s southern coastal province of Ba Ria – Vung Tau have saved one and found two bodies of the crew of cargo ship Bulk Jupiter.

While in distress on January 2 at 150 nautical miles off Vung Tau southeastern coast, the Bahamas nationality ship with 19 members on board was carrying iron ores from Malaysia to China.

After receiving information, the provincial Vietnam Maritime Search and Rescue Coordination Centre (VMRCC) mobilised forces and means to join the search and rescue operation with foreign partners, including Singapore, the Philippines, Malaysia, and China, said Director General Nguyen Anh Vu.

Vu added that the search and rescue efforts are very difficult due to complicated weather which was believed to wreck the ship.

In the coming time, the centre will send more search workers and zone off areas that the victims could be drifting to.

1,751 organizations, individuals fined for environment pollution

Ministry of Agriculture & Rural Development said at the review meeting of 2014 that after 10 year to implement Decision 64/2003/QD-TTg about controling the environment pollution measures, to date there are 384 out of 439 facilities to meet the environment demands, not causing serious environmental pollution, accounting 87.5 percent.

However, there are 55 facilicites, not completed the solutions to treat the environmental pollution, accounting 12.5 percent.

Concerning to this issue, there are 101 out of 435 which have completed the environmental sollutions, in an attempt to carry out Decision 1788/2003/QD-TTg.

According to the ministry, environment inspector has fined 1,751 organizations, individuals worth VND 141billion; collected taxes for state budget VND 1.7billion.

'Money trees' popular for upcoming Tet

Decorative trees made from bank notes are becoming an increasingly popular ornament for this upcoming Tet festival in Vietnam.

There are two main types of tree, the “Tieu Than Tai” (Little God of Wealth) and the “Dai Than Tai” (Great God of Wealth).

The trees, made from wiring and plastic, have instead of leaves a combination of bank notes of different values and colours, among them notes of VND10,000, VND50,000 and VND500,000. The tree's shape is often curved like peach trees.

Some people use US dollars, for added good fortune. The banknotes are folded like swans, butterflies, fan wings and hearts.

Growing demand for such trees has opened a market for experienced artisans, while office staff and students are now making the trees to raise money.

The practice has prompted authorities to warn of regulations against defacing or damaging local currency.

Tet coach tickets to be sold from Jan 20

The Mien Dong Bus Station announced that it will sell coach tickets for trips from Feb 14 to 16 in advance at ticket counter 13 and 14 from 7.30 am to 5 pm starting Jan 20 to Feb 14.

Additional fee level for routes from Ho Chi Minh City to Hue and northern provinces will be 20 percent on Jan 31 to Feb 4, 40 percent from Feb 5 to 8 and Feb 19 to 22, and 60 percent from Feb 9 to 18.

Coach fare for routes from HCMC to provinces from Phu Yen to Quang Nam and Da Nang, and to Gia Lai and Kon Tum will be 20 percent from Jan 31 to Feb 2, 40 percent from Feb 5 to 9 and from Feb 19 to 21, and 60 percent from Feb 10 to 18.

Routes from HCMC to Khanh Hoa, Ninh Thuan, Dak Lak, Dak Nong, and Lam Dong provinces will see an additional fee level of 20 percent from Feb 3 to 7, of 40 percent from Feb 8 to 11 and Feb 19 to 22, and of 60 percent from Feb 12 to 18.

Routes from HCMC to Binh Thuan and Binh Phuoc provinces will add 20 percent more in ticket fares from Feb 8 to 11 and Feb 19 to 22, and 60 percent from Feb 12 to 18.

Tickets for trips from HCMC to Ba Ria – Vung Tau will have to add more 40 percent from Feb 14 to 24 while trips from the city to Dong Nai, Binh  

Duong and the Mekong Delta provinces will be 40 percent higher from Feb 14 to 22.

Gov’t orders to reduce traffic accidents by 5-10 percent

In its monthly session, the government ordered ministries and people’s committees to reduce traffic accidents by 5-10 percent.

Local administrations were asked to attain achievements and remedy shortcomings along with pay attention to socioeconomic development.  

Local governments should step up efforts to fight against smuggling, commercial fraud, especially in border crossings.

As traffic accidents increased drastically during first two days of New Year holidays Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, chairman of the  

National Committee for Traffic Safety, has sent a dispatch to the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of Transport and local governments asking to strengthen measures for traffic safety.

The deputy PM asked policemen and other forces to conduct intensive  inspections and issue penalties on traffic law violation especially drunk drivers, overloaded trucks and motobike drivers without helmets.

34 people died and 38 others were injured in 61 road accidents nationwide on January 3, reported the National Traffic Safety Committee’s statistics. In the day, traffic policemen nationwide have handled 4,726 violations and submit VND1,967 million (US$ 92,044) to the state treasury and seized 14 cars and 1,244 motorbikes.

Tet bonuses seen falling as domestic firms struggle

Workers will likely receive a smaller Tet bonus this year, according to an official from the Ha Noi Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs.

The forecast was based on Tet bonus plan reports from a number of businesses in the city, said Pham Van Thanh, head of the department's office of Labour and Salary.

The department encouraged businesses to give Tet bonuses, even if they were low, he added.

While foreign-invested businesses plan to keep Tet bonuses the same, doling out an average VND3.7 million (US$176) per person, domestic enterprises will give smaller bonuses, according to the department's survey of enterprises in Ha Noi.

In HCM City, most enterprises failed to meet the December 31 deadline to submit their salary reports. Nguyen Thi Thanh Dan, vice chairwoman of Binh Tan District's Labour Federation, said businesses still faced many difficulties and had to adjust the minimum salary before Tet, making it hard to decide an appropriate Tet bonus.

The Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs instructed localities nationwide to submit Tet bonus reports and make sure enterprises paid their employees, said Deputy Minister Pham Minh Huan.

The ministry is still collecting reports on Tet bonuses from localities and will release its final report this month.

Last year, labourers' Tet bonuses increased by 20 per cent to VND4.4 million (US$206) per person. A FDI enterprise in HCM City gave the highest bonus, VND709 million (US$33,320), up 9.2 per cent from 2013.

In 2012, bonuses grew by 10.8 per cent to VND2.8 million (US$131) per person.

Kumquat trees wilt as peaches flourish

With only six weeks left before Tet, kumquat growers in Ha Noi's Tay Ho District's Tu Lien Ward are facing losses because many trees in their gardens have withered. However, peach blossom growers in Nhat Tan Ward have seen a bumper season.

Nguyen Van Dung said his garden had about 1,000 kumquat trees, but up to 300 had withered. The same was true in the garden next to his, where the owner said that 350 of the 700 trees in his garden had withered and died.

"Our family will lose hundreds of millions of dong," he said.

The growers blamed the tree deaths on heavy rain, including acid rain, during the rainy season. Rainwater pooled at the roots, causing root rot, they said. The trees then shrivelled and died.

However, Nguyen Thi Binh, head of the ward's Agricultural-service Co-operative, told An Ninh Thu Do (Capital's Security) newspaper that the cause was improper planting techniques and indiscriminate use of pesticides. According to Binh, root rot was just adding to the situation.

To prevent the same from occurring next year, she advised local kumquat growers to obey planting techniques and spray pesticides as instructed.

Binh said that the ward now had about 400 kumquat growers, with a total area of about 20 ha.

Growers said that due to the situation, the price of a kumquat tree would increase by VND100,000 – 1 million (US$4.5 – 45) per tree, depending on size.

A small tree costs about VND300,000-500,000 ($14-23), while a medium-sized tree costs VND700,000-1.5 million ($32-70) and a tree more than 3m tall costs VND3-5 million ($140-230).

Peach blossom growers get bumper season

Unlike kumquat growers, peach blossom growers in the district's Nhat Tan Ward saw a bumper season thanks to advanced planting techniques and warm weather.

Dang Van Manh received nearly 100 orders from companies to rent peach blossom trees to decorate their offices for the Year of the Goat, which begins on February 19.

It costs about VND5-8 million ($235-375) to rent a big peach blossom tree, he said.

Nguyen Thu Huong, another peach blossom grower, said that the blossoms would be more beautiful than last year because of the warm weather.

"This is a very good year for peach blossoms," Huong said.

According to growers, a 1m peach blossom tree costs about VND500,000 ($23), while a larger tree costs VND700,000-1.5 million ($32-70).  

Customers who buy a tree that costs more than VND1 million get free shipping. The prices are the same as last year.

Drivers given new health regulations

A new draft of health regulations for drivers was released by the Ministry of Health last week, covering both Vietnamese and non-Vietnamese.

Drivers must pass nine health criteria to be eligible for a license. The criteria relate to mental health, neurology, ophthalmology, otolaryngology, cardiology, respiratory, rheumatology, endocrinology and drug usage. Specific criteria apply to motorbike drivers, car and non-commercial truck drivers and commercial vehicle drivers (other licenses).

The new draft abandons controversial rules from the drivers' health regulations proposed in 2008, which the Ministry of Justice later suspended following a public outcry over rules seen as discriminatory.

The regulations specified that those less than 1.5m tall should not drive cars and people under 1.45m tall, less than 40kg and with a chest size of less than 72cm would not be allowed to drive a motorbike.

The new regulations are the first to ban drug and alcohol users from driving vehicles.

Luong Ngoc Khue, head of the ministry's Medical Examination and Treatment Department, said that some hospitals were still in the business of selling fake health test results. The Ministry would closely monitor the granting of health certificates at all health care facilities, he said.

Health Deputy Minister Nguyen Thi Xuyen asserted that the development of health regulations for vehicle drivers was a "complicated and sensitive work" that could affect almost every resident in the society.

"Therefore, the Ministry is carefully taking it step by step and will co-operate with the Ministry of Transport to issue the circular as soon as possible," she said.

Hai Phong man dies in house fire

A 56-year-old man died when his house caught fire yesterday in Hung Vuong Ward, Hong Bang District, in the northern port city of Hai Phong.

Financial losses have not been estimated.

The fire was extinguished after 30 minutes following the arrival of six fire engines and more than 50 firemen.

Nguyen Van Dong, owner of the house, died when he could not escape, as he was disabled following a traffic accident. His elder sister, Nguyen Thi Thanh, 60, who is also paralytic, deaf and mute, was rescued by firemen.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Transport fares on hold despite fuel price cuts

Transport rates have not fallen along with fuel costs, so vendors cannot lower prices for products and services as Tet approaches, according to Thu Duc Market deputy director Nguyen Thanh Ha.

Businesses participating in the Tet price stabilisation programme such as Vissan said lower fuel costs had only a slight effect on rates, as the major costs were still electricity and inputs.

Meanwhile, leaders of transport companies and associations complained that they were having trouble with rate reduction procedures.

Chairman of Da Nang Road Transport Association To Van Hiep said fuel was not the major cost for all products and services, adding that vendors were responsible for cutting prices, not transport companies.

Ha Noi Transport Association chairman Bui Danh Lien told Phap Luat va Doi Song (Law & Life) that his association sent a request to transport companies on December 25 asking them to reduce rates by January 15.

However, transport rates depended on more factors than fuel cost and changing the rates cost a lot of time and effort, according to Lien.

Nguyen Xun Thuy, former director of Transport Publishing House, said that transport companies would make large profits from maintaining rates while fuel costs declined.

He urged government agencies to take serious action against enterprises that delayed reducing rates.

Ngo Tri Long, former Director of Institute for Price Studies under Ministry of Finance, said that by delaying rate reductions, transport companies were violating the market economy rule and losing consumers' confidence.

Recently, the Ministry of Finance sent a request to the Ministry of Transport as well as province and city People's Committees to tighten control over transport companies reducing their rates to match fuel cost reductions.

The Ministry of Finance suggested fining companies that did not reduce their rates VND 5 million-30 million (US$240 to $1430). However, the specific procedures, deadlines and reduction amounts differed between provinces.

Disease blight blitzes free cow programme

A corporate programme gifting cows to poor households as a poverty alleviation measure has done the opposite in four northern provinces.

Just three days after receiving a cow from the programme in early December, Nguyen Trong Vinh is despondent.

His entire herd of 17 healthy cows has been infected with the foot-and-mouth disease. Three cows, including the one that he received as a gift, have died.

The livestock farmer, a resident of Trung Village in Thanh Hoa Provinces, said: "My whole herd is very weak and may not make it. I'm on the verge of going broke. All because of that programme cow," Vinh told Nong thon ngay nay (Countryside Today).

According to the Thanh Hoa Veterinary Department, the foot-and-mouth disease has been spreading in the northern province since December 11, infecting 52 cows and buffaloes in seven communes of Lang Chanh District. About half the infected cattle were distributed by the aid programme.

A similar outbreak of the foot-and-mouth disease has been reported in the northern province of Lang Son, another locality where the aid programme has been active.

The programme was carried out in Lang Son's Tam Gia Commune since November 23, giving one free cow to each of its 124 poor households.  

All the cows were later found to be infected with the foot-and-mouth disease. Ten have already died.

"My cow did not eat anything from the day I took it home. Its mouth hurt pretty bad and there were red ruptures on its feet that made it lame," said farmer Hoang Van Tien.

"The vets treated it, but the cow died seven days later."

Another 60 programme cows in neighbouring Dinh Lap District have also been detected with the disease, bringing the provincial total to about 200, the local veterinary department has reported.

Apart from Thanh Hoa and Lang Son, two other northern provinces, Lao Cai and Yen Bai, have also recorded outbreaks of the foot-and-mouth disease following implementation of the free-cow programme.

The Yen Bai Veterinary Department has so far counted 46 infected cows among those given by the programme to poor households in three communes - Pa Lau, Hat Liu and Ta Si Lang - and Tram Tau Town.

The Lao Cai Veterinary Department has reported that 33 programme cows in Muong Khuong District have been infected with the disease.

Veterinary agencies say that the aid programme's cows were collected from various areas without following disease detection measures.

For instance, the Lan Thanh Trade and Services Company in Thanh Hoa, tasked with providing cows for Lang Son Province, failed to abide by quaratine regulations while transporting the animals.

The programme cows had not been vaccinated against the foot-and-mouth disease or placed in quarantine before they were given to local households, the agencies said.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has asked the company that funds the programme to suspend it until the foot-and-mouth outbreak is controlled.

PM approves new HCM City hospital

The Prime Minister has given the green light for building Cho Ray Hospital No 2 in HCM City with funding from ODA (official development assistance) loans from Japan.

The 1,000-bed hospital, to be located on a 7ha area in Le Minh Xuan commune in Binh Chanh district, is meant to ease the overload on existing public hospitals.

The hospital, to be also called Vietnam–Japan Friendship Hospital, is estimated to cost VND4 trillion (US$287.9 million).

The PM has instructed the Ministries of Planning and Investment, Finance and Health to complete procedures for its construction.

Last September the city People's Committee had ordered relevant authorities to wrap up formalities and speed up site clearance for the project.

The city Department of Transport was ordered to develop infrastructure and connect the proposed location with provincial road 10.

The existing Cho Ray Hospital, founded and named Hospital Municipal de Cholon by the French in 1900, is located in District 5.

The 2,400-bed facility was renamed Cho Ray Hospital in 1957.

Between 1971 and 1974, with non-refundable aid from Japan, the Sai Gon regime built Cho Ray Hospital into an 11-storey facility on a 53,000sq.m area, making it the most modern hospital in Southeast Asia at the time.

Major fire at plastics factory, no injuries reported

A major fire broke out at a plastics company located in the Tan Duc industrial zone (IZ), Duc Hoa district, in the southern province of Long An causing extensive damage to the factory and surrounding area.

Large numbers of firefighters and more than 15 fire trucks were pressed into service at the Pao Yeng Technical Plastic Co. Ltd to douse the blaze.

Though the building along with huge quantities of raw materials and finished products were gutted, no injury to anyone was reported, fire officials said.

The fire, which broke out at around 10am on January 3, was controlled this evening, they said adding, the fire-fighters prevented the blaze from spreading.

The exact cause of the fire is yet to be ascertained.

Vietnam leads the way on climate change

Vietnam has been applauded by the international community for the timely submission of its biennial update report to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The timely completion of the report demonstrates the Vietnam government’s commitment to responsibly deal with global climate change and play an active leadership role in giving effect to the global convention.

Pham Van Tan, deputy director of the Department of Meteorology, Hydrology and Climate under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MoNRE) says the country is one of the first three to complete its report.

The upcoming year, 2015, will be a decisive year for implementing the global agreement on climate change Tan says adding the MoNRE has been assigned the task of coordinating with relevant ministries and agencies by the Prime Minister.

The goal is to be one of the first countries in the world to finalize the draft of a plan to reduce greenhouse emissions and adapt to climate change by the end of May and timely submit it to the Secretary of the UNFCCC.

Orbis Int’l funds eye care projects in Hue

Orbis International – a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving sight worldwide – is funding several eye care projects in Thua Thien Hue province, most notably the Flying Eye Hospital project in Hue.

Since early 2015 Orbis has provided more than VND4.4 billion for the project with an additional VND0.4 billion sourced from the local budget to improve the practice of medicine in Huong Thuy commune, Hue city.

The project aims to train 160 doctors and 70 nurse practitioners through seminars and sharing of experiences. Around 15 engineers and technicians will also take part in training courses to learn how to maintain and operate modern ophthalmology equipment.

Around 140 patients will be provided with vision screening, diagnosis and treatment guidelines while some 60 patients will receive surgeries and treatment to regain their eyesight.

Orbis is also funding a VND22.6 billion project providing eye care for children in the north central provinces of Vietnam, which will be carried out from now till June 2018 at the Hue Eye and Hue Central hospitals.

Fishing vessel sinks off coast of Thua-Thien Hue

When a fishing boat started taking on water off the coast of the central province of Thua Thien–Hue province on January 2, search and rescue crews were dispatched, but it was a group of Vietnamese fishermen who actually rescued the crew of 10.

The sinking ship, coded TTH95141, of Huynh Van Han in Phu Hai, Phu Vang district, with a captain and nine crewmembers on board were reported to be stranded in high winds and rough seas.

As soon as they received the SOS distress signal, a vessel owed by Truong Vinh La, also from Phu Hai commune immediately approached the sunken ship and rescued all on board.

The stranded ship, coded TTH95141, sank with all fishing tools and equipment on board.

Vietnamese people in Japan pray for peace in New Year

The Vietnamese community in Japan has rang in the New Year 2015 with a ceremony praying for peace attended by hundreds of people at Nisshinkutsu Pagoda in Tokyo.

Venerable Thich Quang Thanh, a member of the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha (VBS) Executive Council, wished them a happy new year and preached the meaning of celebrating the spring and praying for fortune in Buddhism.

At the event, he also thanked Most Venerable Yoshimizu Daichi, head of Nisshinkutsu Pagoda, for supporting the VBS’s activities as well as Vietnamese people in Japan. He wished the superior monk health and longevity to further help the Vietnamese community and Buddhist followers here, thus contributing to the close relations between the two peoples.

In the next days, similar ceremonies will be held at the monasteries of Kumagaya An Tinh Duong, Hamamatsu, and Phuoc Hue Aichi, which are run by the VBS and the Vietnamese Buddhist Association in Japan.

The Vietnamese Buddhist Association in Japan made its debut in Tokyo on October 5, 2014. It came into being under the VBS’s decision No.416 dated November 11, 2013, and was approved by the Japanese Government on February 28, 2014.

OV in Laos opens largest steel mill

An opening ceremony of a steel mill, the largest of its kind in Laos was held in Vientiane on January 1.

The mill, owned by an overseas Vietnamese, Mr. Pham Van Hung, has a capacity of 3,000 tonnes of steel per month and an investment capital of US$10 million

Hung, whose Lao name is Kham Hung Xay Cha Lon, built the first steel mill in 2001 with a small capacity of 10 tonnes of steel per day. Currently, his company owns three steel mills which cover an area of 3 hectares. The mills employ about 300 workers, 200 or 80% of them are Laotians.

The company has eight sales agents in Vientiane and three provinces in northern, central and southern Laos.

Disaster-hit localities get financial, rice assistance

The Prime Minister has decided a grant of 117.7 billion VND (5.52 million USD) to support 11 localities in surmounting the consequences of a recent drought that wreaked great havoc on their Summer-Autumn crop.

The localities, spanning from the central province of Thanh Hoa to the southernmost province of Ca Mau, will each get between 6.1 billion VND (286,700 USD) and 17.6 billion VND (827,200 USD), sourced from 2014’s State budget reserves.

Scorching heat between March and August in 2014 severely affected farming activity in the central, Central Highlands and Mekong Delta regions.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Department, in the south-central region and the Central Highlands , rainfall levels dropped 50-90 percent in the first three months compared to that of the previous year. Meanwhile, water levels in reservoirs reached only 60-70 percent of their designed capacity.

In Dak Lak province, drought caused damage to more than 5,500ha, including 4,000 ha of rice and 450 ha of coffee, causing 93 billion VND (4.4 million USD) in damages.

In Dak Nong province, it wreaked havoc on 240ha of rice and 1,860ha of coffee and other crops in Krong No district, while seriously affecting other districts.

In another move, the Prime Minister also assigned the Ministry of Finance to provide 1,000 tonnes of rice from the national reserves to the northern province of Lang Son, which was hard hit by Kalmaegi typhoon in last September, with a massive area of crops devastated.

The storm caused huge economic losses and seriously affected agriculture and aquaculture farming in the localities it swept through.-



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