Authorities uncover illegal timber trade

Police in Thua Thien – Hue Province have uncovered cases of illegal logging of rare trees that are listed in Vietnamese Red Book of Endangered Species.

The trees included Burma padauk (Pterocarpus macrocarpus), cho (Dipterocarpus retusus) son huyet (Melanorrhea laccifera), doi and chua. Exploitation, purchasing and transportation of these species are prohibited in Viet Nam.

Last Friday night, traffic police stopped a bus in the province's Huong Thuy District and found 1.6 cu.m of Burma padauk.

The bus driver said he was hired to transport the wood from the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak to Nghe An Province.

The previous day, environmental police in the province's A Luoi District seized 2.5 cu.m of wood that the truck driver could not provide proof of origin for.

Environmental police also stopped two trucks in Phong Dien District and found 8.3 cu.m of cho and chua.

Similar cases have been discovered in the adjacent central provinces of Quang Ngai, Quang Nam and Quang Tri.

Quang Ngai police found 4.3 cu.m on a truck travelling from Khanh Hoa Province to the north, while Quang Nam police seized 10.3 cu.m of son huyet (Melanorrhea laccifera) from the Song Bung hydro-electronic plant.

In Quang Tri, police found 5.5 cu.m of Burma padauk being transported from Laos to Dong Ha Town.

Experts said consumption of rare wood would remain high as Vietnamese preferred forest timber for construction and furniture, and very few consumers wanted industrial wood.

Undersea cable comes to Ly Son Island

A 20kV submarine cable line came to Ly Son island district in the central province of Quang Ngai on September 8, as part of a project to power the locality round the clock.

The line will be connected to a transformer station in the district’s An Vinh commune on September 10 and power will be generated on a trial basis five days later.

According to Tran Ngoc Nguyen, Chairman of the Ly Son People’s Committee, the event will help promote the locality’s socio-economic development, especially when it is focusing on marine-based economy and tourism.

The 652.5 billion VND (31.1 million USD) project includes 8.7km of middle voltage transmission lines in Binh Son district and 26.2km of 22kV undersea cables. It has been implemented by the Prismian-Thai Duong, a joint venture between two German and Vietnamese companies.

The transmission line network connecting Ly Son with the national grid is expected to put into operation on September 28, benefiting 22,000 islanders.

Fifteen nautical miles from land, Ly Son, covering 10, is the only island district of Quang Ngai.

It lies on the sea route from the north to the south of Vietnam and at the gateway of Quang Ngai’s Dung Quat Economic Zone, as well as of the central key economic region.

Tens of billions of dong raised for new rehabilitation centre for AO victims

The Association of Victims of Agent Orange/dioxin (VAVA) has so far received over 47 billion VND (2.3 million USD) in donations by organizations and individuals both domestic and foreign for the construction of a nursing and rehabilitation centre for AO victims.

VAVA Chairman Nguyen Van Rinh announced the sum on September 6 when he received donations from the Germany-Vietnam charitable association.

He expressed hope that the Germany-Vietnam charitable association will continue to help the project, especially in the construction of a vocational training facility at the centre, which will cost an estimated nearly 300 billion VND (15 million USD).

Rinh also asked the charity to work as a platform connecting VAVA with other philanthropists from Germany and the world.

Established in 1995, the Germany-Vietnam charitable association has regularly donated gifts and scholarships to poor children in Vietnam. So far this year, the association has made two donations worth a total of 7,300 Euro (9,500 USD) towards AO victims.

Overseas Vietnamese children celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival

Vietnamese embassies and expat community in many countries held mid-Autumn celebrations for their children with the purposes of enhancing community ties and nurturing the children’s love towards their homeland’s culture.

This is the first time the Association of Vietnamese in the UK in conjunction with the Embassy organised the full moon festival. The children were introduced to the origin of the festival and then joined in a parade of star lanterns. They also tasted Vietnamese traditional moon cakes and were given traditional toys such as bamboo dragon fly.

Similar events were held in India and Switzerland over the past few days. The Mid-Autumn Festival this year falls on September 8.

Parade, scholarship donation mark Mid-Autumn festival

Thousands of children, residents and tourists came together at Nguyen Tat Thanh Square in Phan Thiet city, Binh Thuan province, on September 7 for a Mid-Autumn lantern parade.

More than 3,000 children from the city’s 31 schools brought along their own colourful lanterns inspired by fairy tales, cartoon characters and national icons, such as naval ships and land markers on Truong Sa islands.

To the beat of the drums, 32 large lanterns and thousands of small ones marched through Phan Thiet’s streets, lighting up the entire city.

The parade provided a safe environment for children on the occasion of the mid-autumn festival. It is one of the five traditional festivals held in Binh Thuan province to promote the local tourism sector.

The parade was recognised as the largest of its kind in Vietnam by the Vietnam Book of Records (Vietbooks) and as the tourism sector’s most successful cultural festival by the Guide Awards.

The same day, the event “Moon Festival – Illuminate Vietnamese children’s dreams” was held in Can Tho city for children in the Mekong delta.

Around 40 disadvantaged students from the region’s 13 provinces were awarded scholarships during the event.

On this occasion, the Joint Stock Commercial Bank for Foreign Trade of Vietnam (Vietcombank), Vietnam Mobile Telecom Services Company (Mobifone), and other sponsors, presented over 300 scholarships and 3,200 gifts to children.

Present at the event, Vice President Nguyen Thi Doan wished the children of the region a happy festival and expressed her hope that the event would encourage them to keep up the good work in future.

The programme was organised by the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union in cooperation with Vietnam National Television and Vietcombank.-

Vietnamese, Cambodia localities boost partnership

Officials of the southern province of Dong Thap and Cambodia’s northwest province of Banteay Meanchey met in Dong Thap on September 7 to review cooperation between the two localities in the 2011-2013 period.

The two provinces have worked together to boost trade and tourism activities as well as facilitate investment activities by each other’s businesses.

Agriculture is a focus in their partnership, with Dong Thap enterprises encouraged to invest in the Cambodian province in this field.

In 2012, Banteay Meanchey allowed some Dong Thap-based businesses to rent 80 ha of land for farming.

During the flood season in 2013, Dong Thap provided more than 8 tonnes of rice seed for the Cambodian province to help farmers there overcome the consequences of flooding.

The two provinces also held numerous cultural and artistic exchanges to increase mutual understanding and friendship of their people.

Quang Ngai worries about degraded suspension bridges

Nearly half of the existing 32 suspension bridges in the southern central province of Quang Ngai are severely damaged and degraded, but a lack of funding is preventing local authorities from repairing these bridges, putting people’s safety at risk, according to the provincial Department of Transport.

Residents in the mountainous districts of Tay Tra, Son Ha and Ba To still use 10 poorly-made, heavily degraded bridges daily.

In preparation for the upcoming flood and storm season, Tay Tra, as well as other mountainous districts, is requesting funding from the province to repair the bridges that are in bad conditions.

However, according to the Department of Transport, as local resources, especially at the commune and district levels are currently very limited, it is impossible to arrange investments for the renovation of all suspension bridges in the province.

Factory workers suffocate to death

Three workers were found dead in the wastewater treatment reservoir of a rubber latex factory in southern Tay Ninh Province.

The employees of Hoa Hiep Hung Co. Ltd in the province's Hoa Hiep Commune, aged 26, 31 and 32, were said to have suffocated from toxic gas exposure.

The provincial police are investigating the incident.

The company provided initially support of VND20 million (US$950) for the two victims from the province and VND50 million ($2,350) for the victim from southern Ben Tre Province.

Five children drown across weekend

At least five children drowned in three separate incidents across the country on Saturday.

The first accident happened in the northern mountainous province of Cao Bang, when five students went swimming in a spring in Nam Tuan Commune.

The group had life preservers, but only two managed to escape, while the swift current swept away the other three. Their bodies were recovered soon afterwards.

The second accident happened in southern Binh Duong Province when a nine-year-old boy was swept into a wastewater drainage pipe due to heavy rain in Thuan Giao Commune. His body has not been recovered.

The third claimed the life of a seven-year-old boy in the province's Tan Hiep Commune, whose body was found in a wastewater drainage pipe.

Loans granted to aid students' studies

Over 3.3 million students had received loans to pursue studies under a credit programme approved by the Prime Minister, according to the Vietnam Bank for Social Policies (VBSP).

The bank's leaders said it had prepared sufficient capital to meet all requests for loans by eligible students in the 2014-15 academic year.

Deputy General Director of VBSP Nguyen Van Ly highly valued the programme, and attributed its success to open and transparent procedures as well as capital management. With the close co-ordination of local authorities, VBSP could also perform transactions in communes, and reduce fees and procedures for applicants.

According to a decision issued by the Prime Minister in July, the maximum loan for each student is VND1.1 million (US$55). However, Ly wants to raise the amount with the cost of living.

HCM City seeks investors for playgrounds

The chairwoman of the HCM City People's Council, Nguyen Thi Quyet Tam, has told local authorities to create favourable conditions for private investors to invest in playgrounds for children.

Speaking on the Listen and Discuss talk show on HCM City Television on Sunday, Tam said such investment was a priority, but to ensure its efficient use, the city should call for private investors' participation.

Implementing Resolution 15 of the People's Council's seventh term on developing playgrounds for children in the 2011-15 period, the city has built 10 playgrounds and three houses for children in Tan Phu, Hoc Mon and Binh Chanh districts.

The city's districts and investors have also built 67 playgrounds in parks and other places.

By the end of 2015, the city is expected to build 5,700 new playgrounds in the city's new rural areas.

Nguyen Van Minh, deputy director of the city's Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said the city now had 5,097 playgrounds for children.

Of the figure, 80 per cent have an area of less than 100sq.m, 13 per cent have an area of 100-1,000sq.m, and 7 per cent have an area of more than 1,000sq.m.

"The playgrounds are small and do not meet the demand of children," Minh said.

The city's 15 districts each have a 3D screening room in their children's houses, and the remaining nine districts are now building 3D screening rooms.

However, some 3D screening rooms have not been operating effectively.

The Tan Binh District's 3D screening room, for instance, has only four shows a week.

Huynh Cong Hung, head of the People's Council's Culture and Society Division, said 3D screening rooms did not have many films and of those, many were not new and did not attract children.

Participants at the talk show said many playgrounds were polluted and have degraded entertainment facilities such as the playground in Phu Lam Park in District 6 and the playground in September 23 Park in District 1.

They also suggested that the city invest in facilities to help schools carry out extracurricular activities effectively.

Decree steps up penalties for errant transport firms

The owners of transport companies would face harsher penalties under an amended decree that will be submitted to the Government by the Ministry of Transport.

The amended set of rules, which would replace the current Decree 91/2009/ND-CP on transport enterprises, could see more responsibility placed on state authorities, including local transport departments and the Directorate for Roads of Viet Nam.

The plan was unveiled by Minister of Transport Dinh La Thang on an episode of "People Ask-Ministers Answer" on Vietnam Television on Sunday.

The move follows a number of accidents that occurred during the country's National Day holiday.

In the four days between August 30 and September 2, authorities reported 186 traffic accidents that left 114 dead and 145 injured. On National Day (September 2) alone, there were 63 accidents that saw 48 perish and injured 75.

The holiday death tally also includes two rail accidents that killed three people, reported the National Traffic Safety Committee.

A further 13 people died on September 1 after a coach carrying 53 passengers plunged into an abyss after trying to avoid a car travelling in the opposite direction.

The bus, owned by the Sao Viet Company, was traveling from the northern mountainous resort town of Sa Pa back to Lao Cai Town when the accident occurred.

Minister Thang commented that the Ha Noi-based Minh Thanh Phat Commerce and Service Co Ltd, which owns the transport company, had breached regulations on the bus's route and was carrying too many passengers.

"It proved that the effectiveness of State management on transport operators and traffic safety is not good enough," said Thang.

The Ha Noi Department of Transport, which was responsible for issuing the company's trading certificate, had also failed to fulfill its responsibility to carry out supervision, he said.

Truck drivers fined for overweight trucks

Police in the Cho Don District of northern Bac Kan Province have slapped fines on 15 overweight trucks transporting ore, said the province's Vice Chief Transport Inspector Bui Van Hai yesterday.

The trucks were found on Saturday and exceeded weight limits by between 82 and 603 per cent. Each truck was fined VND6 million ($280) while the drivers will have their licences confiscated for 60 days.

AmCham announces annual scholarships

The American Chamber of Commerce in HCM City has announced this year's scholarships worth VND1.5 billion ($69,700) to students from 11 universities in HCM City.

The 45 scholarships are valued at VND10 million each, with another 15 valued at VND4 million, and 180 ACCA accountancy foundation scholarships worth VND5.5 million ($260).

They will be awarded to students in the third year or above in the 2014-15 academic year with good academic results, fluent English, and active participation in extracurricular activities.

Heavy rain damages Ca Mau Province dike

The West Sea dike in the southern province of Ca Mau has been seriously damaged after it slid down following three days of continuous heavy rain.

This was announced by Le Van Su, director of the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. Today morning, the sea water overflowed some parts of the dike in Tran Van Thoi District through which more than 40 kilometres of the dike system passes. The sea water encroached more than 3 kilometres of farm land.

In some other sections, the sea water damaged the base of the dike, raising the risk of breaking of the structure.

Local authorities used sandbags and wooden stakes to temporarily strengthen the base of the dike.

The dike of the West Sea in Ca Mau Province is120 kilometres long and passes through the Phu Tan, U Minh and Tran Van Thoi districts which border Kien Giang Province.

It not only prevents sea water from overflowing into farm land, but is also used in the province's defence system.

The dike was first installed in 1990. But as it was made of soil and did not have a concrete embankment, it was downgraded.

The province's project to upgrade the dike system was approved by the Government with a total funding of VND1.3 trillion (US$61.9 million). During the period 2013-14, the province received VND50 billion ($2.3 million) each year. The funds were used to build 3kilometres of dikes and to repair areas where the dikes had slid down.

Every year, the province loses dozens of billions of dong due to sliding down of land into rivers, according to the provincial Department of Natural Resources and Environment.

Specifically, the province uses VND15 billion ($714,200) from the State budget per year to repair the damage cause by the landslide, and VND5 billion ($238,000) to pay the labourers doing the repair work.

The farm products lost due to sliding down of land were estimated to be worth about VND10 billion ($476,100) per year.

Lack of funds halts work to strengthen sea defences

A lack of capital has delayed planned sea dyke upgrades in northeastern Quang Ninh Province's Tien Yen District for two years.

Built in the 1960s, the 5.3km Ha Dong sea dyke has fallen into disrepair. The provincial People's Committee approved a VND86 billion (US$4 million) project to upgrade the dyke in 2008. However, while construction was set to wrap up in late 2010, it has yet to be finished. Other projects to build stretches of sea dyke in Dong Ngu and Dong Rui communes are also behind schedule.

The construction of a sea dyke stretch in Dong Rui Commune worth over VND45 billion ($2.1 million), which kicked off in November 2011, has been behind schedule for nearly two years.

The same was true for Dong Nam sea dyke in Dong Ngu, where over VND41 billion ($1.9 million) was invested in construction, and Truong Doan sea dyke in Tien Lang Commune.

Acting director of Tien Yen District Project Management Board Ha Van Tinh said that the district was making efforts to find capital to complete the projects.

The district now has 52km of sea dykes.

Health insurance dialogue for people with disabilities

The Vietnam Federation for Disability in co-ordination with the Irish Aid hosted a dialogue on health insurance for handicapped people in Hanoi on September 8.

There are about 5.1 million disabled people in Vietnam today, comprising 6% of the population.

Some recent surveys have shown that 70% of disabled people using voluntary health insurance card are not satisfied with the quality of health care.   

Revised health insurance law to be applied from January 1, 2015 is expected to create a legal mechanism for people with disabilities.

Delegates suggested policy makers should continue revamping mechanisms and policies aimed at encouraging handicapped people to engage in health insurance and raise public awareness of the importance of using health insurance.

Danang officially launches new administrative centre

The Central City of Danang officially inaugurated a new 37-storey Administrative Centre on September 8.

Construction of the VND2 trillion centre commenced on November 15, 2008. The building is 167 metres high and spans an area of 65,200 square metres.

About 1,600 city employee will work in the centre and over 600 citizens are expected to use it daily.

The centre will help citizens and businesses have easier access to public administration services.

Speaking at the inauguration ceremony, Chairman of Danang municipal People’s Committee Chairman Van Huu Chien said the centre will create a professional and dynamic environment to deal with administrative procedures more swiftly and effectively.

Greetings to Khmer people on Sene Dolta Festival

A delegation from the Vietnam Fatherland Front, led by its Vice President Le Ba Trinh, paid visits to the monks at Prek On Dot Pagoda and the Khmer people of the Mekong Delta province of Soc Trang on September 8 to express congratulatory wishes on the occasion of the Sene Dolta Festival 2014.

The delegation presented gifts to the Most Venerable Duong Nhon, Vice President of the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha’s Executive Council and head of the Soc Trang Buddhist Sangha’s Executive Board, as well as to Buddhist followers in the locality.

The Most Venerable Duong Nhon, who is also head of Prek On Dot Pagoda, briefed the delegation on the improvements made to the lives of Khmer Buddhists in the locality in particular, and the province’s Khmer in general. Khmer culture and religious sites have received attention from provincial authorities and agencies.

Trinh extended his greetings to the Most Venerable Duong Nhon, the pagoda’s monks and the Khmer people, wishing them a happy festive season.

He called on them to join local authorities’ efforts to carry out the national solidarity policy, promote national solidarity, prevent waste, and build a prosperous homeland.

The Sene Dolta Festival is one of the largest annual Khmer festivals, along with Chol Chnam Thmay (New Year) and Ooc Oom Bok, a festival to thank the Moon for good harvests.

It is held from the 30th day of the eighth lunar month to the second day of the ninth lunar month each year, and it brings Khmer people together to pay tribute to their ancestors and celebrate with traditional songs and dance after a hard working year.

Embassy of Israel launches startup competition

The Embassy of Israel in Vietnam launched an exciting competition for Vietnamese science and technology startup ventures in Hanoi on September 8.

The competition aims to find the best Vietnamese early-stage technology startup ventures to join entrepreneurs from around the world at a boot camp in Tel Aviv, which boasts the second largest success rate for new businesses in the world.

At the launch ceremony, Deputy Minister of Science and Technology Tran Van Tung revealed the sector aims to establish 3,000 new businesses by 2015, emphasizing technology startups are a driving force in the modernization movement.

For his part, Israeli Ambassador to Vietnam, Meirav Eilon Shahar shared Israel’s start-up experiences, adding that the event will create stronger links among Vietnam’s young enterprises and serve as a bridge with Israeli businesses.

The competition entitled Startup Israel – 2014 targets Vietnamese young businesses operating in the fields of web, mobile, agriculture and science from two to three years.

War veterans meet Vietnamese expats in Laos

The club of Vietnamese fellow-countrymen in Xiangkhouang, Laos organised an exchange in Vientiane on September 7 with a delegation from the Truong Son Club, including former Vietnamese volunteer soldiers in Laos.

Speaking at the event, Chairman of the club Tran Hanh said the club has been operating for nine years with its members mainly being Vietnamese who were born and raised in Xiangkhouang province and are living in the capital Vientiane .

They help each other in business and preserve Vietnamese cultural identities, thus contributing to nurturing the Vietnam-Laos special relationship, he added.

On behalf of Truong Son war veterans, Colonel Dang Cong Huynh from the Truong Son-Ho Chi Minh Trail Traditional Association said he is very happy to meet with overseas Vietnamese in Xiangkhouang.

Truong Son ex-soldiers and former Vietnamese volunteers in Laos will never forget the assistance of the Lao people and Vietnamese in Xiangkhouang for them during the war, he affirmed.

According to Huynh, since it was set up in 2011, his association has developed into a network of 128 chapters across the country with nearly 30,000 members. It has built 1,300 charity houses and presented 400 scholarships to poor children.

Vietnamese, Cambodia localities boost partnership

Officials of the southern province of Dong Thap and Cambodia’s northwest province of BanteayMeanchey met in Dong Thap on September 7 to review cooperation between the two localities in the 2011-2013 period.

The two provinces have worked together to boost trade and tourism activities as well as facilitate investment activities by each other’s businesses.

Agriculture is a focus in their partnership, with Dong Thap enterprises encouraged to invest in the Cambodian province in this field.

In 2012, BanteayMeanchey allowed some Dong Thap-based businesses to rent 80 ha of land for farming.

During the flood season in 2013, Dong Thap provided more than 8 tonnes of rice seed for the Cambodian province to help farmers there overcome the consequences of flooding.

The two provinces also held numerous cultural and artistic exchanges to increase mutual understanding and friendship of their people.

Restoration of Lao revolution relic site completed

The northern province of Tuyen Quang held a ceremony on September 6 to mark the completion of the restoration of the national historical relic site of the Lao revolution in My Bang commune, Yen Son district.

The project, funded by the national target programme on culture and other sources, was carried out by the provincial Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

It recovered the house and working office of Lao Prince Souphanouvong as well as paths, steles and yards in the relic site, where the National Congress of the Lao Resistance Front took place on August 13, 1950.

The congress elected Prince Souphanouvong as the Prime Minister of the Lao Resistance Government and Kaysone Phomvihane as the Defence Minister, along with the Executive Committee of the Lao Freedom Front (Neo Lao Issara) to promote the struggle against the French colonialists.

Souphanouvong and Kaysone Phomvihane stayed here from June 1950 to late 1951 to lead the revolutionary movement of the Lao people.

Speaking at the ceremony, Vice Chairman of the provincial People’s Committee Nguyen Hai Anh said that the restoration of the relic site was a vivid manifestation of for the special solidarity and friendship between the two Parties, States and peoples.

Forum focuses on piloted health plan

Officials from the Ministry of Health and four provinces which pilot a programme on capacity building for health planning and budgeting are sharing their experiences at a two-day workshop that opened in the central city of Da Nang yesterday.

Organised with support from the EU, the workshop seeks to assist hospitals in using planning templates and an operations manual issued by the ministry this year for annual health planning and budgeting at the central and provincial levels.

They were developed by the ministry with support from the EU's Health Sector Capacity Support Project (HSCSP).

A health official from Bac Ninh, one of the four provinces that piloted the programme along with Ha Nam, Thanh Hoa, and Yen Bai, said his province used the new templates for the 2014 health plan.

"With the new method, health planning is results oriented, with full analysis of risks and assumptions for implementing the plan while the issue of monitoring and evaluation is clearly and comprehensively defined," he said.

Hoang Kim Ha, head of policy at the ministry's Planning and Financial Department, said that "the planning templates will help health planning to be carried out in a uniform manner throughout the country."

"It will also help define clearly what tasks should be resolved by the locality with Ministry of Health guidance and what tasks should be handled by the locality itself," Ha said.

"The new tools will, step by step, indentify the responsibility of each and every level in the health system in providing health care and protection for the people."

"The application by all provinces of these planning templates will facilitate and speed up the bottoms-up approach in health planning and projections through the use of information technology."

"This will help improve efficiency in planning, statistics, reporting, monitoring, and supervision of the health planning implementation process," Ha added.

All provinces in the country will join the programme by 2020.