Regulation requiring insurance for domestic help draws fire

Many people have voiced objections to a newly-issued regulation requiring employers of domestic helpers to pay labour insurance.

The newly-issued Decree 27 guides the implementation of the Labour Law governing social and medical insurance for those who work as domestic help.

The regulation, which will take effect on May 25 stipulates that employers of domestic help must sign labour contracts that stipulate the salaries, living conditions, transport fees, any funding for vocational training and any other compensation.

The regulation also requires that domestic help have at least eight hours for rest, including six consecutive resting hours, along with at least one full day off per week with pay. Employers must also pay extra for overtime and work during holidays.

Domestic help would have 12 days of annual leave if they work for one consecutive year for a single employer.

Employers will also be required to pay an additional sum of money equivalent to required social and health insurance for their domestic help to facilitate them to buy insurance on their own.

The regulation has not attracted much attention from domestic workers, as they largely lack of information.

Nguyen Thi Tham, 51, a domestic worker for a family in Hanoi, said, “I just come here to work and earn some money to prepare for my elderly years. I never thought of it as a career. I may not live until the time when I'm able to collect a pension, so the regulation doesn't mean much to me."

Many domestic workers say that they dare not ask for the required payments from their house masters but hope for good treatment. Some even fear losing their jobs if they ask for new benefits.

Meanwhile, the regulation has attracted a lot of attention from employers, many of whom oppose it.

A man named Tuan from Hanoi said that it will not be easy to implement the regulation because it depends on negotiations between two parties.

“The regulation requires us to allow our domestic help to take one full day off each week but we can’t comply to that. We had to hire domestic help to take care of our baby while we are at work. Compliance to the regulation means we would have to work while our helper is off on the weekend, and that is impossible,” he commented.

Some other people have said that they would face difficulties if their domestic help regularly took off one to two days per month to meet the requirements for annual leave. They say they cannot stop working and stay at home to take care of their children in order to work around the lives of their domestic helpers.

“I think that there should not be a fixed policy on social and medical insurance for domestic help, as they don’t care much about it and are more interested in their total monthly income. This is an issue for negotiation between the two sides involved. The regulation just sets up a sanction to prevent the abuse of domestic workers," said one woman.

Parents in Hanoi keep children at home to avoid measles transmission

Parents of young children in Hanoi are keeping them from going to preschool due to the measles epidemic.

There is also a large concern about bringing children to crowded public places. Many have sent their children to the countryside.

There are currently over 7,000 people infected with the disease nationwide and with over 100 deaths due to complications related to the disease since December 2013. The concentration of infections is most prevalent in Hanoi. The Central Pediatrics Hospital of Hanoi is currently overcrowded with patients infected with measles.

The Ministry of Education and Training have yet to take action regarding this issue.

Southern provinces experiences heat wave and rain

Districts 4, 5, 7, 8, and Nha Be in HCMC experienced heavy rains on April 16. Other southern provinces including Tay Ninh, Kien Giang, and An Giang also experienced heavy rain.

The provinces had 100 mm of rainfall recorded, according to the Southern Hydro Meteorological Center.

The majority of the record resulted from scattered thunderstorms, said Nguyen Minh Giam, the center’s deputy director.

The rain is due to a cold front from the north travelling south to the hot humidity, said Giam. The hot current with low pressure caused heavy rain and thunderstorm in some regions.

The region will be experiencing clear weather with a heat wave, according to the forecast. Provinces are expected to experience temperatures of 37-39 degrees Celsius. Western provinces will experience a 2 or 3 degree drop in temperature.

The rainy season is expected to start at the end of April or the beginning of May. Coastal provinces including Kien Giang, Cau Mau and southeastern provinces will experience heavy rain.

This year’s rainy season will commence later than last year. Average rainfall is also expected to be lower.

HCMC to build more kindergartens schools

Ho Chi Minh City will allocate over VND 44 billion (US $2 million) to build 20 new preschools.

The city will also provide investment capital for 93 school building projects in 22 districts with VND9.4 billion (US$446,500) for the first phase.

The city will provide over VND 1 trillion to support private kindergartens in accordance to government’s decision on supporting private preschools, said Director of the Department of Finance in HCMC Dao Thi Huong Lan. However, it is a big sum.

Lan petitions indirect supporting methods including providing stimulus packages, land hiring exemptions, and free training for teaching staff in non-public kindergartens.

The Ministry of Education and Training, the Ministry of Finance, and the Ministry of Interior issued a decree to provide financial support to teachers in private preschools. At present, preschools teachers are still not able to receive aid due to unclear policy and registration.

84 winners of technical skill contest honored

The 84 winners of the technical skill contest for students in vocational schools were honored on April 15.

The winners along with 55 trainers received certificates of merit. This year’s contest received 219 applicants from vocational facilities in HCMC.

The first and second-prize winners will be selected into a team for the national technical skill contest in May 2014. Winners will qualify to participate in the 10th ASEAN Technical Skill Contest in Vietnam.

Video conference product is promising to revolutionize medical procedures

INext Company from the Poly Technique University in HCMC invented a product allowing doctors in districts quickly contact medical experts through video conference.

The pilot program for the product was at People’s Hospital 115. It aided in four difficult operations.

The use of the product was during a hip-replacement operation for an 84-year-old woman. Online operations have linked with hospitals in Ca Mau and Tien Giang provinces. The product was checked by the Department of Science and Technology in March.

Doctors in provinces and districts can easily connect with their counterparts in big hospitals who will guide during difficult operations, said Nguyen Chi Ngoc, lecturer at the university and representative of the INext Company. This is an effective training for doctors in small hospitals.

Older methods of video conferences were used at Cho Ray in HCMC and Viet-Duc and Bach Mai hospitals in Hanoi before this technology was invented. Through the older method, scans and MRIs had to be separately faxed to the hospitals. Doctors are able to share more information with the new method.

The implementation of INEXT’s product will give doctors in distant clinics conferences with leading medical experts in big cities, said Dr. Nguyen Dinh Phu, deputy head of People Hospital 115. Many patients are unable to transfer hospitals therefore this method will alleviate that issue.

The Ministry of Health used to ask doctors in central hospitals to go to remote areas to help their colleagues and transfer technologies. Overcrowding in the city hospitals make it hard for doctors to leave. Dr. Phu believes the new product will help increase treatment quality and reduce pressure on big hospitals.

The new product will be used in People’s Hospital 115 in late 2014 and then it will be used in hospitals in district 7, 12 and the General Hospital in Ca Mau Province.

Illegal logging destroys protected forest

The Song Lo protected forest in Thanh Hoa Province is being destroyed and forest rangers seem to be unable to control the situation.

Blatant illegal logging has been reported by residents of Lam Phu Commune, Lang Chanh District. Large areas of chopped down trees riddle the path that leads to the forest. The loggers have cut down trees in many forest areas such as Lan Chay, Me Giang and Ong Vien.

After cutting wood into suitable planks and blocks, the loggers use motorbikes to carry it out under cover of darkness. They often work in large groups of four to six so that they can intimidate rangers if they are caught.

The deeper into the forest one goes, the more treeless areas can be found. The illegal loggers do not bother with stealth. A large amount of lumber can be seen sitting around near the centre of the village of Na Dang.

Nguyen Duy Vinh, the head of the forest ranger unit in Lang Chanh District admitted that the situation has gotten out of control in and around Na Dang Village. Since late 2013, they have increased the number of rangers there but, due to large area and lack of personnel, the problem continues.

As of late 2013, loggers were able to take away dozens of cubic metres of woods. Locals refuse to act for fear of reprisals.

"We tried to do our best. We've made reports to the Thanh Hoa Province People's Committee so that they could direct the relevant agencies to deal with the problem," Vinh said.

The chairman of Lang Chanh District People's Committee also said they asked forest rangers and managers of Song Lo forest increase their efforts to prevent illegal logging. "We'll report to the higher-ups if becomes necessary," he said.

Vietnam indicts 3 Taiwanese for sending 229kg of heroin to Taiwan

Vietnamese police have taken legal proceedings against three Taiwanese for their involvement in a case in which 600 bricks of heroin weighing 229 kg, worth nearly US$400 million, were sent by air without detection from Ho Chi Minh City to Taiwan in November last year.

These Taiwanese are Sung Yuan Hsuan, 34, Pan Po Chung, 40, and Chen Kuo Shun, 37, who have been charged with “illegally transporting drugs” in Vietnam.

They arrived in Vietnam on September 11, 2013 through Tan Son Nhat International Airport in HCMC where they stayed at a hotel in District 3, according to investigators.

On October 16, they bought two loudspeakers from a company in Tan Phu District. Five days later, they purchased 10 more loudspeakers.

The three men packed the devices in 12 cardboard containers and kept them at their hotel.

After stuffing heroin into these 12 loudspeakers, the Taiwanese trio commissioned Le Hoa Trading and Forwarding Company Limited, located in District 1, to carry out all procedures necessary for sending the 12 drug-containing loudspeakers to Taiwan.

Le Hoa then had another freight forwarding company, KL Freight Forwarding Company, which is a business partner of China Airlines, arrange with the carrier to send the shipments to the territory.

On November 16, the 12 cardboard containers, weighing 438 kg in total, were transported to Tan Son Nhat.

After e-customs procedures for the shipments were completed, the cargos were put through a scanning system of the airport’s security force for examination but the system failed to detect the drugs.

The heroin, weighing 229 kilograms, was seized by Taiwanese customs officers at Taoyuan International Airport a day later.

Each of the containers contained 50 bricks of heroin that were coated with chocolate paste in order to fool detection dogs, said Taiwan’s Criminal Investigation Bureau.

The street value of the drugs, allegedly originating in Myanmar, is estimated at about $380 million.

Vietnamese police and customs officials have launched their investigations into the case following the seizure.

In late November 2013, Tan Son Nhat Security Services Company suspended four executives of a team in charge of scanning and inspecting goods for failing to discover the drugs.

On November 26, 2013, Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc directed relevant ministries strengthen measures to prevent drugs from being shipped to and from Vietnam.

He also asked the Ministry of Public Security to coordinate with competent agencies, both at home and abroad, to find out the origin of the drugs and identify those responsible for sending them to Taiwan.

To date, Taiwanese police have arrested ten people for investigation.

Newly-built schools left unused in Thanh Hoa

A number of schools in Nghi Xuan District, one of the poorest districts of Thanh Hoa Province, have been left abandoned after being used for just a few years.

The schools were built under the government’s Programme 135 and foreign-funded projects. Binh Luong Commune, just some kilometres from the district centre, has three schools which were put into use between 2004 and 2005 that now sit empty and quiet.

Among those, the kindergarten in Luon Village cost VND200 million (USD9,520), including VND45 million from a Canadian-funded project, with the rest coming from contributions by local people.

This kindergarten has since been turned into a cultural house for the village. Meanwhile, the two primary schools now serve as a warehouse and a guesthouse.

Some residents said that at one point the primary school in Luon Village was even covered with wild grass;  a place for cows to graze and hearses to park.

Dinh Tan Tuan, Chairman of Binh Luong Commune People’s Committee, admitted the schools had been left idle. He blamed the situation on a failure of the schools to enroll enough students. After the closures, the schools were left to the communes for management, but no official documentation of the handover was issued.

Le Nhan Tri, Deputy Director of Nhu Xuan District’s Department of Education and Training, asserts that the transfers were certified by a document on asset guarantees, but when asked about this, he refused to produce it.

According to Tri, some other local communes are in the same situation. He promised to provide the reporter with a specific figure about the number of the unused schools, but two days later he would not receive the reporter's call.

Ministry explains controversial education package

Pham Ngoc Phuong, a spokesman for the Ministry of Education and Training (MoET), explained how over VND34 trillion (USD1.61 billion) will be spent on education reform.

According to Phuong, they will need about VND105 billion to creating new content for textbooks, curriculum and teaching materials; VND910 billion will be spent on pilot teaching programmes at 600 primary, secondary and high schools; the implementation of the nationwide programme, in cluding 30,000 schools, will cost about VND8 trillion.

VND20 trillion will be spent on buying additional equipment, replacing 50% of the current equipment, and printing textbooks. The rest will be used on the application of information technology to teaching methods and exams.

The MoET said the largest chunk of the budget, VND20 trillion for equipment, will be given directly by the Ministry of Finance to localities. Leaders of the MoET also said that, even without the reform plan, they would still need funds for equipment upgrades.

At the April 15 press conference with the MoET, a representative from the media pointed out that Vietnam has already invested a large amount in teaching equipment, much of which was wasted, as some of the equipment has never been used.

A member of drafting committee for textbooks and curriculum, Do Ngoc Thong, said, "We are not hiding anything. This number is just an estimate. The entire cost of the programme must go through various reviews by the Ministry of Finance and National Assembly's inspectorates, so it's difficult to give exact numbers at this time."

Thong said they will still make use of the equipment that has already been acquired and that the main focus of the plan is on revamping learning and teaching methods. The MoET is collecting opinions and aims to complete their plan by April 25 in order to submit it for discussion at the NA meeting in May.

Supermarket staff humiliate schoolgirl, may face prosecution

Police in the central highlands province of Gia Lai are considering prosecuting several staff members at a local supermarket for abusing a schoolgirl who was suspected of stealing books.

The incident occurred on the afternoon of April 10, when, according to the student, she put her money in her bag, which was put at the supermarket cabinet. The girl then took two books worth VND10,000 (USD0.47) each, intending to pay for them after getting the money from her bag.

However, she was stopped by security when she went to the first floor. Store security tied her to the stairs, hung a sign around her neck saying “I’m a thief," took her photo and uploaded it to Facebook. When her friend called one of the girl's relatives for help, the relative was asked to pay a fine of VND200,000 (USD9.47) for her to be released.

“We decided to pay the fine because we think that our child was wrong to some extent and we don’t want to cause any more trouble,” her parents said.

Nguyen Thi Nga, the owner of the supermarket, said she was not at the supermarket when the incident occurred and it was never reported to her.

Nga added that the security guard responsible claimed that he did it just for fun. After the public outcry following the incident, the security guard resigned.

General Dinh Binh, head of police in Chu Se District said they are investigating the incident.

RMIT plans new facility in Hanoi

RMIT International University Vietnam is seeking a location in Hanoi to build a new campus as part of its strategy to expand in Vietnam and attract more students.

The new facility in the capital city was unveiled by professor Gael McDonald, new president and general director of RMIT Vietnam, at a function in HCMC yesterday. However, she did not unveil the investment capital needed for this new campus as this depended on the site RMIT could find.

McDonald said RMIT had invested significantly in Vietnam in the past 13 years and used its revenue for reinvestment in educational development here in the country.

RMIT Vietnam currently has 6,000 students, including some 4,500 students at its Saigon South campus in HCMC’s District 7. The Australian-owned university looks to bring the total number to 15,000 by 2020.

To achieve this goal, RMIT Vietnam will focus on enhancing teaching quality and investing in new facilities in the next five years. In addition, it will intensify cooperation with enterprises in training and recruiting graduates.

Late last year, the university inaugurated Academic Building 2 at its Saigon South campus in order to double its teaching space in HCMC. The facility, equipped with modern teaching and learning technology, allows for a range of flexible learning spaces.

With its 14,400 square meters of space across six levels, the new building can house up to 1,100 students at a time.

RMIT Vietnam is a 100% Australian-invested university established in Vietnam in 2001 with initial investment capital of US$25 million. It offers courses on business, engineering, communications, economics and marketing, among others.