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Posts tagged ‘United Land of Vietnam’

Ride-hailing services transform Vietnam’s transport culture

June 29, 2017

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Nguyen Kim Lan used to make a decent living shuttling customers around town on his Honda motorbike. But his clientele has dwindled as young and tech-savvy Vietnamese increasingly use ride-hailing apps like Uber and Grab to summon cheaper, safer motorbike taxis.

The expansion of the ride-hailing services across Southeast Asia is shaking up traditional motorcycle taxi services that are a key source of informal work for people like Lan. In some cases, the Xe Om, or motorbike taxi, drivers are venting their anger in attacks on the new competitors.

Lan is just frustrated. He says his income has fallen to just 20 percent to 30 percent of what it used to be. “Nowadays, my frequent customers have all booked Grab and Uber, so they don’t come here anymore,” said Lan, 62, as he waited for customers at an intersection in downtown Hanoi.

“Before, office workers would come here after work. Now they just sit in their offices and get picked up at the door,” he said. As elsewhere in the region, motorbikes are Vietnam’s main form of transportation, especially in the capital Hanoi and the southern commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City. They can maneuver through crowded, narrow city streets more easily than cars and are less expensive to buy and run.

Having invaded the conventional taxi market, ride hailing apps like Uber and Malaysia-based Grab are now elbowing aside the Xe Om with their UberMoto and GrabBike services. Vietnam, a communist-ruled country of 93 million, has about 45 million motorbikes, the highest rate of motorcycle ownership per capita in Southeast Asia. Some 3.1 million new motorbikes were sold last year.

Practically everyone has mobile phones, and cheap Internet access has enabled most Vietnamese city dwellers to get online. Nguyen Tuan Anh, chairman of Grab Vietnam, said the number of GrabBike drivers has jumped from 100 when they first launched in late 2014 to more than 50,000, with hundreds joining every day.

The growth of passengers is “explosive,” he said. Many Vietnamese now prefer to use ride hailing apps, viewing their services as safer and cheaper, Tuan Anh said. “GrabBike brings transparency and that’s why customers love it. They know that they will not be cheated by the drivers.”

But Tuan Anh said he knows of more than 100 cases where GrabBike drivers were attacked in the past year, often by Xe Om drivers worried about losing business. Bus stations, hospitals and schools are hotspots for conflict. In one case, a GrabBike driver was stabbed in the lung. In another, police fired warning shots to disperse crowds of Xe Om and GrabBike drivers who were battling near a bus station in Ho Chi Minh City.

Similar problems have been reported in Thailand and Indonesia. Tuan Anh said GrabBike tells its drivers to be cautious and to seek help from police. Many Vietnamese seem keen to use such services despite the potential for conflict.

Tran Thuc Anh, a 21-year-old video games designer, says she switched to using GrabBike to commute from bus stations to and from her office about six months ago. It costs her half as much as using Xe Om did, she says.

“I just need to be online to book a bike without going around to look for a traditional Xe Om, so it’s very convenient,” Thuc Anh said. Many GrabBike drivers originally worked as Xe Om, but not all are willing to sign up. Older motorbike taxi drivers say they don’t know how to use online apps or lack the cash to buy smart phones. Others are put off by the cheaper fares GrabBike charges.

But Nguyen Quang Trung, a 30-year-old salesman who began moonlighting for GrabBike six months ago, said Xe Om drivers who try to overcharge their customers are finished. “Uber and Grab are safe and their fares are reasonable and customers see this,” Trung said. “Only elder people or those who are in hurry use traditional Xe Om. Young people and people who are not short on time never use Xe Om.”

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Vietnamese dissident recounts forced deportation to France

June 26, 2017

PARIS (AP) — A Vietnamese dissident who says he was arrested at his home in southern Ho Chi Minh City and forcibly exiled to France said he is determined to continue his activity as a pro-democracy blogger.

Pham Minh Hoang, a 61-year-old math lecturer, recounted his arrest and deportation in a phone interview Sunday with The Associated Press a few hours after his arrival in France. He said three police officers burst into his house on Friday and grabbed his arms when he refused to follow them while wearing only shorts, an undershirt and slippers.

“Once outside, I was horrified to see that there were not three, but a hundred policemen in uniform and in plainclothes around my house and in the neighboring streets,” said Hoang, who was a dual French-Vietnamese national before he was stripped of his Vietnamese citizenship last month.

After being detained in front of his wife, Hoang said he was driven to a detention center two hours away, where he spent 24 hours and was visited by the Consul General of France. He said Vietnamese authorities forced him on a plane to Paris on Saturday night.

Hoang’s deportation came two weeks after he learned a presidential decree had revoked his Vietnamese citizenship. Human Rights Watch denounced Hoang’s expulsion in a statement as a “blatantly illegal, rights violating act” that effectively forces the activist into “indefinite exile.”

Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry did not respond to a request for comment Sunday. The French foreign ministry confirmed that its Consul General assisted Hoang in Ho Chi Minh City. As a French citizen, he can settle in the country and enjoy full freedom of speech, the ministry said.

The human rights activist and blogger was sentenced to three years in prison in 2011 for attempted subversion by posting articles on his blog criticizing the Communist government and for being a member of the California-based Vietnam Reform Party, or Viet Tan. The government considers Viet Tan a terrorist organization.

Hoang eventually served 17 months in prison and three years of house arrest. International human rights groups and some Western governments have criticized Vietnam for jailing people for peacefully expressing their views, but Hanoi says only law breakers are put behind bars.

“The vaguely worded decision was a thinly veiled move to silence Pham Minh Hoang for his peaceful advocacy,” Viet Tan said in a statement about the stripping of Vietnamese citizenship from Hoang. Before being deported from his country, Hoang said he was questioned at length by two officials whom he thinks were members of the political police. When he refused to consent to his deportation, he said officials reminded him that his wife and daughter were still living in Vietnam. Two policemen slept in the room where he was held, he said.

France is not a country unknown to Hoang. He studied and lived here for 27 years between 1973 and 2000, working as a computer and civil engineer. It is where he started to write articles critical of his country’s regime. He said he returned to Vietnam to teach and help the Vietnamese youth with the new technologies.

Today, he doesn’t know who will take care of the disabled brother who lived with him in Ho Chi Minh City. He hopes he’ll be able to stay in regular contact with his wife and his 13-year-old daughter. “I will continue to help my daughter do her homework, using internet video or other secure means,” he said.

Hoang assumes he will have to remain in France for a long time and said he is determined to continue his political activism — “my raison d’être” — as an exile. “I still have a little hope, one day, to come back to live and die in Vietnam,” he said.

Arrests as Vietnam breaks up anti-China rally

Hanoi (AFP)

Jan 19, 2017

Vietnamese police on Thursday scuffled with activists marking the 1974 Chinese invasion of a disputed island chain as they arrested several people and dispersed journalists.

About 100 people gathered in central Hanoi for the 43rd anniversary of the Chinese takeover of the Paracel islands in the South China Sea — territory claimed by both nations that remains a diplomatic flashpoint.

In a rare act of public defiance in the communist nation, activists chanted “Down with the invaders!” and held banners against the “age-old enemy” near the capital’s Hoan Kiem Lake.

Plainclothes police swiftly swooped in, snatching banners away and hauling at least a dozen people into a nearby bus.

Journalists were unceremoniously ordered to leave the scene and turn off cameras.

Though Hanoi and Beijing routinely trade barbs over contested territory in the South China Sea, Vietnam often breaks up anti-China protests to avoid stoking anger from regional powerhouse China.

The Paracels remain a bitter bone of contention between the neighbors.

China has controlled the islands since invading them shortly after US-backed Vietnamese soldiers withdrew in 1974.

The attack left 70 Vietnamese soldiers dead.

Activists called on Vietnam to take a tougher stance with China.

“I think Vietnam must be determined towards China… to get back Hoang Sa and Truong Sa Islands,” said activist Pham Van Troi, 46, using Vietnamese names for the Paracels and the nearby Spratly islands, which are also disputed.

Beijing lays claim to virtually all of the South China Sea, and has built up islands capable of hosting military installations.

The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have also sparred with Beijing over territory in the disputed waterway.

Tensions have eased slightly in recent months but the issue remains a potential global flashpoint.

In 2014 China moved a controversial oil rig into contested territory, prompting deadly riots in Vietnam.

Last week Chinese state media reacted with fury to comments by US secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson that he would seek to deny Beijing access to the artificial islands it has built up in the contested sea.

Source: Space War.

Link: http://www.spacewar.com/reports/Arrests_as_Vietnam_breaks_up_anti-China_rally_999.html.

Vietnam decries Chinese missile deployment on island

Hanoi (AFP)

Feb 19, 2016

Vietnam on Friday hit out at China’s deployment of missiles on a disputed island chain, saying Beijing had “seriously violated” its sovereignty as international censure mounted over the apparent militarisation of the hotly-contested zone.

Chinese state media on Thursday confirmed the presence of unspecified weapons on Woody Island, part of the Paracels chain.

The admission came after Fox News reported that surface-to-air weapons had arrived there in the past week — although Chinese media suggested they have been in place for longer.

Vietnamese authorities handed “a note of objection” to the Chinese Embassy in Hanoi on Friday, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“These were moves that seriously violated Vietnam’s sovereignty over the Hoang Sa archipelagoes,” spokesperson Le hai Binh said Friday, using the Vietnamese name for the Paracels.

“Threatening peace and stability in the region as well as security, safety and freedom of navigation and aviation. Vietnam requests China to immediately end those wrongful acts.”

China claims all of the Paracels, though Hanoi and Taipei have overlapping claims.

Earlier on Friday Australia urged China to refrain from the “militarisation of islands”, a day after the United States slammed Beijing for deploying missiles in the disputed South China Sea.

Tensions in the sea — through which a third of the world’s oil passes — have mounted in recent months after China transformed contested reefs in the Spratly islands further south into artificial islands capable of supporting military facilities.

Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines also lay claim to parts of the sea.

US President Barack Obama this week hosted Southeast Asian leaders for a summit.

The US wants to shore-up its regional alliances with a view to avoiding flashpoints in the seas and keeping shipping lanes open.

The US and Australia have carried out several so-called “Freedom of Navigation” overflights and sail-bys in the region, which China has described as “provocations”.

Source: Space War.

Link: http://www.spacewar.com/reports/Vietnam_decries_Chinese_missile_deployment_on_island_999.html.

Russian Helicopters strikes deals with China, Vietnam at Singapore Airshow

Changi, Singapore (UPI)

Feb 16, 2016

Russian Helicopters struck an agreement to sell nine helicopters to China and is reviewing helicopter repair and maintenance cooperation with Vietnam.

Under the signed contracts with China, Russian Helicopters will supply seven Ka-32A11BC and two Mi171 helicopters to various Chinese entities. The Ka-32A11BC is a multi-role helicopter designed to operate in urban, mountainous and forested environments. They can also be used for search-and-rescue and firefighting missions.

“Our multirole helicopters can perform any task in various climates and weather conditions,” Russian Helicopters CEO Alexander Mikheev said.

In addition, Russian Helicopters is reviewing potential plans to conduct Mi-8/17 military helicopter repairs at the joint Russo-Vietnamese venture HELITECHCO. The company is scheduled to perform a technical audit of the venture to check its compliance to perform maintenance and repairs for the aircraft.

Russian Helicopters aftersales service deputy CEO Igor Chechikov says the operations will involve re-equipping the venture and more training for their specialists. HELITECHCO has been used to repair civilian helicopters since it was founded in 1994.

The company added that the Vietnamese delegation has also showed interest in purchasing the Ansat helicopters for training purposes.

The agreements were made during the 2016 Singapore Airshow, a biennial event where defense and aerospace contractors showcase their products. Russian Helicopters is part of the Russian state-owned Rostec corporation.

Source: Space Daily.

Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Russian_Helicopters_strikes_deals_with_China_Vietnam_at_Singapore_Airshow_999.html.

Vietnam Communist Party on track for smooth power transition

January 26, 2016

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party was on track Tuesday for a smooth power transition after settling a power struggle between the party chief and the pro-business prime minister trying to unseat him.

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung effectively withdrew from the contest to become the Communist Party general secretary, clearing the way for his rival to keep the post in what appears to be a compromise to present a united front to the nation, delegates at a party congress said Monday.

The drama began after Dung was excluded from an official list of candidates for positions in the Central Committee that will be elected Tuesday. In an apparently orchestrated move, his supporters then nominated him on Sunday in a last-minute challenge. But according to party rules Dung was required to turn down the nomination since he was not an official candidate.

Dung abided by the party rules and refused the nomination. The congress then formally voted to accept his refusal. Had he wished, Dung could have tried to pull together enough support on the congress floor to have his refusal rejected. In that scenario, he might have won a place in the Central Committee, and then would have been in contention for party general secretary.

The path is now clear for Nguyen Phu Trong to stay as general secretary, the de facto top position in Vietnam’s collective leadership. The delegates were presented with 220 candidates late Monday, of whom 180 were elected to the Central Committee, one of the two pillars of the ruling establishment. The names of the winning candidates were not immediately announced, but Trong is almost certainly one of them.

Later this week, the congress will elect the all-powerful Politburo, which handles the day-to-day governance of Vietnam. It is expected that the Politburo will be expanded from the current 16 members to 18.

Of the Politburo members, one will be chosen general secretary. Three others will be chosen, in respective order of seniority, the prime minister, the president and the chairman of the National Assembly.

Trong had been trying unsuccessfully for years to sideline Dung, and while contests for the top post are not unheard of, they are usually settled well ahead of the party congress, which takes place once every five years to choose new leaders.

But this year the rivalry between Dung and Trong extended into the party congress, which ends Thursday, although regardless of who is in power the fundamental makeup of the government and its policies will not change radically, according to analysts.

Dung has built a reputation for promoting economic reforms and for boldly confronting China’s territorial assertiveness in the South China Sea. But even though Trong, a stolid party apparatchik with closer leanings toward China, is now set to take the top job, it doesn’t mean the economic reforms will stall or Vietnam will capitulate to Chinese assertiveness in Vietnamese-claimed waters, according to observers.

“Ideologically, there isn’t a yawning gap between Trong and Dung, although most people believe that the pace of economic reform might slow a bit if Trong remains at the helm and Dung is ousted,” said Murray Hiebert, a Southeast Asian expert based in Washington, DC.

Dung, who rose through the ranks of the party and held senior positions, is a two-term prime minister. His economic reforms have helped Vietnam attract a flood of foreign investment and helped triple the per capita GDP to $2,100 over the past 10 years.

Trong’s camp accuses Dung of economic mismanagement, including the spectacular collapse of state-owned shipping company Vinashin; failing to control massive public debt; allowing corruption; and not dealing adequately with the non-preforming loans of state-owned banks.

Vietnam is one of the last remaining communist nations in the world, with a party membership of 4.5 million out of its 93 million people. But like its ideological ally China, the government believes in a quasi-free market economy alongside strictly controlled politics and society.

Vietnam PM withdraws from contest for Communist Party chief

January 25, 2016

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Vietnam’s pro-business prime minister has effectively withdrawn from a contest to become the Communist Party chief, clearing the way for his rival to keep the post in what appears to be a compromise to present a united front to the nation, delegates at a party congress said Monday.

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung had mounted a last-minute challenge during the congress after being excluded from an official list of candidates for positions in a key party panel. Had he continued his challenge, he could have become part of the Central Committee, and subsequently could have been in contention for party general secretary.

The path is now clear for Nguyen Phu Trong to stay as general secretary, the de facto top position in Vietnam’s collective leadership. Several delegates at the congress said Dung decided on Sunday to abide by party rules that obliged him to refuse the nomination for a Central Committee slot proposed by his supporters. The congress then voted on Monday to accept his refusal, completing a formality. The Central Committee, one of two pillars of the ruling establishment, will be chosen Tuesday.

Trong has been trying unsuccessfully for years to sideline Dung, and while contests for the top post are not unheard of, they are usually settled well before the party congress, which takes place once every five years to choose new leaders.

This year, the rivalry between Dung and Trong has gone down to the wire in the party congress, which began last Thursday and ends this Thursday. But regardless of who is in power the fundamental makeup of the government and its policies will not change radically, according to analysts.

Dung has built a reputation for promoting economic reforms, and being bold enough to confront China’s territorial assertiveness in the South China Sea. But even though Trong, a stolid party apparatchik with closer leanings toward China, is now set to take the top job, it doesn’t mean the economic reforms will stall or Vietnam will capitulate to Chinese assertiveness in Vietnamese-claimed waters, according to observers.

“Ideologically, there isn’t a yawning gap between Trong and Dung, although most people believe that the pace of economic reform might slow a bit if Trong remains at the helm and Dung is ousted,” said Murray Hiebert, a Southeast Asian expert based in Washington, DC.

Dung, who rose through the ranks of the party and held senior positions, is a two-term prime minister. His economic reforms have helped Vietnam attract a flood of foreign investment and helped triple the per capita GDP to $2,100 over the past 10 years.

Trong’s camp accuses Dung of economic mismanagement, including the spectacular collapse of state-owned shipping company Vinashin; failing to control massive public debt; allowing corruption; and not dealing adequately with the non-preforming loans of state-owned banks.

On Tuesday, the delegates will be presented with 222 candidates in an election for the 180-member Central Committee. After that, they will elect at least 16 members of the all-powerful Politburo, which handles the day-to-day governance of Vietnam. It is possible that the Politburo will be expanded to 18 members this year.

Of the Politburo members, one will be chosen general secretary. Three others will be chosen, in respective order of seniority, the prime minister, the president and the chairman of the National Assembly.

Vietnam is one of the last remaining communist nations in the world, with a party membership of 4.5 million out of its 93 million people. But like its ideological ally China, the government believes in a quasi-free market economy alongside strictly controlled politics and society.

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