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Archive for March 28th, 2010|Daily archive page

Seminar discusses ways to promote ASEAN tourism

In Uncategorized on March 28, 2010 at 2:49 pm

Seminar discusses ways to promote ASEAN tourism

QĐND – Sunday, March 28, 2010, 21:7 (GMT+7)

“Cooperation in developing tourism within ASEAN” was the theme of a seminar held by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism in the central city of Da Nang on March 27.

The seminar was one of the Vietnamese tourism sector’s initiatives to further boost the regional tourism connectivity and cooperation when Vietnam officially assumes the role as the ASEAN Chair.

The event also served as a forum for ASEAN countries to exchange issues of common concern and seek effective measures to cope with obstacles facing the regional tourism in order to make ASEAN an attractive destination on the world tourist map, looking towards the building of a dynamic and sustainable ASEAN community.

According to Mr. Tran Chien Thang, deputy minister in the ministry, ASEAN countries have many advantages for tourism development cooperation as they have convenient traffic conditions, share similarities in cultural identities and boast many natural and cultural heritages.

Boosting the regional connectivity and cooperation, especially in tourism, is one of priorities of each country’s tourism sector and is also reflected in State-level joint commitments, including the ASEAN Tourism Agreement and the ASEAN Tourism Integration Strategy, he said.

The Vietnamese tourism sector has made an important contribution to the national economy with continuously increasing number of international arrivals, Thang said, adding that since the beginning of the year, more than 1.35 million foreign tourists visited the country.

Ong Jin Chwen, Area Director, Chief Representative of the Singapore Tourism Board in Indochina, said ASEAN countries are well-known for long coastal lines, beautiful beaches and good climate which are suitable for developing cruise tourism.

Last year, ASEAN welcomed nearly 63 million visitors with tourists within the bloc accounting for 40 percent of the arrivals.

Source: SGGP/VNA

Source: QDND

Key national projects subject to streamling

In Uncategorized on March 28, 2010 at 2:40 pm

Key national projects subject to streamling

QĐND – Sunday, March 28, 2010, 21:7 (GMT+7)

Legislators are working on cutting the approval time of some key national projects to fortify the nation’s economic development. 

The move would build a quicker road to addressing the nation’s pressing infrastructure concerns

National Assembly members in May will discuss the removal of key national projects from waiting for time-consuming law-maker’s approval. The projects eligible will be those with capital investment of VND20 trillion ($1.05 billion) upwards with 30 per cent financed by state funds. 

According to a National Assembly draft resolution, which recently received public opinions, only projects with capital of VND35 trillion ($1.84 billion) upwards must get law-makers’ approval.  

The projects must also satisfy the condition that 30 per cent of investment is contributed to by state funds, defined as the state budget, state-guaranteed credit, state credit for development, state-run firms’ capital and other kinds of government-managed capital.  

Projects with state capital of VND15 trillion ($789.4 million) upwards would also have to undergo the top legislation body’s approval.  

According to the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI), which is responsible for collecting public opinions on the draft resolution, the new rule would pave the way for investors to accelerate projects without having to get the blessing of law-makers, who usually only gather twice a year. 

The proposed rule has received applause from some state-run corporations. “It will also encourage other investors, both domestic and foreign, to join the projects when they can see a clearer timetable and more simple administrative procedures,” said a senior official from Electricity of Vietnam (EVN).  

He said the change would help EVN raise more investment from foreign and private investors for its power projects, particularly bearing in mind the fact that many EVN’s capital-starved projects were behind schedule. 

“EVN has only one power project that was successful in raising funds from other local investors. Most of the remaining projects have been carried out with official development assistance (ODA) funds,” he said. 

“The problem here is that it is more difficult to raise ODA for power projects now,” he noted. Some other investors also argued that because of inflation, the VND20 trillion value did not carry the same weight as several years ago.  

“Therefore, the value of projects that must get the National Assembly’s investment policy permission should be raised,” said a PetroVietnam official. PetroVietnam is waiting for law-makers’ approval for two thermal power projects. 

In the up-coming gathering in May, National Assembly members will discuss investment policies for PetroVietnam-invested Thai Binh 2 and Long Phu 1 plants, based in northern Thai Binh and southern Soc Trang provinces. 

The two projects cost VND29.7 trillion ($1.56 billion) and VND26 trillion ($1.36 billion), respectively. The law-makers are also expected to look at the $1.7 billion Ben Luc-Long Thanh expressway, which will receive loans from the Asian Development Bank and other donors. 

According to the draft resolution, other big mining projects or those are meant to the environment are also in the watchdog list of the law-makers.  

Source: VietNamNet/VIR


Source: QDND

Over 155,000 Rotarix doses used in Vietnam

In Uncategorized on March 28, 2010 at 2:37 pm

Over 155,000 Rotarix doses used in Vietnam

QĐND – Sunday, March 28, 2010, 21:6 (GMT+7)

More than 155,000 doses of the diarrhea vaccine Rotarix, now known to contain a pig virus, have been used in Vietnam since 2007, when it was approved for use in the country.

Following the recent announcement by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that Rotarix contains the pig virus PCV-1, Vietnam temporarily halted using the vaccine from March 27.

The country has also asked Rotarix-maker GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in Vietnam to coordinate with local importers and distributors to alert all health clinics about the directive and not to order further batches.

GSK announced the discovery of the pig virus in the oral vaccine, used to fight rotavirus in children, to the Drug Administration of Vietnam (DAV) on March 24.

Dr. Nguyen Thi Tuong Vi, GSK representative in Vietnam, said March 27 that GSK had agreed to cooperate fully with the DAV in temporarily stopping the administration of the vaccine.

GSK has already informed importers and distributors and checked the current volume of Rotarix. It will report to the DAV by March 31, she added.

Dr. Vi said GSK will not stop producing and distributing the vaccine because PCV-1 does not multiply in humans and is not known to cause rotavirus-related illness in people.

Data from clinical research shows that the vaccine is safe, she added.

However, many parents whose children have taken Rotarix are now very anxious and have asked for advice from doctors.

According to the National Institute for Control of Vaccine and Biological Products, there is no cause for public alarm as all vaccines must pass rigorous safety testing before being put into use.

The DAV has asked GSK to provide documents proving the vaccine’s safety. It has also requested information on how the US FDA and other affected countries are dealing with the problem.

An independent US academic research team first detected DNA from porcine circovirus 1 (PCV-1) in Rotarix, and follow-up tests by GSK and FDA scientists confirmed the team’s findings.

The tests also showed that viral components had been present since the early stages of the vaccine’s development, including during clinical studies.

Source: VietNamNet/SGGP


Source: QDND

HCMC considers karaoke, massage parlor zone

In Uncategorized on March 28, 2010 at 2:34 pm

HCMC considers karaoke, massage parlor zone

QĐND – Sunday, March 28, 2010, 21:6 (GMT+7)

“Sensitive services” like karaoke and massage parlors should be gathered in specific areas so they can be managed more easily, a city official has suggested.

This would, in turn, enable more effective campaigns against prostitution, Le Van Quy, deputy head of Ho Chi Minh City Social Evils Prevention Agency, said at a conference on human trafficking and prostitution held in the city on Tuesday.

Those services which refuse to move to specified areas should be closed down, he said.

Quy also urged the government to help the Mekong Delta develop economically and prevent local labor from migrating to the southern hub where they easily fall victim to human trafficking and prostitution.

Some 29,300 people were working as prostitutes in Vietnam with HCMC and the Mekong Delta accounting for the most at 17 percent each, the Social Evils Prevention Department under the Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs reported at the conference.

Nearly 80 percent of the prostitutes working in HCMC come from the Mekong Delta provinces, according to HCMC Department of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs.

Other solutions put forward at the meeting included imposing stricter punishment and increased fines on unauthorized matchmakers for arranging marriages with foreigners. The current maximum fine is VND3 million (US$160.64).

Last year Vietnam had 465 people return home after being trafficked overseas, said Le Thi Ha, deputy head of the department.

Source: VietNamNet/Tuoi Tre/Thanh Nien


Source: QDND

Vietnam saves 500,000 kWh thanks to Earth Hour

In Uncategorized on March 28, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Vietnam saves 500,000 kWh thanks to Earth Hour

QĐND – Sunday, March 28, 2010, 21:6 (GMT+7)

Vietnam has saved 500,000 kWh after switching off lights for one hour on March 27 in response to Earth Hour 2010, according to the National Electricity System Control Centre.

Vietnam ‘fell asleep’ from 8.30pm to 9.30pm – the rush hour for using electricity – in a demonstration of the effectiveness of saving electricity.

Together with more than 20 provinces and cities, Hanoi actively joined Earth Hour 2010 with the message “small action for big change”. The Hanoi municipal People’s Committee asked the municipal Department for Electricity to switch off non-essential lights for an hour at major public places, such as Ngoc Son Temple, Turtle Tower, The Huc Bridge, the Hanoi Opera House, West Lake and Truc Bach Lake, as well as the headquarters of the Hanoi municipal Party Committee, the Hanoi municipal People’s Council and the Hanoi municipal People’s Committee.

Lights were also switched off at the headquarters of the People’s Councils and the People’s Committees in 29 towns and districts nationwide. Many business, organisations and families also participated in this year’s Earth Hour to prevent climate change in Vietnam.

Last year, Vietnam saved 140,000 kWh when it joined Earth Hour 2009.

Earth Hour is a global campaign initiated by the World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF). The campaign began in Sydney, Australia in 2007, and has since then been implemented in many countries around the world to raise public awareness of the need to save energy and respond to climate change.

Source: VOV

Source: QDND

Ambassadors, charges d’affaires offer incense in Do Temple

In Uncategorized on March 28, 2010 at 2:30 pm

Ambassadors, charges d’affaires offer incense in Do Temple

QĐND – Sunday, March 28, 2010, 21:6 (GMT+7)

Thirty ambassadors, charge d’affaires, heads of diplomatic delegations, representatives of the Untied Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and international organizations in Vietnam took part in an exchange programme titled “friendship spring walk” to visit historical relics in northern Bac Ninh province on March 27.

The programme is organised by the Vietnam Union of Friendship Organisations (VUFO) in coordination with the Hanoi Union of Friendship Organisations and Bac Ninh provincial People’s Committee.

Participants offered incense at Tieu Pagoda in Tuong Giang commune, Bac Ninh province where King Ly Cong Uan were raised as a youth.

They also visited Do Temple dedicated to 8 kings of the Ly dynasty and enjoyed a performance of Love Duets famous in Bac Ninh and recently recognised by UNESCO as part of the world’s intangible cultural heritage.

Addressing the exchange, Vu Xuan Hong, Chairman of the VUFO, applauded this as a meaningful activity to help the world community learn more about Vietnam’s traditional culture.

On behalf of the diplomatic corps, Moroccan Ambassador El Houcine Fardani, thanked the VUFO and Vietnamese people for their warm affection.

He expressed his hope that Vietnam would successfully fulfill its important role as ASEAN chair and organise the grand celebration of the 1,000th anniversary of Thang Long-Hanoi.

Source: VOV

Source: QDND

Challenges increase for Mekong farmers

In Uncategorized on March 28, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Challenges increase for Mekong farmers

QĐND – Sunday, March 28, 2010, 21:7 (GMT+7)

Farmers in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta have for long adapted to rising sea levels and are used to a life of hardship, but current challenges have rendered them most vulnerable in years, experts say.

National and international experts including scientists and academics said at a climate change conference opened yesterday that climate change adaptation challenges were exacerbated by several other problems facing Delta farmers today.

The two-day conference in Can Tho City has drawn the participation of more than 30 experts from several universities and agencies including the American Western Washington University, German United Nations University, Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre, and the delta-based universities of Can Tho and An Giang.

Participants held open discussions on the daily life challenges of delta farmers, scenarios for rice production in the coming time and the ways to assist farmers with information and better sales of agricultural products.

Delivering the keynote address to open the conference, Prof. Vo Tong Xuan of An Giang University said increase in sea levels was not a strange phenomenon to the delta farmers and they have been adapting to it for a long time.

“Before 1972, delta farmers cultivated a 7-month floating rice crop with a yield of one tonne of rice per ha; now they cultivate two crops a year with each lasting just three months, yielding 10 to 14 tonnes of rice per ha a year,” Xuan said.

He told the conference that environmental changes and impacts from development have brought several trans-border issues to the fore, including drifting gases on river flows, the spread of brown plant hoppers, and the shortage of fresh water.

Dr. Mart Stewart of the Western Washington University said, “Farming in general – and rice farming in the densely populated Mekong [Cuu Long] Delta in particular – has rarely been easy, seldom been secure, and never been risk-free.”

However, he was now alarmed by the “the growing vulnerability of many agriculturalists to powerful middlemen.”

Xuan told Viet Nam News that the only way to assist farmers was strong measures by the Government to improve the system of rice purchase in the delta.

Lack of control over prices, poor market information and lack of access to common property resources are being lost to increasing privatization were making it more difficult for farmers, especially with small landholdings, to make their livelihoods sustainable, the conference heard.

Prof. Mauro Agnoletti of the Italian University of Florence spoke of the importance of traditional knowledge and adaptation techniques in climate change learning from the Mediterranean region.

Today’s sessions will cover aquaculture and sustainability; comparison – culture – and history; perception, resilience and adaptation.

Source: VietNamNet/VNS


Source: QDND

More than 300 killed in raid in DR.Congo: HRW

In Uncategorized on March 28, 2010 at 10:30 am

KINSHASA (AFP) – Ugandan LRA rebels killed at least 321 civilians in a previously unreported “well-planned” four-day attack on villages in the DR Congo last December, Human Rights Watch said Sunday.

In a report released in Kampala, HRW said 250 others, including at least 80 children, were abducted in the December 14-17 Lord’s Resistance Army attack in the remote Makombo area of northeastern Haut Uele district.

A general view of Tandala General hospital in northwest Democratic Republic of Congo in December 2009. (AFP/File)

A Catholic clergyman at Isiro-Niangara in the same district, speaking before the report was issued, confirmed that 30 members of the rebel LRA attacked a dozen villages of Haut Uele, which is in Orientale province.

“They killed at least 300 people. They also kidnapped between 200 and 400 others before disappearing,” clergyman Dieudonne Abakuba told AFP.

“During the well-planned LRA attack,” the rebel outfit “killed at least 321 civilians and abducted 250 others, including at least 80 children,” said the HRW report headed “Trail of Death: LRA Atrocities in Northeastern Congo.”

“The vast majority of those killed were adult men, whom LRA combatants first tied up and then hacked to death with machetes or crushed their skulls with axes and heavy wooden sticks.

“The dead include at least 13 women and 23 children, the youngest a three-year-old girl who was burned to death. LRA combatants tied some of the victims to trees before crushing their skulls with axes,” said the report, written after a mission visited the region in February.

Between 25 and 40 rebels had walked for 100 kilometres (65 miles) during the operation which was aimed at killing, abducting and pillaging, Human Rights Watch said.

“The Makombo massacre is one of the worst ever committed by the LRA in its bloody 23-year history, yet it has gone unreported for months,” said Anneke Van Woudenberg, a senior Africa researcher for the rights watchdog.

“The four-day rampage demonstrates that the LRA remains a serious threat to civilians and is not a spent force, as the Ugandan and Congolese governments claim.”

Human Rights Watch said witnesses it interviewed said that “for days and weeks after the attack, this vast area was filled with the ‘stench of death.'”

Children and adults who escaped gave similar accounts of the “extreme brutality”, it said.

“Many of the children captured by the LRA were forced to kill other children who had disobeyed the LRA’s rules.

“In numerous cases documented by Human Rights Watch, children were ordered to surround the victim in a circle and take turns beating the child on the head with a large wooden stick until the child died,” the report said.

The clergyman said the rebels were wearing military uniforms. “They killed a lot of people on the road and attacked them with bludgeons,” he said.

“They killed mainly men. They chopped some people’s heads off and kidnapped children on their way to school,” added regional lawmaker Jeannette Abakuba, confirming the more than 300 dead.

The villages that were raided are south of the Uele river, 40 kilometres (25 miles) southwest of the town of Niangara, and include Mabanga, Makombo, Ngbiribi, Tapili and Kiliwa.

Some people fled and were slowly coming back.

“But the atmosphere is poisoned, people are scared the LRA might come back, they’re afraid of farming, so there’s a risk of famine,” said the clergyman.

Led by Joseph Kony, wanted along with two other leaders by the International Criminal Court for war crimes, the LRA took up arms in 1988 in northern Uganda and has acquired a reputation for brutality.

Since 2005, under pressure from the Ugandan army, the fighters pulled back from their bases in Uganda to move into the remote northeast of the DRC, where they were said to number fewer than 100 late last year, according to the UN mission in the DRC.

Source: SGGP

BA cabin crew threaten more strikes

In Uncategorized on March 28, 2010 at 10:29 am

LONDON, Mar. 28 (AFP) – British Airways (BA) cabin crew entered the second day of a four-day strike Sunday, forcing cancellations and bringing disruption for travellers amid no sign of an end to the bitter dispute.

The Unite trade union, which represents cabin crew, is staging its second walkout in a week and says that there is likely to be more ahead unless BA makes them an acceptable offer.

A British Airways plane flies over striking British Airways cabin crew at Heathrow Airport. AFP photo

“Until such time as a sensible proposal comes on the table, this dispute will continue,” Unite’s Steve Turner told the BBC Saturday.

“There are no talks that are scheduled right now. We’re willing and available to discuss matters with the company at any point in order to reach a sensible, negotiated, acceptable agreement on behalf of our members.”

The strikes centre on what the union says is BA chief executive Willie Walsh’s “slash and burn strategy” to cut costs which it claims would lead to a two-tier workforce and damage standards of customer service.

But Walsh has warned the airline could fold in a decade unless the changes he wants are carried out.

“We are trying to transform the way we operate because the industry is changing and the economic conditions have changed so radically that we’ve got to change,” he told the Daily Telegraph Saturday.

“We’re doing this to make sure BA still exists in 10 years. If we don’t do this, BA won’t exist in 10 years.”

The latest wave of strikes follows three days of action from March 20 which came the day after talks between the two sides broke down.

BA says it will fly more than 75 percent of customers booked to travel during the disrupted period.

A BA spokeswoman said Saturday that London’s Gatwick and City airports were operating as normal and enough staff had turned up to the airline’s main hub at London Heathrow to crew the revised timetable.

Walsh visited Heathrow’s Terminal 5 to talk to passengers who had their travel plans disrupted and said he found customers “very positive”.

“At the same time, I am deeply sorry for those customers who have had their holidays and their plans disrupted,” he said in a video message.

Unite claims six Heathrow flights were loaded with passengers then unloaded because of lack of crew and that many long-haul services were leaving 30 percent below capacity. This is denied by the airline.

Some passengers caught up in the strike voiced frustration at Heathrow.

John Cawley and his family were heading to Newark in the United States ahead of a Caribbean cruise but had to hire a minibus to get to Heathrow from Manchester, northwest England, after their internal flight was cancelled.

“It seems there are no certainties with BA at all,” he said. “We’re having to take this trip one step at a time, once one bit is over we start to worry about the next one. There are question marks over everything.”

Outside Heathrow, striking cabin crew set up picket lines and were joined by staff from Iberia, the Spanish airline which is in talks to merge with BA.

The union has claimed the cost to the airline of the strike action would be 100 million pounds (111 million euros, 149 million dollars).

By contrast, BA has said that last week’s walkout would cost seven million pounds a day and that an assessment of the cost of the full seven-day action could only be made after it was finished.

BA said last month it expected to notch up a record loss in the current financial year due to weak demand for air travel.

Walsh has also denied accusations that he was trying to break the union, after the claim was made in a letter from 116 industrial relations experts from universities across Britain, published in The Guardian on Friday.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has condemned the strike but, just weeks before a general election, faces accusations of a weak response from the main opposition Conservatives because Unite is a major donor to his Labour party.

Source: SGGP

S.Korea hunts for 46 missing after mystery blast on warship

In Uncategorized on March 28, 2010 at 10:28 am

BAENGNYEONG ISLAND, South Korea, March 28, 2010 (AFP) – Ships and aircraft searched Sunday for 46 sailors missing after a mystery explosion tore a South Korean warship apart, as tearful relatives urged the military to work faster.

“My son, where are you in that cold water?” wept a woman carrying a framed photo of him as she waited for news at a navy base south of Seoul.

In one of the country’s worst naval disasters, the 1,200-tonne corvette Cheonan with 104 crew on board sank late Friday in the Yellow Sea near the tense disputed border with North Korea.

South Korean marines search for possible survivors on March 28,2010. AFP photo

Seoul officials have not so far suggested Pyongyang was involved.

Only 58 sailors have so far been rescued after the blast ripped the ship in half off Baengnyeong island. Hopes for the remainder were fading fast, with water temperatures only a few degrees above freezing.

President Lee Myung-Bak urged rescuers not to abandon hope.

“Utmost efforts must be exerted in carrying out the rescue mission in the belief that missing crew members could still be alive,” he told a security meeting Sunday, according to spokesman Park Sun-Kyoo.

Lee also ordered a thorough probe with all possibilities taken into account, warning against “jumping to conclusions” prematurely.

Defence ministry spokesman Won Tae-Jae told a briefing it would take “a significant time to reach a reliable conclusion” about the cause of the blast.

But angry and tearful families protested at what they called a lack of information and slow progress in locating the missing.

Choppy seas, strong currents and poor visibility foiled two attempts Sunday by military divers to access the sunken hull.

“Just fetch any divers, not just military ones but also civilian ones, to rescue them,” said one woman at the naval base at Pyeongtaek south of Seoul whose husband is among the missing

A naval boat left Pyeongtaek to take 88 family members to the scene of the tragedy off Baengnyeong island.

On Saturday some distraught family members had called the Cheonan’s captain a “liar” after he gave briefings on the blast at the navy base.

“The ship was torn apart and the stern sank immediately,” the captain, Choi Won-Il, told relatives Saturday, saying power and communications were lost.

“I was trapped in the cabin for five minutes before my colleagues broke the window in and let me out. When I got out, the stern had disappeared.”

A salvage ship and two mine-detecting boats were at the scene Sunday. A US military salvage ship is set to join the rescue effort Monday, Seoul’s defence ministry said.

The military has said many of the missing sailors may be trapped inside the submerged hull.

The 88-metre (290-foot) craft was said to carry missiles, torpedoes and other weaponry and munitions.

The tragedy occurred near the disputed sea border between North and South Korea, scene of deadly naval clashes in 1999 and 2002 and of a firefight last November.

But Seoul said there were no abnormal military movements at the time on the North Korean side of the border amnd the .

“Military experts and warship engineers increasingly think the blast was accidental,” Baek Seung-Joo, senior analyst of Seoul’s Korea Institute for Defense Analyses, told AFP.

“There must have been a very powerful explosion inside the vessel.

“Chances are low that the ship — with anti-submarine, anti-aircraft and anti-ship warfare capability — was attacked by a missile, a torpedo or cannon fire and helplessly sank after a single blow.”

The ship might have hit a drifting mine, which triggered an internal explosion, he said.

Source: SGGP