BANGKOK, May 15 -- Vietnam has become awash with Chinese investment in the last decade as businesses from its northern neighbour spread their wings abroad in a push for new markets.
Capital inflows from mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau stood at US$700 million in 2011, but by last year had topped US$2.4 billion. Proponents say the money has been invaluable in providing jobs and pulling up industrial, labour and regulatory standards. But critics argue Chinese projects exploit cheap labour and minerals, while polluting the environment and landing the locals in debt. Either way, China looks there to stay. The Asian giant is now the fifth biggest investor in Vietnam behind Japan, South Korea and Singapore, and the sectors attracting cash are increasingly varied. However, experts say Vietnam will need further regulatory reforms, better education and a push to move up the value chain to make future investments pay off and limit the environmental impact of low-cost manufacturing.
Cheap labour has traditionally been the pull at a time when labour costs in China rise. A Vietnamese worker costs on average between US$300 and US$350, about half the figure to the north. Foreign firms have brought more advanced technologies and management models, and have helped promote Vietnamese exports, 70 per cent of which are produced by overseas enterprises. They have also helped pull up standards at government ministries and agencies.
KUALA LUMPUR, May 3 -- A Vietnamese woman who spent more than two years in a Malaysian prison on suspicion of killingthe half-brother of North Korea's leader has been freed.
Doan Thi Huong, 30, was charged along with an Indonesian woman of poisoning Kim Jong Nam by smearing his face with liquid VX, a banned chemical weapon, at Kuala Lumpur airport in February 2017. Huong received a jail term of several years which was cut due to sentence remissions. After a lengthy trial, Doan Thi Huong pleaded guilty last month to a lesser charge of "causing injury" over the 2017 assassination of Kim Jong Nam, making her the only person convicted for a murder that made headlines around the world. Malaysian prosecutors dropped a murder charge following that. She was freed from a prison outside the Malaysian capital at about 7:20am (23:20 GMT Thursday), her lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik told AFP news agency, adding that she would return to Vietnam later on Friday. Weeks earlier, Indonesian Siti Aisyah - the only other person to face trial over the killing - was released and flew home after her murder charge was withdrawn. The pair always denied having committed murder, arguing that they were pawns in a plan hatched by North Korean agents who fled Malaysia after the killing. South Korea accused Pyongyang of plotting the assassination. Journalists waiting outside the jail saw a van and a car with tinted windows race past, and a court official at the scene also confirmed Huong had been released.
Speaking before her release, Hisyam had said she was "definitely looking forward to going home". The 30-year-old former hair salon worker was expected to head to an immigration office in the administrative capital Putrajaya to sort out documentation, before flying to Vietnam. Other suspects in the killing of Kim Jong Nam have escaped justice. Exclusive pictures shows the man believed to be the chemist who prepared the VX nerve agent that killed Nam. In exclusive video thought to be captured in late 2017, he is seen, relaxed and happy while singing Karaoke in a restaurant in China with his wife and friends. "There was a golden opportunity to hold them accountable," Hoo Chiew Ping of the National University of Malaysia said. "We have completely lost that."
While there is relief for the women - who said they believed they were taking part in a TV show prank - those behind the plot are unlikely to ever face justice. "The assassins have not been brought to justice," said Hisyam, adding the women's legal teams consistently argued their North Korean handlers were the real murderers. The pair were arrested after they were captured on airport CCTV cameras walking up behind Kim, as he waited for a flight, and one was seen clasping her hands over his face. Kim, heir apparent to North Korea's leadership until he was exiled from his homeland, died in agony shortly afterwards, his face smeared with poison. The defence stage of the case was due to start in March, but in a shock move, prosecutors announced they were withdrawing the murder charge against Aisyah, 27, and she flew back to Jakarta. Her release followed intense diplomatic pressure from Indonesia, including from President Joko Widodo. Vietnam then stepped up pressure for Huong's murder charge to be dropped. Their initial request was refused, but at the start of April prosecutors offered her a reduced charge, paving the way for her release.
HANOI, April 25 -- Huawei Technologies, the world’s largest telecoms equipment vendor, defended its independence on Thursday after a recent research paper questioned the company’s claim to be employee-owned, saying that the identity of the actual owners is unknown and may potentially include the Chinese government.
Huawei was responding to a paper jointly written by Donald Clarke of George Washington University and Christopher Balding of Fulbright University Vietnam, which said Huawei is wholly owned by a holding company, of which 99 per cent is held by an entity called a “trade union committee”. The authors say the trade union committee — if it is run like similar organisations in China — could mean that the telecoms equipment giant is owned and controlled by the government. “The trade union committee, which manages the union in Huawei, organises some amateur, after-work events including physical activity, to ensure employees have a healthy work-life balance,” said Jiang Xisheng, chief secretary of Huawei’s Board of Directors, in a press conference on Thursday. “It is not involved in any decisions connected to Huawei’s business and operations.”
Jiang further explained that the trade union committee was established to meet legal requirements and oversees activities such as badminton and hiking. Jiang’s comments also come after UK newspaper The Times reported that the CIA had told spy chiefs that Huawei has taken money from the People’s Liberation Army, China’s National Security Commission and a third branch of the nation’s state intelligence network, citing an anonymous UK source. The Times report also comes at a time when many countries are deciding whether to include Huawei as an equipment provider for the roll out of 5G networks, after the US raised security concerns.
BANGKOK, April 6 -- The Mekong River Commission (MRC) has raised concerns with Laos over the Pak Lay hydropower dam on the Mekong River.
While Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam have accepted a prior agreement on the proposed 770 megawatt hydropower project in Laos’ Xayaboury Province, they have jointly released the statement calling on the Lao government to make every effort to address and mitigate potential adverse cross-border impacts of the project. Somkiat Prajamwong, Office of the National Water Resources (ONWR) secretary-general and head of Thailand’s representatives to the MRC Joint Committee Special Session, said that after the conclusion on Pak Lay Dam’s prior consultation process, the three MRC members commented on the potential transboundary impacts to neighbouring countries from the construction and operation of the project. Somkiat said that Thailand and other two Mekong states asked Laos to prevent the possible adverse impacts of the dam to the river’s hydrology and ecosystems by ensuring that the dam will be properly designed.
“We requested Laos to pay attention on the potential socioeconomic and environmental transboundary impacts from the proposed dam to the Thai communities along Mekong River bank in eight North Eastern provinces,” he said. “We also would like to be assured that the dam is safe and there will be a comprehensive program for monitoring the impacts of the project during construction and operation stages and sharing of information on the river’s hydrology, water quality, and fisheries among the MRC members.”
The proposed site for the dam is about 100 kilometres upstream from the Thai border at Loei’s Chiang Khan District. Cambodia also said that further assessment on the transboundary environmental impacts and proper mitigation plans and measures are still needed to ensure that the people downstream will not be affected by the dam. However, Laos member Chanthanet Boualapa said that his country is committed to addressing negative impacts from the dam seriously and welcomed future engagement, joint monitoring and information sharing to improve the project.
SHAH ALAM, April 1 -- The Vietnamese woman accused of murdering the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was sentenced to three years and four months' jail on Monday (April 1) after pleading guilty to a lesser charge.
Doan Thi Huong, 30, will likely be freed in May because her prison time could be reduced by a third due to good behaviour. Her lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik told reporters in the Shah Alam High Court: "According to prison procedures, all prisoners are entitled to one-third remission (of their sentence). So by our calculations, she would be released on the 4th of May.” Huong escaped the death penalty after Malaysian prosecutors offered an alternative charge, under Section 324 of the Penal Code, of causing hurt. This charge carries a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison.
Wearing a headscarf and a white sweater, Huong looked on in disbelief and growing relief as the court proceedings unfolded. In a short statement through her translator, she thanked the court, the Attorney-General, prosecutors, lawyers and the Vietnamese government. She told reporters that she would like to pursue acting and singing once she was freed. “I’m very happy. I want (to) sing and act.”
Her lawyer told the court that she had been honest both on her reasons for coming to Malaysia and during police investigations. “She is neither a criminal nor has a propensity to commit a crime,” Mr Hisyam said, citing her background. Her father is a war veteran and a stall owner. She is the youngest of five children. “However, she was naive and gullible," he said, adding that her weaknesses had been exploited to carry out the murder "under the camouflage of funny videos and pranks”.
Prosecutor Muhamad Iskandar Ahmad had urged the court to take into account the seriousness of the offence and public interest of the case in sentencing. “It’s clear (from the airport CCTV) after the accused wiped the face of the deceased, she just walked off. From there, we can see the conduct of the accused,” Mr Iskandar said. Judge Azmi Ariffin called Huong a "very lucky person" as he pronounced the verdict. "First of all, Ms Doan, I must say that you are a very lucky person today.
"I say lucky because from a murder charge under Section 302 that comes with mandatory death penalty, the prosecution offered a charge under Section 324 with maximum sentence of only 10 years, with fine, whipping, or any two. However the Criminal Procedural Code says that female cannot be whipped, so a whipping sentence cannot be given." The decision came two weeks after her co-accused, Indonesian Siti Aisyah, was unexpectedly released on March 11.
Huong had been accused alongside Ms Aisyah, 27, of killing Mr Kim Jong Nam by smearing VX nerve agent on his face at Kuala Lumpur airport in February 2017, in a brazen Cold War-style hit that shocked the world. The women had denied murder, saying they believed they were taking part in a prank for a reality show and were tricked by North Korean agents into carrying out the hit. The two women spent nearly two years in custody. Huong had been scheduled to testify for the first time on March 12. However, the trial was postponed after the court found her to be “mentally and physically” unfit when she learnt that the application for her release was rejected. Her lawyers accused the Malaysian government of “discrimination”, as both women had put up a similar defence before Malaysia’s High Court. Reports said Indonesian government had lobbied hard for Ms Aisyah’s release. A letter from Malaysia’s Attorney-General Tommy Thomas to Indonesian Minister of Law and Human Rights Yasonna Laoly said the charges against Ms Aisyah were dropped after “taking into account the good relations” between the two countries.
SHANGHAI, March 27 -- China's bookstore chain brand Fang Suo Commune clinched the Bookstore of the Year Award at The London Book Fair International Excellence Awards, the fair announced Tuesday.
It beat BOA Bookstore of Vietnam and Unity Books Wellington of New Zealand, both on the shortlist to win. Located at Taikoo Hui, one of the high-end shopping malls in the southern Chinese metropolis of Guangzhou, Fang Suo Commune is an innovative bookstore nestled among luxury shops. "This award goes from strength to strength and the entries were exceptionally strong this year," LBF judges said. "Fang Suo is ...breathtaking in scale and conception. (There is) A vast range of activities and events ...that gives you a glimpse of what bookstores of the future will be."
Opened in 2011, Fang Suo Commune Guangzhou has bookshelves covering its walls, from floor to ceiling. The 1,800-square-meter store boasts a coffee bar, a boutique and a handicrafts shop, and welcomes more than 2 million visitors through her doors every year. Fang Suo Commune Bookstore regularly hosts art exhibitions, lectures and book launches about art, culture and lifestyle, turning it into a center for the city's book lovers. The brand, now with branches in China's southwestern cities of Chengdu and Chongqing, and northeastern city of Qingdao, Shandong Province, aims at creating a new system for the Chinese aesthetics of life and exploring the possibilities of becoming an urban cultural complex, according to its official website.
Other winners of the LBF International Excellence Awards included Finland's Espoo City Library, which won the Library of the Year Award, and Ukraine's Book Arsenal Literary Festival, which took home the Literary Festival Award. The Audiobook Publisher of the Year Award went to Booklava from the United Arab Emirates.
"SET drops ahead of Thai Raksa Chart ruling"
BANGKOK, March 6 -- Thai stocks dropped ahead of the Constitutional Court' ruling on the Thai Raksa Chart Party, while Philippine shares jumped 2% on Wednesday, led by real estate and consumer stocks.
The Stock Exchange of Thailand main index fell 13.49 points or 0.82%, in turnover of 44 billion baht, with all sectors except energy in the negative territory. The court will give its ruling on Thursday whether to ban Thak Raksa Chart for nominating Princess Ubolratana as its candidate for prime minister in the March 24 general election. The Election Commission had asked the court to dissolve the party after it nominated the princess. "Tomorrow's ruling will be worth closely monitoring as it may trigger a start of heightened political risks that could derail the Thai economy," OCBC Bank said in a note.
The Philippine benchmark stock index, which was Southeast Asia's worst performer last month, gained the most among regional markets as a selloff last week made valuations more attractive. Foreign investors bought net 273 million pesos (US$5.23 million) in equities on Wednesday, exchange data shows. SM Prime Holdings, the country's second-largest firm by market value, advanced 3.6%, while real estate conglomerate Ayala Land Inc gained 2.3%.
Singapore stocks closed lower for a second session in three, dragged by industrial and consumer stocks. Index heavyweight Jardine Matheson Holdings Ltd dipped 2.1%, while food retailer Dairy Farm International Holdings Ltd weakened 4%.
Meanwhile, Indonesian shares snapped two consecutive sessions of losses, helped by consumer and financial stocks. Clove cigarette maker Gudang Garam Tbk PT rose 2.1%, while lender PT Bank Mayapada Internasional Tbk added 11.4%.
HANOI, February 28 -- The White House says no joint agreement was reached between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at their second summit in Hanoi.
“No agreement was reached at this time, but their respective teams look forward to meeting in the future,” press secretary Sarah Sanders wrote in a statement.
Sanders added: “President Donald J. Trump of the United States and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had very good and constructive meetings in Hanoi, Vietnam, on February 27-28, 2019."
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the two leaders "had very good and constructive meetings" and "discussed various ways to advance denuclearization and economic driven concepts," but that "no agreement was reached at this time." The two leaders had been scheduled to hold a signing ceremony Thursday afternoon in Hanoi for an expected deal. But the event was called off less than two hours before it was supposed to take place, and Trump moved up his departure time from Vietnam.
Trump had spent the morning setting expectations for the event, repeatedly stressing that he was "in no rush" to force North Korea to denuclearize. "Speed is not that important to me as long as there’s no testing," Trump said Thursday morning in Vietnam, referencing Pyongyang's halt of missile tests. At one point, Trump reiterated the phrase "no rush" several times in a row. "Over the years, I’m sure we’ll be together a lot,” he added. In a startling moment, Kim even responded to reporters' questions about his intentions and predictions for the summit. “It’s too early to tell, but I wouldn’t say I’m pessimistic,” he said through a translator, perhaps answering a foreign journalist's question for the first time. “From what I feel right now I do have a feeling that good results will come out."
WASHINGTON, February 24 -- US President Donald Trump has welcomed sanctions imposed by Russia and China on the border with North Korea.
"The last thing China wants are large scale nuclear weapons right next door. Sanctions placed on the border by China and Russia have been very helpful," Trump tweeted on Sunday. The US president blogged that he is leaving for Hanoi, Vietnam, early on Monday to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. "’We both expect a continuation of the progress made at first Summit in Singapore. Denuclearization?" the president wrote, adding that he has "great relationship with Chairman Kim".
According to the US president, Kim Jong Un "realizes, perhaps better than anyone else, that without nuclear weapons, his country could fast become one of the great economic powers anywhere in the World." "Because of its location and people (and him), it has more potential for rapid growth than any other nation!" he wrote in his Twitter account. Trump also hailed Chinese President Xi Jinping for helping to organize a second US-North Korea summit, due next week. On June 12, Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un held a historic meeting - the first-ever between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader - in Singapore. They signed a joint statement, pledging to implement the stipulations in the document fully and expeditiously. North Korea committed to work towards denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in return for security guarantees from the United States.
PYONGYANG, February 23 -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has started his train journey from Pyongyang to Hanoi (Vietnam), where he is set to meet with US President Donald Trump next week.
The source informed that around 17:00 local time (11:00 Moscow time), the North Korean leader left for Hanoi in an armored train. He is expected to travel all the way to Vietnam by train, passing China.
The total distance between Pyongyang and Hanoi surpasses 4,500 kilometers. The North Korean leader’s trip is expected to last for over 48 hours. Earlier, Trump announced that he would meet with Kim Jong Un for the second time in Vietnam's capital Hanoi on February 27-28.
The first summit between Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump took place in Singapore on June 12, 2018. The parties signed a joint document, in which Pyongyang committed to denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula in return for US security guarantees.