VN mulls Criminal Code improvements

Challenges that lie ahead for Viet Nam after the ratification of the United Nations Convention against Torture last year were discussed at an international conference held in HCM City last week.

The conference, with the theme United Nations Convention against Torture and the Implementation of State's Obligations - Experience for Viet Nam, was organised by the HCM City University of Law in collaboration with Viet Nam Lawyers Association.

Viet Nam signed the Convention in November 2013 and is now taking steps to ratify it. The conference aims to introduce the main content of the Convention and discuss issues related to the ratification and implementation of the Convention.

"Every act of torture and corporal punishment to collect evidence during investigation must be eliminated in the light of implementing the UN Convention against Torture," said Scott Ciment, legal advisor of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Viet Nam.

Evidence that is untrustworthy or unacceptable must be prohibited in the Viet Nam's Criminal Code.

Nguyen Ngoc Hoa, vice rector of Ha Noi Law University, said the current criminal code of Viet Nam has no specific and direct offence of torture.

However, acts of torture can be prosecuted under other offences already provided by the criminal code.

Le Thi Thuy Duong of the criminal law faculty of HCM City Law University said the current legal provisions on interrogation basically meet the requirements of prohibition of torture.

However, in order to effectively implement the process of incorporation of the Convention's requirement into domestic law, as well as for a better protection of the human rights of criminal defenders, the criminal procedure law of Viet Nam needs to strengthen provisions regarding interrogation as well as provide for necessary mechanisms to warrant its effectiveness, he said.

In particular, the state should improve provisions in Article 131 and 306 of the Criminal Procedure Code regarding interrogation; Article 58 regarding the rights of advocacy; institutionalise the right to remain silent for criminal defenders; and legalise interrogation techniques and enhance supervising mechanisms for interrogation activities and the participation of prosecutor, witnesses, and use of video-tape recording devices.

Tomas Max Martin, of the Danish Institute of Human Rights, said the UN Convention against Torture obliges the State to prevent torture.

Risks of torture and ill-treatment exist everywhere, in any country at any time, he said.

Torture prevention is a global strategy that intends to reduce risks and create an environment where torture and ill-treatment are less likely to occur.

An effective legal framework must be in place that both prohibits and prevents torture and other form of ill-treatment, he said, adding that laws and regulations need to be applied in practice.

Implementation is achieved through training of the police and other actors.

The control mechanism should be in place in order to check both whether the legal framework exists and whether it is implemented, he explained.

Regular visits to places of detention by independent bodies constitute one of these control mechanisms.

Martin also stressed the important role of education as a means to fight torture.

Peter Vedel Kessing, senior researcher at the Danish Institute of Human Rights, said Denmark had been successful in building an effective prime-model framework that included policy, regulation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.

Japan proposes underground malls at future metro station

Japan has proposed the construction of underground facilities including shopping malls and a supermarket at the Ben Thanh Station on the Ben Thanh-Suoi Tien metro line, which is now under construction.

Japanese Vice Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Kisaburo Ishii made the suggestion at his meeting with Vice Chairman of Ho Chi Minh Ciy People’s Committee Nguyen Huu Tin on November 11.

The Vice Minister Kisaburo said Japan is willing to share technical experience in underground construction with HCM City, adding that the proposed facilities will help turn Ben Thanh Station, the meeting point of the city’s future four urban railway lines, into a major transport and trade hub in the region.

Vice Chairman Nguyen Huu Tin thanked the Japanese Government and people for their assistance to the city in building a number of important infrastructure projects which include the municipal metro line.

He welcomed the Japanese side’s proposal and affirmed that relevant agencies will discuss with Japanese partners on specific plan to carry out the idea. He pledged that the municipal administration will create favourable conditions for the investors to carry out the project.

Traffic management needed near Dai Nam Park: Phuc

Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has instructed the authorities in Binh Duong Province to prevent massive traffic jams on the national highway leading to the Dai Nam Park.

Thousands of people have been visiting the park that is offering free admission and discounts till November 20, after which it will be closed till December 31.

Earlier this week, tens of thousands of people flocked to the Dai Nam Tourist Park in Hiep An ward, Thu Dau Mot city, causing 20km-long massive traffic jams and inconvenience to the public.

The Deputy PM called on the provincial authorities to deploy manpower and resources to ensure smooth traffic flow and tourist safety.

The Dai Nam Park is spread over 450ha in Binh Duong Province, the country's largest park of its kind. It is currently embroiled in a dispute between the park's officials and the provincial authorities. It is not clear whether the park will reopen in 2015.

War-left bomb safely deactivated in Yen Bai provinve

Sappers from the Military High Command of northern Yen Bai province safely destroyed a 340-kg bomb dropped by the US troops between 1968 and 1970 during the war in Vietnam.

The bomb was discovered in late October at a construction site near Khao Mang Thuong hydro power plant in Mu Cang Chai district.

According to the Technology Centre for Bomb and Mine Disposal under the Engineering Command, up to 7,645 of the 8,686 communes in Vietnam’s 63 provinces and cities are polluted with unexploded ordnance (UXOs).

The US army used more than 15 million tonnes of bombs and mines in the war in Vietnam, four times the amount used in World War 2. As a result, Vietnam has been listed among the countries most contaminated with UXOs.

According to the National Steering Committee for Recovery over Postwar Bomb and Landmine Impacts, about 800,000 tonnes of UXOs are scattering across 6.6 million hectares, or 20.12 percent of the country’s land, mainly in the central region, putting people in danger every day.

Vietnam has cleared hundreds of thousands of hectares of UXOs so far. Between 2012 and 2013 alone, more than 100,000 hectares of land were demined.

Regional minimum wages to be increased from next year

Region-based monthly minimum wages in Vietnam will be increased by some 15 percent from January 1, 2015, as stipulated in a decree recently issued by the Government.

The wages vary in four different regions based on four separate benchmarks determined by living standards in each area.

In Region I - the most developed one with such areas as urban Hanoi, Hai Phong and Ho Chi Minh City, the new minimum wage will be 3.1 million VND (147.6 USD), or 400,000 VND higher than the current level.

In region II, the wage will be 2.75 million VND (130.9 USD), up by 350,000 VND.

In region III, the minimum wage level will be raised by 300,000 VND to 2.4 million VND (114.3 USD).

In region IV - the least developed areas, the minimum wage will be 2.15 million VND (102.4 USD) or 250,000 VND higher than currently.

The wages will be applied to labourers employed by businesses, co-operatives, farms, households, individuals and organisations both domestic and foreign.-

Vietnam learns int’l experience in human security issues

A conference on human security in Asia was organised by the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung foundation (KAS) on November 11.

The conference provided the European perspective on human security and aimed to develop potential solutions for Vietnam.

Academics from France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Norway, Singapore, Thailand, India, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam discussed a number of issues, including human security in theory and practice, reducing the knowledge gap, and drastic measures to address human security issues at the global and regional levels.

Dr Wilhelm Hofmeister, Director of KAS Singapore, said the threats to human security in Asia are diverse, including the gap between the rich and the poor, climate change, and national and regional conflicts, which negatively impact on countries to a varying extent.

There is therefore a need to develop a comprehensive policy framework and expand regional cooperation to the issue of human security, he added.

Shahrbanou Tadjibakhsh, Head of the Human Security programme at the Institute of Political Studies in Paris, highlighted that a successful programme on human security must be people-centred, comprehensive, specific and prevention-oriented, rather than solution-oriented.

The scholar suggested Vietnam integrate human security into policies for each sector and prioritise them based on people’s needs.

Mother dies, children critical in Cao Bang

A 29-year-old woman died yesterday, allegedly of food poisoning, and her two children were in critical condition in northern Cao Bang Province's Coc Pang Commune.

The woman died several hours after she and her children were taken to Bao Lac District's General Hospital.

On Monday, the three were vomiting and felt dizzy, according to an initial investigation. Their two cows also showed signs of food poisoning and died the same day.

The children were moved to Cao Bang General Hospital for further treatment. Local agencies are still investigating.

New centre to attest schools and colleges

The Viet Nam National University (VNU) Centre for Education Accreditation opened yesterday in Ha Noi following a Ministry of Education and Training decision.

VNU is Viet Nam's first education accreditation centre. It was created to conduct education accreditation for universities and vocational schools throughout the country.

Associate Professor Nguyen Quy Thanh was appointed the centre's chairman.

Workshop discusses policy development for sexual and reproductive health

The second National Conference on Sexual and Reproductive Health: From Evidence to Policy opened in Hanoi on November 11, gathering health experts, policy makers and representatives from related ministries, agencies and NGOs in Vietnam.

Co-organised by the Ministry of Health (MoH), the Hanoi School of Public Health, and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Vietnam, the event focuses on discussing up-to-date findings of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) research in Vietnam and implications of SRH research findings on SRH policies and programmes in the country.

Speaking at the event, Dr Luu Thi Hong, Head of the Department of Maternal and Children’s Health under the MoH, said that Vietnam in recent years has made remarkable progress in reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that has been appreciated by the international community.

However, there still remain challenges for SRH in Vietnam, such as gaps among regions and population groups for SRH and one third of young people having limited access to SRH information and services.

Though progress has been made on MDGs in Vietnam, it was difficult for the country to fufill the MDG 5b by 2015, as the maternal mortality rate in 225 disadvantaged communes was two times higher than national average and unmet demand for contraceptive measures among unmarried people was three times higher than for married people, said UNFPA Representative in Vietnam Arthur Erken.

As an agricultural country with over 90 million people and 54 different ethnic groups, Vietnam should conduct social research to better understand the cultural, social, and economic factors and structures that affect men and women in accessing SRH services, the UN officer suggested.

Vietnam has entered a ‘golden’ period of population demographics with the highest number of youth in the country's history. Young people aged 10-29 account for nearly 40% of its population. However, Arthur Erken pointed out that the lack of a reliable national database on the group’s reproductive health led to limitations in the formulation and monitoring of policies and programmes for young people.

He emphasised that better use of research-based evidence in health policy-making process, especially in the area of SRH, can help improve people's health, reduce poverty and improve the quality of life.

Over 30 presentations and 45 posters at the event provided an overview of national research on SRH, as well as the current situation and challenges in the field in Vietnam during the 2010-2014 period. Delegates also made recommendations for orientations on the National Population and Reproductive Health strategy for the 2015-2020 period. International experts also presented on SRH in the Asia Pacific, lessons for Vietnam, and an orientation for future research in the area.

Project helps detect and intervene early childhood disabilities in Da Nang

An EUR 367,000 project was signed between the Da Nang city People’s Committee and the Sustainable Health Development Centre (VietHealth) on November 10 to increase the ability to detect and intervene in cases of early childhoold disabilities.

The money, sourced from the Irish Government’s programme for overseas development (Irish Aid), will help treat around 300 children under 6 years old with disabilities in Hoa Vang district and Lien Chieu district, Da Nang city from November 2014 to November 2016.

Under the project, health workers, preschool teachers and social workers will be provided with training to improve their ability to identify, prevent and intervene in cases of birth defects and childhood disability...

The project is also designed to raise public awareness of disabilities, and the rights of persons with disabilities.

Speaking at the signing ceremony, Irish Ambassador to Vietnam Damien Cole expressed his hope that the support from Irish Aid would help the city care for children with disabilities, providing them with the opportunity to integrate into the community and take advantage of preferential policies formulated by Government and relevant agencies.

Earlier, VietHealth launched the same kind of project to screen nearly 9,000 children in Cam Le district, Da Nang city. The check-ups helped detect 120 children with disabilities, who were then documented in an early intervention record.

Over 4.8 million kids vaccinated against measles-rubella

More than 4.8 million children in 58 out of 63 cities and provinces nationwide received free measles and rubella shots in the first phase of the national vaccination campaign, announced Ministry of Public Health on November 10.

The ministry has asked provincial and district authorities to draw lessons from the first phase in order to timely improve on the work in later phases.

At the same time, they must ensure sufficient supply of vaccines and necessary materials as well as guarantee the quality and safety of the vaccines.

The three-phase vaccination campaign has been implemented from September 2014 to February 2015, targeting about 23 million children between the ages of 1-14 throughout the nation, increasing the vaccination rate for children of this age group to 95%.

World Day of Social Work marked in Hanoi

The 17th World Day of Social Work was celebrated in Hanoi on November 11 with the participation of policymakers, academics and social workers.

In her keynote speech, Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs Pham Thi Hai Chuyen highlighted the importance of social work, acknowledging its positive contributions to every realm of life and social welfare in particular.

A government-approved plan to develop social work from 2010-2020 has proven successful so far, she said, adding that more need to be done to increase its efficiency, including the adjustment of legal regulations and developing a network of social workers and appropriate training courses.

She admitted that social workers face a number of obstacles, such as poor infrastructure and a lack of coordination between agencies.

The ceremony was jointly organised by the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, the Central Committee of the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union, the Vietnam Association of Vocational Training and Social Work, and the United Nations Children’s Fund.

The celebrations included a camp festival and an exhibition on social work in Vietnam.

Irish-funded project supports disabled children in Da Nang

An Irish Aid-funded project on early detection and intervention of childhood disabilities will be carried out in central Da Nang city from now to November 2016.

The 366,648 EUR project was signed by representatives from the Sustainable Health Development Centre (VietHealth) and the Da Nang People’s Committee on November 10.

The project will provide training courses for local health workers, pre-school teachers and social workers while disseminating information to raise public awareness on disability and the right of the disabled.

As many as 300 children with disabilities under the age of six in HoaVang and Lien Chieu districts will be benefited from the project.

Household utensil, gift fair launched

The 2014 Household Utensil and Gift Fair opened in Hanoi on November 10 with the participation of over 100 businesses.

On the display are foods and beverage, household appliances, apparel, electronic devices, decorations, handicraft items, souvenirs, healthcare products, cosmetics, jewellery, shoes and handbags.

Baking competitions are organised during the event.

The annual fair is to introduce products to local consumers, develop the distribution system and connect producers and consumers.

It also provides a platform for businesses to share experience and seek for partnerships.

The fair will last November 16.

Vietnam needs more social service support

Vietnam now records a network of 432 social work centres that employ 35,000 workers, targeting mainly the labour, invalids and social affairs sector and offering test services in education and health care.

The operations fall under the centres’ scope and the number of social workers is small since those in need include 9 million senior citizens, 6.7 million people with disabilities, 1.5 million disadvantaged children, hundreds of thousands of HIV/AIDS victims and prostitutes, and around 9.6 percent of poor households.

These facts were provided by General Director of Social Protection Department under the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MoLISA) Nguyen Van Hoi at an international workshop in Hanoi on November 10.

To improve the situation, attendees suggested fine-tuning legal regulations and setting up a code of ethics and standards for social workers which are already applied in many countries.

Beyond that, they called on individuals and organisations at home and abroad to fund and develop social work.

The Prime Minister approved a project on the development of social work, called Project 32, in 2010.

The workshop was co-hosted by the MoLISA, the Association of Vocational Training and Social Work and the United Nations Children’s Fund.

JICA helps Dong Nai develop water-supply system

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has pledged a credit worth US$140 million to build the second phase of the Nhon Trach water plant in the southern province of Dong Nai.

Representatives from the provincial People’s Committee and JICA met on November 10 to discuss procedures and conditions for the project’s implementation.

During their meeting, the two sides also discussed JICA’s financial assistance for the construction of a concentrated-wastewater treatment plant in Bien Hoa city and a personnel training programme, which is expected to meet the increasing demand on high-quality workers of enterprises operating in the locality, including Japanese firms.

Dinh Quoc Thai, Chairman of the provincial People’s Committee, said the site clearance for the second phase was fulfilled and the local authorities are working hard to soon complete the project-related documents to submit to JICA and the Japanese Government.

The project is expected to start construction in 2017 and complete in 2021.

The first phase on the Nhon Trach water plant, which began construction in 2008, became operational in late March.

The plant cost VND2 trillion (US$95 million), and was funded by Japanese ODA. With a capacity of 100,000 cubic metres per day, it supplies clean water to Tam Phuong and An Phuoc communes in Long Thanh and Nhon Trach districts.

Freelance workers to get occupational accident insurance

The Government would fund half of the cost for freelance workers in the informal sector to get insured for occupational accidents, according to the draft Law on Occupational Safety, which is under discussion at the National Assembly and expected to be passed at the ongoing NA sitting.

The information was unveiled by Ha Tat Thang, head of the Department of Occupational Safety under the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs, at a recent seminar on main contents and updates of the draft law.

Thang said the draft law suggests the State fund 50% of the occupational accident insurance premiums for non-contract employees.

As estimated, if one million freelance laborers apply for insurance, the State would spend some VND700 billion a year.

For contract laborers, the employer should pay 1% of insurance premium for the occupational accident insurance fund for their staff.

The occupational accident insurance fund is still under the management of Vietnam Social Insurance and no new apparatus would be established to oversee the fund.

In the past years, only 10% of the occupational accident insurance fund has been used and the remainder is more than VND16.2 trillion at the moment due to inappropriate policy that has made it hard to spend on those in need.

The other reason is complicated administrative procedures, which have led enterprises and employees to solve problems on their own, instead of making insurance claims.

The draft law keeps 20 articles about policies on occupational accident insurance from the Social Insurance Law, effective since 2006, and only adds two new articles.

Workers having occupational accidents or occupational diseases and having lost the ability to do their current jobs would be funded 50% of tuition fees to learn or switch to new jobs.

The other new point is that the fund would focus on preventive measures, including training and informing employees so that they could avoid occupational accidents, and have their health checked to find occupational dieases, instead of offering them allowances only.

Many deputies expressed concern over the feasibility of the occupational accident fund when it is also used for non-contract laborers.

In repsonse, Le Van Trinh, an occupational safety expert from the Vietnam General Confederation of Labor, said even developed countries find it hard to offer insurance to all workers in the informal sector.

“We could make adjustments when the law comes into force. For example, workers in the stone and mineral mining sectors should commit to pay occupational insurance if they want to get permission to work.”

Another issue which also provoked arguments among experts is that the draft law which offers a window of opportunity for workers in the informal sector to buy occupational accident insurance will add up around 1,000 people to the workforce and keep occupational safety inspectors busier, while the State is working towards cutting its workforce.

Thang of the occupational safety department said the country now has around 700,000 active enterprises and only 150 occupational safety inspectors. Some provinces have no such inspectors and therefore, only around 0.22% of firms there are inspected a year.

Once the law is revised and more laborers are offered occupational accident insurance, the country will need to have more inspectors. “With one or two more laborers applying for insurance in a province, the country would need around 1,000 more inspectors,” he said.

Heart institute receives Independence Medal

The Viet Nam National Heart Institute today received the Third Class Independence Medal for helping to promote people's health care during ceremonies marking the institute's 25th anniversary.

Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam called on the cardiological sector to improve disease prevention programmes for the community while praising the institute's contribution to disease prevention and treatment, as well as the training of human resources in health service.

"Heart diseases can be prevented by following a healthy diet and proper exercise and can be treated by applying scientific and technological advances," said Dam.

The deputy prime minister added that the health sector should expand the country's health care system, strengthen human resources and develop sources of traditional medicine in efforts to meet the country's demand for heart disease prevention and treatment.

"The application of advanced and low-cost medical techniques, such as transcatheter aortic valve implantation or percutaneous coronary intervention, have saved thousands of patients suffering from fatal heart diseases in the northern region of Viet Nam," said institute director Do Doan Loi.

Loi added that doctors of the Viet Nam National Heart Institute provided timely heart interventions for more than 8,500 patients in 2014 or triple the number of heart patients in 2004, at 2,729.

As the top hospital in the north, the institute received nearly 78,000 patient visits last year, including 16,500 in-patients, compared with 17,700 visits and 6,300 in-patients in 2004, according to Loi.