HANOI, August 23 -- New allies Vietnam and Australia expressed concern on Friday about China’s activities in the South China Sea, where Vietnamese and Chinese vessels are locked in a tense stand-off in Vietnamese-controlled waters.
Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc discussed the rising tensions with his Australian counterpart, Scott Morrison, during the first visit by an Australian prime minister to Hanoi since the countries formalised their “strategic partnership” earlier this year. New allies Vietnam and Australia expressed concern on Friday about China’s activities in the South China Sea, where Vietnamese and Chinese vessels are locked in a tense stand-off in Vietnamese-controlled waters. “We are deeply concerned about the recent complicated developments in the East Sea and agree to cooperate in maintaining peace, stability, security, safety and freedom of navigation and overflight,” said Phuc alongside Morrison at a joint press conference, using the Vietnamese name for the South China Sea. The comments were Phuc’s first on the stand-off. A Chinese vessel, the Haiyang Dizhi 8, continued to survey Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) on Friday under escort from at least seven Chinese vessels, according to data from Marine Traffic, a website that tracks vessel movements. At least two Vietnamese navy ships, including the Russian-built Quang Trung frigate, have been closely shadowing the Chinese vessels, according to the data.
The United States said on Thursday it was deeply concerned about China’s interference in oil and gas activities in waters claimed by Vietnam, and that the deployment of the vessels was “an escalation by Beijing in its efforts to intimidate other claimants out of developing resources in the South China Sea.” Australian Prime Minister Morrison said the principles of international law should be upheld in the region. “Principles like freedom of navigation, freedom of overflight, to ensure nations can pursue the development opportunities which exist within their EEZ and sea boundaries, and can go about that business in a way which is uninhibited,” said Morrison, who began a three-day visit to Hanoi on Thursday.
BANGKOK, August 20 -- In July, at the Bangkok Asean Film Festival, Vietnamese movie The Third Wife was honored with a Special Mention prize, with the jury noting its meticulous craftsmanship, strong acting and confident directing.
In the movie set in rural Vietnam in the late 19th century, a young girl becomes the third wife of a wealthy land-owner. There are sex scenes and sequences showing child-birth. But while the film has been well-received overseas, including winning a prize at Toronto International Film Festival 2018, it has been yanked out of cinemas in Vietnam. Audiences, reported Vietnam News, are shocked that the character is played by Nguyen Phuong Tra My, who was then only 13 years old. Citizens have blasted Vietnamese film-maker Ash Mayfair over her casting decision. My's mother was also slammed for allowing her daughter to be involved, with some detractors wondering if she was blinded by the pursuit of fame and money. The VnExpress portal cited child protection experts as saying that the sex scenes could have a psychological effect on a young actress. Mayfair told the Hollywood Reporter: "We didn't do anything wrong and we broke no law. They can't attack us on those grounds so there have been attempts to smear the ethics of the actress' mother, publishing her personal details online and saying she had sold her daughter for money."
Defending the subject matter in her film, she said: "These questions are open for debate and I have no problem with that. We talk about women's rights and we are very critical about patriarchal traditions that have been in the country for centuries." My was reportedly selected after the director auditioned more than 900 candidates. My, who is now 15 and was said to have convinced her parents that she could perform the role, is upset that the movie cannot be seen by Vietnamese, even as it has drawn applause elsewhere. Hollywood trade publication Variety, in its review of the film, said: "In May (portrayed by My) and in Ha and Xuan (the other two wives), there are all the women and girls of the past who've been ignored, abused, forced into competition with one another, made to endure a degradation of spirit and a commodification of body so complete it should have resulted in their annihilation, like silkworms steaming alive inside their cocoons". "But with The Third Wife, new talent Mayfair reclaims just a few of those silvery strands from the neglect of history and weaves them into a film so sensuous we can lose ourselves in it, but so vividly real we might also be able to find ourselves there." Vietnam's censors have reportedly asked Mayfair to submit an edited version of the movie for screening clearance.
LONDON, August 15 -- Jeremy Clarkson has revealed that his co-host James May had to be rescued by crew from monsoon waves during filming of The Grand Tour in Vietnam.
The 59-year-old told The Sun that the team were attempting to cross part of the South China Sea in monsoon season, when they were hit by treacherous weather conditions. Clarkson, May and Richard Hammond have recently filmed the first of the new, special episodes of The Grand Tour in Cambodia and Vietnam, but things didn’t exactly go to plan. The team rowed out into the Mekong Delta river, but suffered serious problems when they entered the sea. Clarkson said: “It transpired four people were killed an inch away from us. “It’s about the only time health and safety has made the correct decision. “I, of course, was fine, but May had to abandon ship as crew boats were filling with water.” Responding to fan questions on DriveTribe, Clarkson promised that the special will prove to be an “astonishing show”, despite the fact filming went very wrong. He said: “It was an incredibly dramatic ending which was entirely accidental.
Hammond also narrowly escaped death when he crashed a high-performance electric car during filming in 2017. The Grand Tour is set to return on Amazon Prime later this year. All three presenters have signed a two-year deal with Amazon that is expected to yield as many as four stand alone shows a year, with the presenters travelling to far flung parts of the world in scenes not dissimilar to their globe-trotting adventures on Top Gear. And fans can expect no-holds barred excitement when the specials do eventually air, with Jeremy claiming they have been given a huge budget to rival the Marvel film franchise. Top Gear, which suffered a ratings drop following Jeremy's departure, is now hosted by Chris Harris, Paddy McGuinness and Andrew 'Freddie' Flintoff.
BEIJING, August 12 -- Export-reliant Chinese companies are slashing prices, moving production abroad, creating new domestic markets and even re-branding goods as they try to survive the escalating trade war with the United States.
Factories along the eastern coast, fish processors in the south, apple juice exporters in central China and farmers in the northeast have all been forced to change their business models since US President Donald Trump launched the conflict more than a year ago, hitting everything from motorcycles to MRI machines. But no matter what the survival tactic, times are tough and set get worse with newly threatened tit-for-tat tariffs meaning that virtually all trade between the world's two biggest economies would be covered. "It's impacted all of us exporters... we include the tariffs in our quotes now," a sales manager at Shaanxi Hengtong Fruit Juice, who gave his surname as Liu said. Chinese apple juice exports have nosedived 93% in the first half of the year since Trump hit them with tariffs in September last year. Shaanxi Hengtong Fruit Juice, which sends almost all of its product abroad, and some of its subsidiaries had to pledge shares as collateral for loans last year. One of its juice plants also put up dozens of its machines and appliances as collateral for another loan. The fish processing industry has been hit hard too. China is the main supplier of frozen tilapia to the American market, but those exports are also down this year and fish farmers have been forced to look inward. "The United States is taking advantage of its market position and bullying the many scattered Chinese tilapia suppliers," the Hainan Tilapia Sustainability Alliance said on its WeChat account. "The trade war is the last straw to crush the industry." The trade group has been brainstorming how to grow sales at home, but different domestic tastes mean it has its work cut out for it. "Tilapia has done very well in the US because it's breaded and processed... it's kind of bland. Chinese consumers like their fish fishy," said Even Pay, an agriculture analyst at advisory firm China Policy. Large fish processor Zhaoqing Evergreen Aquatic retrofitted its factory this winter to focus on the domestic market, according to industry publication Undercurrent News. Firms in other hard-hit industries have simply had to absorb some of the tariff pain. "We've dropped our prices for the US market to cover some of the tariffs," said Andy Zhou of Anytone, which makes radio handsets. Radio exports to the US were down to just $33 million in the first six months, from $230 million a year before. Zhou, too, is looking to Asian and European markets now to boost sales. Some struggling low-end radio manufacturers have been forced into drastic measures such as attempting to dodge US tariffs by swapping customs codes -- where a product is incorrectly labelled to evade levies when it arrives in America.
Other firms have resorted to transshipment -- re-routing their goods via neighbouring Vietnam to pass them off as being made there. Hanoi has vowed to crack down on Chinese manufacturers illegally using "Made-in-Vietnam" labels to dodge US tariffs, fearful of the punishment it could face from Trump over its annual trade surplus of $40 billion with the United States. New rules proposed by the trade ministry last month require all "Made-in-Vietnam" labelled goods to be mostly or fully produced in the country or contain a significant share of locally-sourced materials. They also bar "temporarily imported" goods from using the label. Some Chinese firms have moved manufacturing abroad to countries like Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia to skirt tariffs. Textile maker Jasan Group, which says it supplies Adidas and Nike, bike parts manufacturer HL Corp, and industrial yarn producer Zhejiang Hailide New Material have all moved some production to Vietnam. But the trade war has helped some Chinese sectors. Beijing's retaliatory tariffs have benefitted some of China's soybean farmers, with a boost in subsidies to local growers. "The government is encouraging us to plant more soybeans... our incomes are rising with the subsidies," said Sun Changhai, a farmer on an agricultural collective in the northern Inner Mongolian region. The subsidies have boosted China's soybean output but it still needs to import roughly 85% of what it consumes each year –- including some from top producer the United States.
BANGKOK, July 18 -- Thailand were assigned in Group G alongside not just Asian powerhouses such as the UAE and regional No1 Vietnam but also Malaysia and Indonesia. The teams will play each other both home and away.
It will serve as a tough baptism for newly-appointed national coach Akira Nishino from Japan, who is due to officially sign a contract with the Football Association of Thailand in Japan on Friday. The second round of Asian qualification for the 2022 World Cup consists of eight groups, each with five nations. The eight group leaders and four best second-placed teams will move into the third round and will automatically qualify for the 2023 Asian Cup in China. Thailand’s opening qualifier will be against Vietnam on September 5. Thailand were placed in a tricky group with the United Arab Emirates and arch-rivals Vietnam when the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification draw was conducted in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday.
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.