Help readied for Vietnamese citizens in Ivory Coast: FM spokeswoman 

A supporter of internationally recognised Ivory Coast leader Alassane Ouatarra mans a machine gun at a check point in the Angre district of Abidjan.

Vietnamese diplomatic agencies around the Ivory Coast stand ready to help Vietnamese citizens residing in the African country racked by unrest when needed, foreign ministry’s spokeswoman Nguyen Phuong Nga said Thursday.

 

Nga said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has ordered the Vietnamese embassy in Morocco to ascertain the number of Vietnamese nationals as well as their living conditions in the country that is said to be on the brink of a civil war.

 

Thanh Nien reporters found that many Vietnamese residing in Ivory Coast mainly run restaurants and photography shops, while most laborers are former crew members of foreign fishing boats.

 

A reader in the southern province of Soc Trang said his elder sister and ten other Vietnamese citizens were hiding in a restaurant in Abidjan City, where the unrest is most intense.

 

Many other readers reported similar situations involving their loved ones.

 

Le Van Thanh, deputy chief of Overseas Labor Management under the labor ministry, said they have never granted licenses to any local laborer to work in the Ivory Coast, and so far no companies or individuals have registered for sending laborers to the country.

 

“We only know of laborers [who are sent overseas] legally, so we cannot know the number of Vietnamese laborers in the Ivory Coast,” Thanh said.

 

But, the labor ministry is responsible for securing the safety of all Vietnamese workers in all countries, he added.

 

The French embassy in Abidjan told Thanh Nien Thursday that Vietnamese people in the Iovry Coast can contact the UN force in the country as well as Opération Licorne (Operation Unicorn), a French peacekeeping force, for help.

 

Vietnam evacuated more than 10,000 workers from Libya recently after the country was hit by anti-government demonstrations and a government crackdown.

Major quakes, tsunamis unlikely in Vietnam: scientist 

A woman holding her child leaves her high-rise apartment in Hanoi as tremors from a Myanmar quake measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale shook the capital city on Thursday

Vietnamese citizens fearful of earthquakes measuring 7.0 or more on the Richter scale or tsunamis hitting the country can breathe easy, a scientist says.

This is because Vietnam does not lie on the Pacific Ring of Fire, a zone where frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur in the basin of the Pacific Ocean, said Tran Van Tan, deputy head of the Vietnam Institute of Geology and Mineral Resources.

“However, aftershocks measuring below 7.0 can happen in northern Vietnam,” Tan said Friday, a day after the 6.8 magnitude quake hit Myanmar, leaving at least 74 people dead and hundreds homeless. Tremors of the quake were felt in Hanoi, sending many people into a panic.

Le Minh Huy, director of the Center of Earthquake Information and Tsunami Warning, said though the number of quakes have tended to rise in the country, they have not been not powerful.

Since late 2010, many provinces and cities across the country like Cao Bang, Thanh Hoa, Nghe An, Ba Ria – Vung Tau have experienced tremors, he said.

As for tsunamis, scientists of the Institute of Meteorology, Hydrology, and Environment under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, said the possibility of tsunami in the country’s coastal areas is very low.

They said Vietnam is protected by its neighboring island and peninsula countries like Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore, and Malaysia; therefore, tsunamis originating in the Pacific Ocean are unlikely to reach the country.

Meanwhile, Minh said in case a strong quake strikes Manila in Philippines and causes a tsunami, it would take at least two hours for it to reach Vietnam’s central region.

“We can transmit tsunami warnings 10-20 minutes after the quake occurs [in Philippines]. So, we have more than an hour [which is enough] to evacuate residents,” he said.

In the event of tremors, Minh recommended that people cover their heads with their hands and shelter under nearest tables to avoid falling objects.

He said after the tremors end, they should immediately leave their houses and return only when the situation becomes stable, 30 minutes to one hour later.

For people outdoors, Minh said they should stay away from high-rise buildings and trees at the time of the quake.

In related news, following the recent Hanoi quake and the Japan disaster, the government has ordered the Ministry of Construction to examine buildings across the country and consider demolishing old apartment buildings that cannot withstand earthquakes, newswire VnExpress quoted Le Quang Hung, director of the ministry’s Project Quality Assessment Department as saying.

Vietnam opposes China’s military exercise on archipelago 

 

Officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs met with Chinese embassy staff on Thursday to protest the nation’s latest military exercise around the Truong Sa (Spratly) Islands, according to the ministry.

 

The exercise violate Vietnam’s sovereignty over the islands as well as the terms of the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) signed between China and ASEAN countries in 2002, the ministry said.

 

China needs to cease complicating established sovereignty, comply with existing treaties, and contribute to the East Sea’s peace, a spokesperson from the Vietnamese ministry said.

 

According to Chinese Xinhua Agency, China dispatched naval forces to the islands in an anti-piracy exercise on February 24.

Power plants blamed for worsening flooding 

The Ba Ha Power Plant in the central province of Phu Yen discharges water from its reservoir

The Ministry of Industry and Trade has ordered two hydropower plants in central Vietnam to take responsibility for violating water discharge regulations and worsening flooding over the last few months.

The power plants, Ba Ha in Phu Yen Province and Ho Ho in Ha Tinh Province, were criticized for not going by standard operating procedures concerning the safety of the plants themselves as well as that of residents in low-lying areas downstream the dam.

The ministry has ordered all people who are involved in the water discharges by the plants to review their responsibility.

Ho Ho Plant in October failed to discharge water properly, causing flooding in Huong Lien District that destroyed farms and roads.

Northern Electricity Development and Investment JSC No. 1 – the investor in the plant – has not compensated affected residents adequately, the ministry said.

In November, Phu Yen provincial authorities said the reservoir at Ba Ha Power Plant had discharged more water than it was allowed, making it difficult to relocate residents facing the threat of flooding.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade said last month that it plans to put an end to small hydropower projects that have serious environmental impacts.

There are 86 small hydropower plants with a capacity of less than 30 megawatts and many of them have caused severe flooding, deputy minister Hoang Quoc Vuong said.

Melamine contamination reports not inconsistent: ministry


Dairy cows at a farm in Vinh Phuc Province. Many farmers from the province have said they would sue the Health Ministry for making contradictory claims of melamine contamination about Hanoimilk products, a company that bought fresh milk from them.

The Ministry of Health has denied making contradictory statements about melamine contamination of a major dairy firm’s products, and its inspectors will meet today with affected northern farmers to clarify the issue.

Dairy farmers from the northern Vinh Phuc Province have threatened to sue the ministry for huge losses caused by what they say was a false alarm sounded by the ministry on melamine contamination of products made by the Hanoimilk Company. The ministry made an all-clear for the products later.

The melamine scare originated in China last September, where at least six babies died and 294,000 children suffered kidney and urinary problems from drinking baby formula contaminated with melamine, an industrial chemical used to make plastic.

Sales of Hanoimilk dropped dramatically after the ministry said some of its products were contaminated. The company halved the amount of milk it bought from farmers and lowered the price it was paying, said a farmer from Trung Nguyen Commune in Vinh Phuc Province’s Yen Lac District.

Vice Head of the Health Ministry’s Food Hygiene and Safety Administration Nguyen Thanh Phong said the all-clear given to Hanoimilk product samples was not a correction.

He said the negative samples were taken from the same products, but from different batches than the previous ones, he said.

“The two announcements are not contradictory,” he said. “The [Hanoimilk] company had used materials from other sources recently.”

Phong also said the negative results did not validate Hanoimilk’s products forever, because it does not mean that they wouldn’t use tainted materials again.

Authorities concerned had clarified the issue and urged consumers to continue to use safe products, he said.

“I confirm that the Health Ministry has never announced fresh milk supplied by local farmers as being contaminated with melamine,” he said, adding that the ministry and the World Health Organization had clearly said not all dairy products were contaminated with melamine and urged consumers to continue using safe products.

“We understand the farmers’ difficulties and have never issued wrong test results for dairy products [of Hanoimilk],” he said.

Retraction

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry’s Food Administration has cancelled its previous decision last October to revoke the registration of a product imported by A Chau Company in Ho Chi Minh City.

The administration also allowed the company to resume importing and selling the non-dairy creamer product with batch number 270806.

Last September, the product’s registration was revoked after inspectors of HCMC Health Department found it was contaminated with melamine of 0.104 parts per million (ppm).

A Chau Company then complained to the Health Ministry, saying the product had been certified by authorized offices in Thailand. Subsequent tests of the product’s samples found no melamine contamination.

Reported by Nam Son

Ministry of Public Security to probe bribery allegations


Huynh Ngoc Si of the Ho Chi Minh City Transport Department has been suspended for allegedly accepting bribes from Japanese businessmen

Vietnam’s government Tuesday announced a widespread criminal investigation into allegations Japanese businessmen bribed officials working on the East-West Highway, Ho Chi Minh City’s biggest infrastructure project.

Four Japanese executives have already faced court in Japan and the HCMC government last month suspended Huynh Ngoc Si, who was overseeing the highway project, from his position as deputy director of the HCMC Department of Transport.

The Vietnamese Ministry of Public Security announced Tuesday it would investigate whether Si, deputy director of the HCMC Department of Transport, or anyone else involved in the project had accepted bribes.

Prosecutors told a Tokyo court last month that Si, who also headed the HCMC East-West Highway and Water Environment project, had accepted bribes from executives of Japan’s Pacific Consultants International (PCI), according to Japanese media reports.

Japanese media reported that prosecutors told the court on November 11 PCI had given Si more than US$2 million between 2002 and 2006 in exchange for helping the company win the consulting contract on the project, funded by Japanese official development assistance (ODA).

However, prosecutors could only establish a criminal case for bribes totaling $820,000 that were handed over to Si in 2003 and 2006.

The Japanese court is yet to hand down its decision on the case made against the four PCI executives.

The latest move demonstrates the government’s determination to get to the bottom of the case and improve the transparency of ODA-funded projects, the Ministry of Security said.

Last week, Japan announced it was halting nearly US$700 million in ODA loans to Vietnam until both countries had finished investigating the bribery scandal.

At the weekend, HCMC Transport Department Deputy Director Le Toan, who replaced Si last month as head of the two infrastructure projects, said work was continuing on the East-West Highway and HCMC Water Environment project.

The East West Highway Project, which started in early 2005, became the city’s biggest infrastructure project when it attracted investment capital of VND9.9 trillion ($660 million). Of the

funding, $428 million was Japan ODA and the remainder was from HCMC government coffers.

The 22-kilometer highway will run through eight districts and include 16 bridges and the 1.5 kilometer Thu Thiem Tunnel being built under the Saigon River.

Meanwhile, the HCMC Water Environment Project’s first stage is to construct a sewage system on the lowlands of the canals of Tau Hu, Ben Nghe, Doi and Te.

HOW THE CASE UNFOLDED

A section of the East-West Highway Project linking Ho Chi Minh City’s Districts 1 and 2

On June 25, Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper reported investigators were examining Pacific Consultants International (PCI) over allegations the firm had bribed Southeast Asian officials to secure official development assistance (ODA) funded projects, including a $200,000 bribe to a Vietnamese official.

Three days later, the newspaper reported PCI executives had identified the recipient of the bribery, saying that person was responsible for the East-West Highway Project.

In early July, the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee asked the project management unit of the East-West Highway Project to report on the case. The unit said proper procedures had been carried out in selecting PCI as the consultant contractor of the project.

On August 25, four PCI executives were prosecuted for offering bribes of US$820,000 in 2003 and 2006 to Huynh Ngoc Si. They were charged with violating the Unfair Competition Prevention Law that bans Japanese citizens from bribing foreign government officials.

On September 9, a special task force of the Ministry of Public Security arrived in HCMC to investigate the allegations.

On November 12, Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper reported four former PCI executives – former president Masayoshi Taga, former managing director Kunio Takasu, former board director Haruo Sakashita and former Hanoi office chief Tsuneo Sakano – had pled guilty to bribery charges during a trial in a Tokyo District Court.

On November 13, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung told the National Assembly a joint committee of Japanese and Vietnamese officials had been set up to probe the matter further and deal with it in accordance with Vietnamese laws.

On November 19, Si was suspended by the HCMC government pending further investigations.

Last week, at a regular session of the HCMC People’s Council, the municipal legislature, HCMC Deputy Mayor Nguyen Thanh Tai said so far Japanese authorities had not furnished any further evidence suggesting Si had taken bribes.

Reported by Thanh Nien staff

Health Ministry calls for calm over tainted milk scare


HCMC authorities seized a large amount of melamine-tainted milk products for destruction Tuesday.

The Vietnamese Health Ministry Tuesday called for consumers to continue buying milk, issuing an assurance it had withdrawn most of the melamine-tainted dairy products circulating in Vietnam.

In a joint statement with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the ministry advised consumers not to panic about the tainted milk scandal, which originated in China and spread to countries that imported its milk products.

The majority of dairy products available in Vietnam are melamine-free, the agencies said in the statement.

Slow milk sales have resulted in Vietnamese dairy farmers dumping tons of unwanted – but uncontaminated – milk.

The Health Ministry said consumers should not boycott dairy products as this could have adverse health impacts, especially for children.

Users should choose products that have been cleared as safe and that are properly labeled with the country of origin and manufacturer.

The agencies also advised mothers that breastfeeding their infants was the safest way to feed them.

As of Tuesday, some 400 samples of dairy products had been tested with 23 found to contain the industrial chemical melamine.

Authorities have ordered businesses to recall tainted products.

At a press conference in Hanoi Tuesday, Deputy Health Minister Cao Minh Quang said the ministry was considering whether to allow a certain amount of melamine in dairy products or ban all products with melamine.

But as there was no existing national regulation of melamine content in dairy products, the ministry was recalling all products containing the substance, Quang said.

He said results of melamine tests would be announced in the next two weeks.

Meanwhile in Ho Chi Minh City, the Health Department seized 3.6 tons of dairy raw materials and 1.6 tons of dairy products found to be contaminated with melamine.

The department has tested some 50 dairy samples, eight of which contained the chemical which, in China, has killed four babies and sickened 53,000 more.

Nguyen Thanh Tai, vice chairman of the city’s administration, instructed the Health Department to step up inspections of dairy products in the market.

He said importers of dairy raw materials and products should publicize the origins of their products to ease residents’ concerns.

According to Le Thi Hong Lien, deputy head of the municipal Education and Training Department, both parents and preschool managers are concerned the Health Ministry has not yet given any instruction concerning melamine.

She said municipal preschools used large amounts of dairy products supplied by various sources.

Department Deputy Head Le Truong Giang told local schools not to remove milk from their menus until the Health Ministry issued a complete list of safe products.

MELAMINE-CONTAMINATED PRODUCTS

Kim An Company: Yili milk (1-liter and 250-mililiter tins), Yili original flavors (250-mililiter tin), Yili fresh milk.

A Chau Company: Non-dairy creamer.

Hanoimilk: Full cream milk powder grade A, Blue Cow – Full cream milk powder used for UHT milk, Hi-P Chocolate UHT milk, Whole Milk 1 powdered milk, Whole Milk 2 powdered milk, Hanoimilk sweetened yoghurt, Hanoimilk non-fat milk 2.

Thuc Pham Vang Company: Golden Food milk.

Mai Anh Company: Advanced Distribution powdered milk.

Dai Vinh Company: Khong Guan cookies from Indonesia and Malaysia, Khina Guan Aquare Puff cookies, Khong Guan Marie and Khian Guan Superior cookies.

Anco Company: Full Cream Milk Powder.

Minh Duong Company: Powdered milk, non-dairy creamer.

Importer unknown: Yili Pure Milk.

Reported by Thanh Nien staff