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Vietnam Briefing

Vietnam Briefing: VCP’s Leadership Formed Amidst COVID-19 Resurgence

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The final ceremony of the VCP's 13th national congress. Photo courtesy: Communist Party of Vietnam online newspaper

We are happy to introduce our weekly Vietnam Briefing that will be published every Monday (Vietnam time). We will produce the briefings by carefully selecting worthy news stories from verifiable and trusted sources, including Vietnam’s independent and mainstream media, civil society groups, as well as our own sources. In line with the publication’s code of conduct, we will practice no self-censorship and we pledge to be truthful, honest, and fair.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us: editor@thevietnamese.org.


COVID-19

The situation has been worsening over the past week. After new cases were recently reported in Hai Duong, Hai Phong, Hanoi, Bac Ninh, Quang Ninh, Dien Bien, Ha Giang, and now Binh Duong, Ho Chi Minh City and Gia Lai also have identified patients with COVID-19. In addition, one staff member of Tan Son Nhat International Airport was found to have COVID-19, according to the Ministry of Health. The airport remains in operation though. This data was updated at 10:00 pm on Sunday.

Tet, the Vietnamese Lunar New Year, is fast approaching (February 10-16) and many people are trying to find ways to return home for family gatherings. Unfortunately, the coronavirus is also finding ways to continue to infect people.

Fireworks for the Lunar New Year’s Eve have been canceled in various parts of the country, including Ho Chi Minh City. In Hanoi and Hai Phong, each city will have just one show instead of 30 and 12, respectively.


Meet the new leadership of the Vietnamese Communist Party

The Communist Party’s 13th Congress ended last Monday morning, February 1, 2021, one day earlier than planned due to COVID-19 concerns.

The main part of the Congress’s agenda was to elect a new leadership for the party. Two hundred members of the Central Committee were elected by the Congress on Saturday, January 30, and the Committee convened the next day to elect members of the Politburo, the general secretary, and members of the Central Disciplinary Commission.

The results were announced the same day. Current general secretary Nguyen Phu Trong won re-election. The next three seats in line are current prime minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, the head of the Party Central Committee’s Organization Commission, Pham Minh Chinh, and the secretary of the Hanoi Party Committee, Vuong Dinh Hue. Together, they are often called “The Gang of Four,” or the “Four Pillars,” holding the top seats of the Party and State.

The public in Vietnam is often informed of the results well in advance by some Internet influencers who seem to have insider information. Now, the rumor is that Nguyen Xuan Phuc will be the president, Pham Minh Chinh will be the prime minister, and Vuong Dinh Hue will be the chairperson of the National Assembly.

Of course, we have to wait until June or July, 2021, after Vietnam’s general election on May 23, 2021, to know if the rumors are correct. However, in the past, these rumores have often proved to be true.

Hard numbers: Only 19 out of 200 members of the Central Committee – the elite club of the party – are women; and only one woman was elected to the Politburo, reducing the number from three in the previous term.


After the Party Congress

As we mentioned in an earlier article, the Communist Party’s Politburo would routinely convene right after the Party Congress to assign positions to its members. Now we have started to know at least two of those positions.

February 6, 2021: In Hanoi, Vo Van Thuong was appointed the standing secretary of the Party Secretariat – a small but powerful Party body that is responsible for overseeing the daily activities of the Party, directly assisting the Politburo.

Who is he? Thuong, 51, was born in the southern province of Vinh Long. He is a young and rising star in the VCP, and he will take the fifth position in the Party leadership. He previously served as the head of the Central Propaganda Commission, and was formerly the standing deputy secretary of the Ho Chi Minh City Party Committee, the secretary of Quang Ngai Province Party Committee, the secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Youth Union, as well as having served in other positions. 

Context: No member from the South faction (in the South of Vietnam) won any of the top seats in the so-called Gang of Four (Party’s general secretary, president, prime minister, and chairperson of the National Assembly).

February 6, 2021: In Hanoi, Tran Tuan Anh, who currently heads the Ministry of Industry and Trade, was appointed commissioner of the Party’s Central Economic Commission.

Who is he? Anh has been the head of the Ministry of Industry and Trade since 2016. He was previously the deputy minister of that same ministry and also was the deputy commissioner of the Central Economic Commission. Anh was also the vice president of the Can Tho City People’s Committee and he also served as Vietnam’s consul general in San Francisco, in the United States.

What is special about him? Now 57, Anh is notably a son of Vietnam’s former president Tran Duc Luong (1997 – 2006).


Now, Vietnam’s general election

The Communist Party’s election is now over, and the next general election will take place on May 23, 2021 to elect members of the National Assembly and local government representatives.

The current chairperson of the National Assembly, Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan, wasted no time and immediately sprang into actions. She publicly announced that the national legislative body aimed to have 25 – 50 outside-of-the-party members; 207 members from the central government, 293 members from local governments; 50 members under 40 years old; at least 18 percent of members from ethnic minorities, and at least 35 percent women, according to Thanh Nien newspaper.

Who formally decides the numbers? The Standing Committee of the National Assembly. It will meet on February 22, 2021 to discuss the matter further.

Backlash: Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan’s statement immediately drew backlash from social media users who criticized her and the ruling Communist Party – the only legally operating political party in Vietnam – for trying to fake a general election.


China’s construction of military bases near the border with Vietnam

One of the most popular political news stories of last week was reports that China had been constructing two military bases close to the border with Vietnam. The following is a quote from Tuoi Tre News:

“Vietnam is verifying reports of a Chinese surface-to-air missile base being constructed near the China-Vietnam border,” Le Thi Thu Hang, spokesperson of the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said at a press conference in Hanoi on Thursday. The missile base is reportedly located in Ningming County in southwestern Guangxi, China, about 20 kilometers away from China’s border with Vietnam. The unverified information also stated that the missile base is situated about 40 kilometers away from another construction site, believed to be a military heliport.”

More details with satellite images have been published by Dai Su Ky Bien Dong, a nonprofit research group dedicated to the South China Sea issue.


Tran Huynh Duy Thuc ends his hunger strike

Political prisoner Tran Huynh Duy Thuc ended his hunger strike on February 3, 2021. His family announced the news via a Facebook page named after him. 

He started his hunger strike more than two months ago, demanding the government consider his petition to reduce his sentence of 16 years imprisonment and release him in accordance with a new provision of the 2015 Penal Code. From his family, he only consumed milk during his strike. Tran Huynh Duy Thuc was convicted in 2009 for “conducting activities against the state” under Article 79 of the then-Penal Code.

He told his family members via a phone call that he had achieved his main goal of the hunger strike which was to “keep a light burning during our country’s revolution.”

Neither the family nor the government provided any information about whether or not his appeal petition is under consideration.

Know more about him here:

Rights groups snub Vietnam prisoner over hunger strike (Asia Times, January 17, 2021)
Profile: Tran Huynh Duy Thuc (The 88 Project)


Still no news about imprisoned democracy activist Pham Doan Trang

Neither her attorney or family members have had any contact with jailed democracy activist Pham Doan Trang since she was arrested by Vietnam’s police on October 6, 2020. She has been held incommunicado in Hanoi since her arrest.

Family members of Pham Doan Trang’s have visited the No. 1 Detention Center in Hanoi weekly to give her personal supplies, but they have not been allowed to meet her and no communication has been allowed.

Vietnam’s Criminal Procedures Code allows investigative agencies to hold those suspected of national security crimes incommunicado until the investigation is completed.

Pham Doan Trang is a co-founder of The Vietnamese and Luat Khoa magazines. You can learn more about her here and about the Party’s crackdown on the opposition movement under General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong here.

Vietnam Briefing

Vietnam Briefing: Public Shaming On National Television Amidst Worsening COVID-19 Situation

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Screenshot from VTV before the video was deleted. Source: Unknown.

The Vietnam Briefing, which is released every Monday morning Vietnam time, looks at Vietnam’s political developments of the past week.


Vietnam’s national television under fire for using pseudoscience to humiliate people

  • The government-owned national television channel VTV1 has been under fire as it compared breaking social distancing rules with “having animal brains” in a national broadcasting session. It also compared people who ran away from the police and the authorities as “having reptile brains.” 
  • This idea of people having “animal” and “reptile” brains is rooted in a theory that has long been refuted, according to Yale University School of Medicine. Even though the theory is considered by many experts to be pseudoscience, it still appeared on Vietnam’s national television. 
  • VTV has deleted this video from its website along with other related articles, and has since been silent about this broadcasting. 

COVID-19 in Vietnam

  • According to Reuters: “Vietnam’s daily COVID-19 infections hit a record 8,649 cases on Friday, taking its total tally to over 137,000.” Most of the new cases were recorded in the south, particularly in Ho Chi Minh City. 
  • Even though the social distancing period for Ho Chi Minh City was supposed to end by the end of last week, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh imposed an extension for another two weeks starting August 2. By the end of this period, if no more extension is imposed, Ho Chi Minh City will have been in lockdown for 38 days. 
  • Vaccination efforts have escalated in Ho Chi Minh City. It has been reported that Ho Chi Minh City will increase the number of vaccination sites from 600 to 1,000, with each site aiming to vaccinate at least 300 people each day. 
  • Meanwhile, there have been heated debates about the type of vaccine being used in Vietnam, as Ho Chi Minh City received one million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine from China. 
  • As of Friday, July 30, only around 6.2 million people have been vaccinated with around 620,000 people fully vaccinated nationwide in Vietnam, according to the University of Oxford. The population of Vietnam is around 100 million, so the number of people fully inoculated is less than 1 percent of the population. 
  • The National Assembly gave Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh the authority and the responsibility to decide on “special measures” regarding the COVID-19 situation. This shows the lackluster role of the National Assembly in the pandemic. 

US Vice President Kamala Harris to visit Vietnam in August 

  • According to Nikkei Asia: “US Vice President Kamala Harris will visit Singapore and Vietnam in August, the White House said Friday, as Washington seeks to bolster ties with the two key Asia-Pacific partners.” This will be the first time an American vice president officially visits Vietnam while still in office. 
  • Last week, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin also visited Vietnam and met with Vietnam Defense Minister Phan Van Giang to “deepen cooperation in security and pandemic recovery.” 
  • Foreign policy experts see these visits by senior US officials as a sign that the US is broadening its presence in Southeast Asia and the South China Sea amidst China’s rising influence. There is also hope that deepening US-Vietnam relations would be beneficial for human rights advocacy. 

New (but expected) faces elected by the National Assembly

  • In the first meeting of the 15th National Assembly (elected in 2021), the legislative assembly has elected people to the 50 most important leadership positions for the next five-year term, including the prime minister, president, chairman of the National Assembly, chief justice of the Supreme People’s Court, prosecutor general of the Supreme People’s Procuracy, along with various ministers and deputies. 
  • The full list of the 50 positions and the newly elected leaders can be found here
  • As mentioned in previous briefings, even though these names have only been recently confirmed, many of the appointees have been known since as early as April
  • Amidst the surge of COVID-19 infections, the National Assembly delegation to Ho Chi Minh City is not going to meet with voters as planned. 

Activist and ex-detainee summoned by the authorities despite widespread lockdown

  • According to BBC Vietnamese, on July 28, 2021, activist and ex-political prisoner Pham Thanh Nghien, who is living in Ho Chi Minh City, was summoned by the police in Hanoi for her book, “Slices of Life Behind Bars,” which was published in the US in 2017. She said that it is possible that she was summoned also due to her criticism of the government on her Facebook account. 
  • It is unknown why the authorities wanted the activist to travel to Hanoi, despite social distancing measures in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, which make it much more difficult for anyone to travel around the country. 

Learn more about Vietnam 

COVID-19 Turned Vietnam’s State-Run Union’s Greatest Weakness Into Its Biggest Strength

Joe Buckley/The Diplomat/July 29, 2021

“The state-led Vietnam General Confederation of Labor (VGCL) is Vietnam’s only legal trade union federation. It is subordinate to the ruling Communist Party, embedded in the structures of the party-state, and receives a lot of funding from it. Government leaders often make speeches reinforcing how committed they are to strengthening the VGCL and reminding people that the Confederation is an arm of the state. You will find a union office, staffed by full-time officials, at almost every level of Vietnam’s administration, from the impressive and imposing national headquarters on Hanoi’s Quan Su street down to modest and charming ward and district-level offices throughout the country. In individual companies, union reps are often human resource managers or similar.

Due to this, the VGCL has been heavily, and often rightly, criticized for being unable to represent and struggle for workers properly. The VGCL has never organized a strike, for example, and often serves as a channel to inform workers of government and company policies rather than to challenge them.” 

In Vietnam, Civil Society Is Picking up the Slack Where Authorities Struggle

Luke Hunt/The Diplomat/July 28, 2021

“The Communist authorities in Vietnam risk becoming increasingly marginalized after failing to curb the spread of COVID-19. Civil society groups are now taking the initiative in combating the pandemic amid harsh lockdowns in the country’s south.”

America Can—and Should—Vaccinate the World

Helene Gayle, Gordon LaForge, and Anne-Marie Slaughter/Foreign Affairs/March 19, 2021 

“The Biden administration is right to want to take the lead in vaccinating the world, for a host of reasons both self-interested and altruistic. But it should not fall into the trap of trying to beat Russia and China at their own game—handing out vaccines to specific countries based on their geostrategic importance and the amount of attention they are receiving from rival powers.  

Rather, Biden should pursue abroad the sort of “all in” unity approach that he has proclaimed at home. His administration should focus less on strategic advantage than on vaccinating the largest number of people worldwide in the shortest amount of time. In so doing, the United States would concentrate on what the world’s peoples have in common—susceptibility to this and many other viruses—regardless of the nature of their governments.” 

Research: “The Ambiguous Legacy of Ngô Đình Diệm in South Vietnam’s Second Republic (1967–1975)

Sean Fear/Journal of Vietnamese Studies/March 01, 2016

“Although recent English-language Vietnam War scholarship has devoted considerable attention to reassessing the Ngô Đình Diệm era, contemporaneous South Vietnamese interpretations of the president’s tenure have been largely overlooked. Contrary to prevailing assumptions that his influence ended abruptly with his 1963 murder, Ngô Đình Diệm was a hotly debated figure long after his death. Moreover, his contested legacy came to symbolize South Vietnam’s enduring political, regional and religious schisms, contributing to and reinforcing his country’s profound social fragmentation. The fluid and ambiguous memory that Vietnamese had of his time in office had a substantial impact on subsequent political developments, establishing patterned dynamics of political conflict that endured throughout the Second Republic and providing conceptual yardsticks against which subsequent politicians and political developments were measured. Ngô Đình Diệm’s fraught symbolic resonance and significant posthumous political impact are therefore crucial dimensions to consider in evaluating his legacy.”

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Vietnam Briefing

Vietnam Briefing: COVID-19 Crisis Deepening While The National Assembly Convened To Elect State Leadership

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A medical worker in Vietnam during the Covid-19 outbreak in July 2021. Photo: VNExpress.

The Vietnam Briefing, which is released every Monday morning Vietnam time, looks at Vietnam’s political developments of the past week.


COVID-19

  • Last week witnessed the daily COVID-19 tally reach an all-time high on Saturday, with 7,968 cases reported. The total number of cases surpassed 100,000 on Sunday, July 25.
  • According to data from Johns Hopkins University, only more than 4.5 million doses have been administered, which is equivalent to 4.6 percent of the population, with only 0.39 percent of the population having been fully vaccinated.
  • Hanoi, the capital city, started a 15-day social distancing period on Saturday, July 24.
  • Ho Chi Minh city started to impose a night curfew from Monday, July 26, prohibiting residents from leaving their homes after 6 PM without a legitimate reason.

Vaccination scandals

Vietnam’s public always speculates that government officials, their relatives, and big corporations have unfair access to vaccines. Last week, two scandals gave them legitimate reasons to believe that.

  • A woman announced on her Facebook page that she received a COVID-19 vaccine shot last week with help from her “grandfather.” The hospital that administered the shot explained that her father registered for her. The father happens to be a lecturer at the Academy of Military Medicine who taught one of the doctors administering vaccines. It’s a popular practice in Vietnamese culture for a woman who has children to call her own father “ông ngoại” (maternal grandfather), following the way her children call him.
  • The Ho Chi Minh City government “lent” 5,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses to the giant corporation Vingroup, city officials said on Saturday. They explained that this was done due to Vingroup’s large assistance to the government’s pandemic response and that they would do so again for other enterprises for the same purpose.
  •  The two above-mentioned vaccination scandals angered the public as people questioned the fairness of the government’s vaccine rollout policy. Some public members were enraged at the Vingroup “lending agreement” because they believed the government did not have the authority to lend these vaccines since they were donated to Vietnam under the COVAX program.

Meanwhile, the National Assembly convened to rubber-stamp the Communist Party’s decisions on personnel

The pandemic is usually not a reason for a national legislative body to stop working. But while online meeting procedures have not been introduced yet, the National Assembly convened its first session of the new term on July 20 after the election in May to largely rubber-stamp the Communist Party’s major decisions on personnel.

  • The National Assembly always convenes shortly after the general elections to elect state leadership, including its own. On July 20, members elected Vuong Dinh Hue as chairperson of the body and 17 other top positions.
  • As expected, the National Assembly  Standing Committee has nominated Nguyen Xuan Phuc as state chairman (a.k.a state president).
  • On July 26, the National Assembly is expected to elect the state chairperson, the prime minister, the vice state chairperson, the chief justice of the Supreme People’s Court, and the prosecutor general of the Supreme People’s Procuracy. These people are expected to be the same officials who were elected to the same positions in April.
  • The National Assembly on July 23 voted to pass a resolution to maintain the current 22 ministry-level departments of the administration.
  • The National Assembly has also decided to shorten its first session due to the COVID-19 pandemic and end the session on July 28 instead of July 31.

Facebook users sentenced to years of imprisonment

Nguyen Van Lam, 51, was sentenced by Nghe An’s People’s Provincial Court to nine years in prison and three years of probation for “making, storing, spreading information, materials, items for the purpose of opposing the State” under Article 117 of the Penal Code. He was accused of using Facebook to spread information that is deemed to be anti-state.

More cases:

  • Tran Hoang Minh, a Facebook user, was sentenced to five years of imprisonment allegedly for “abusing democratic freedoms” under Article 331 of the Penal Code, according to RFA. The Hanoi People’s Court convicted him based on the accusation of publishing 51 pieces of content on Facebook concerning the Dong Tam incident. Minh had no defense lawyer nor relatives present during his trial. It’s unclear whether or not he will file an appeal.
  • A former attorney in Hanoi, Nguyen Thi Thuy, was convicted of the same crime on July 21 and sentenced to 20 months of imprisonment: “In the process of protecting rights of Ngu, Thuy said he was wrongly accused and illegally arrested. She later wrote two documents that hurt the prestige and honor of several Party and State leaders and sent them to ministries and agencies, thus exerting pressure on them to follow her proposal.”
  • Nguyen Van Son, a relative of the detained blogger Le Dung Vova, was charged with concealment of crimes, Hanoi Police announced on July 22. He is accused of assisting Dung while he was in hiding before his arrest on June 30.

Former mayor of Hanoi prosecuted for illegally interfering in bidding activities

From VietnamPlus:

“The Investigation Police Agency under the Ministry of Public Security on July 24 executed a decision on commencing legal proceedings against Nguyen Duc Chung, former chairman of the Hanoi People’s Committee, for the charge of “abusing position and power while performing duties” in the case related to the municipal Department of Planning and Investment and relevant units.”


U.S. trade agency drops tariff threat against Vietnam over currency practices

From Reuters:

“The U.S. Trade Representative’s office on Friday said it had determined that no tariff action against Vietnam was warranted after its central bank agreed with the U.S. Treasury not to manipulate its currency for an export advantage.”


US Defense Secretary to visit Vietnam

From VietnamPlus:

“US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will pay an official visit to Vietnam on July 28 and 29 at the invitation of Vietnamese Minister of National Defence Gen. Phan Van Giang.”

From VnExpress:

“A former U.S. vessel donated to Vietnam Coast Guard arrived in the country earlier this month, according to the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi.”


Learn more about Vietnam:

In Vietnam, the Party’s Rolling Crackdown on Dissent Continues

Stewart Rees/The Diplomat/July 23

“Proponents of an EU trade pact said it would nudge one-party Vietnam towards greater respect for human rights. The evidence so far points in the other direction.”

Vietnam Still Trolling Donald Trump With Economic Successes

William Pesek/Forbes/July 22

“Vietnam just made a deal with the U.S. Treasury Department: we won’t weaken the dong if you take us off the dreaded “currency manipulator” list. It’s actually a bigger victory for Hanoi than Prime Minister Phạm Minh Chính’s government may realize.”

New research: “The Growing Salience of Online Vietnamese Nationalism”

Luong Nguyen An Dien/ISEAS/2021

“The growing salience of online Vietnamese nationalism has posed serious challenges and dilemmas for the regime. The authorities have had to encourage nationalistic patriotism without letting Sinophobia spiral out of control or turn against the regime.”

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Vietnam Briefing

Vietnam Briefing: COVID-19 Nationwide Crisis; Country’s Map May Be Redrawn

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Medical workers during Covid-19 lockdown in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Zing News

The Vietnam Briefing, which is released every Monday morning Vietnam time, looks at Vietnam’s political developments of the past week.


COVID-19 in Vietnam

  • Movement restrictions across Vietnam amidst outbreaks: Sixteen southern provinces are expected to undergo two-week movement restrictions as three-quarters of new cases were in the south, particularly in Saigon. In the north, Hanoi is also entertaining more restrictions. People are advised to stay at home, and non-essential establishments are closed. 
  • The Vietnamese government said Pfizer would provide the country with 20 million more doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, which would be used primarily for children of 12-18 years old, and Pfizer may consider transferring the vaccine technology to Vietnam. Vietnam also said that the Pfizer dose would be offered to people vaccinated with AstraZeneca in the first dose. 
  • Vietnam is imprisoning people on COVID-19 related charges: Last week, on July 16, a man was charged with 18 months in prison for “breaking strict Covid-19 quarantine rules, spreading the virus to others and causing financial damage to the authorities.” However, this was not the first time a Vietnam Airline flight attendant also received similar charges and was sentenced to a two-year suspended jail time in late March. 

Vietnamese hospital cremates body of Korean virus patient without notice

From Korea Times:

  • A hospital in Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam, has cremated the body of a Korean national who died from COVID-19 there, without giving prior notice to the bereaved family members in Korea, provoking protests from them and the Korean Consulate General in the city. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sunday, a Korean man in his 50s died in the hospital after undergoing medical treatment for about 10 days following him testing positive for the virus in early July.

The Vietnamese government is tightening free speech 

  • According to Nikkei Asia, the government proposes a new draft decree that contains new regulations specifically targeting live-streaming activities on social media platforms, including Facebook, Youtube, and Tiktok. 
  • This new draft decree is forcing international social media platforms to hand over to the government the information of popular individuals who live streaming with more than 10,000 followers or subscribers. The government also wants to tax those making money from these platforms. 
  • Meanwhile, concern has been raised over Vietnam’s purchase of Israeli company Cellebrite’s phone-hacking technology. Attorney Eitay Mack, who conducted the investigation into the Israeli company, protested the company’s and the Israeli Defense Ministry’s decision to sell such technology to Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security, citing concerns over crackdowns on journalists and pro-democracy and human rights activists. 

Incoming National Assembly’s first meeting since the 2021 election 

  • Next week, on July 20, the 15th National Assembly will hold its first meeting session after the 2021 election ended in late May. 
  • Originally, the first session was held from July 20 to August 5, but the session was shortened to end on July 31 due to complications of COVID-19 outbreaks in Vietnam. 
  • In this first session, the representatives in the National Assembly will confirm 50 important officials who will hold the positions over the next five years, such as the chairperson of the Assembly, the president, the prime minister and his deputies, chief justice, chief of the Procuracy, etc. The identity of these leaders is already known at this point, and confirmation is largely just procedural. Vietnam conducted a similar event in April to elect the same individuals to the same positions. It has made the whole process of election, nomination, and confirmation started in May highly confusing to even the Vietnamese public, not to mention international observers.
  • The first session will also discuss financial and economic issues related to public investment for the next term.  
  • It is also reported that 435 out of 499 National Assembly representatives have been vaccinated against COVID-19. It is unclear whether they have been fully vaccinated or only vaccinated with one dose. It is also unclear which types of vaccines were used for the National Assembly representatives. 

EU Domestic Advisory Group (DAG) denounces Vietnam’s arrest of civil society leaders

  • Two weeks ago, journalist Mai Phan Loi and lawyer Dang Dinh Bach were arrested for alleged tax evasion. They were both involved in registered civil society organizations in Vietnam and were both board members of the VNGO-EVFTA Network, which aims to raise awareness about civil society’s involvement in the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement. 
  • Last week, on July 15, the EU DAG denounced the arrests of the two individuals, citing concerns that the Vietnamese government is actively silencing those who try to raise human rights concerns. 
  • Earlier this year in January, the EU DAG already affirmed that “civil society engagement and scrutiny of the EVFTA is not an optional element of the agreement,” and urged the European Commission to ensure that this element is fully implemented. 

US ambassador to Vietnam nominee promises to press Vietnam on human rights

From Reuters

  • In a US Senate hearing on July 13, Marc Knapper, the Biden administration’s nominee to become the new US ambassador to Vietnam, vowed to press the Vietnamese government “to respect the freedoms of expression, association, peaceful assembly, and religion or belief.”

South Korea requests Vietnam’s involvement in North Korean dialogue

From United Press International

  • Last week, on July 15, during a phone call with the Vietnamese Communist Party’s Secretary General Nguyen Phu Trong, South Korean President Moon Jae-in asked Vietnam to “play a role in promptly resuming dialogue with North Korea,” according to South Korea’s Blue House. 
  • In response to Moon’s request, Trong reportedly said that Vietnam “supports the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and dialogues for peaceful consultations.”
  • Moon also asked for Vietnam’s opinion on the situation of pro-democracy crackdowns in Myanmar, to which Trong replied that Vietnam will “continue to work for the restoration of peace and stability in Myanmar.”

Will the Vietnam map be redrawn?

  • According to the state-controlled Tuoi Tre News, 20 Vietnamese provinces might be merged into other provinces due to their limited population or acreage. 
  • Some of the provinces include Da Nang, Ha Nam, Vinh Phuc, Hung Yen, Nam Dinh, Bac Kan, Cao Bang, Kon Tum, Ninh Thuan, and Lao Cai, among a list of twentieth provinces.
  • Vietnam’s administrative provincial boundaries have been adjusted repeatedly over the past 50 years. By the end of the Vietnam War in April 1975, the country had 72 provincial units. A massive merging process was implemented shortly after that and the number of provincial units reduced to 38 in 1976. However, many provinces have started to be split since 1978 while a few others have been merged to other entities, making the number of provinces 63 in 2008.

Learn more about Vietnam 

New research: The South Vietnamese Flag and Shifting Representations of the Vietnamese American Experience

Tuan Hoang/Rising Asia Journal/July 13, 2021 

“The sight of the South Vietnamese flag in Washington, DC on January 6, 2021, has aroused curiosity and criticism. Missing in the commentaries, however, is the multiplicity of its symbolism to Vietnamese Americans who had come to the United States as refugees or immigrants. Although its visual symbolism is forever tied to the history of the former Republic of Vietnam, its underlying meaning has changed to reflect the experience of Vietnamese after the fall of Saigon, not before.”

New research: A Multi-level Approach to Vietnam Foreign Policy: From Security Preoccupation to Middle Power Role

Le Dinh Tinh/Strategic Analysis/June 13, 2021

“Prior to 1995 when Vietnam joined ASEAN and normalized relationship with the United States, the overriding concern was security as could be well explained by realism. Vietnam has made several critical, strategic moves since 1995 and by 2030 the country may be able to act internationally as an emerging middle power. Taking a multi-level approach and empirical evidences of 35 years of Doi Moi (renovation), this article attempts to clarify as to how Vietnam has been in a better position to ensure the security goal by embarking on an ambitious development strategy and expanding its international role.”

New research: Vietnam’s Foreign Policy in an Era of Rising Sino-US Competition and Increasing Domestic Political Influence

Carlyle A. Thayer/Asian Security/July 31, 2017

“This article examines the dramatic shifts that Vietnam’s foreign policy has undergone over time, from a country tightly allied with Socialist partners like China and the Soviet Union to one that has diversified its strategic partners and forsworn alliances in order to protect its strategic autonomy…. As public opinion and elite factionalism play an increasing role in Vietnam’s foreign policy, managing Vietnam’s external ties has become increasingly difficult. This article concludes that public opinion regarding relations with China has become so toxic that it poses a serious challenge to the political legitimacy of Vietnam’s one-party regime should it fail to deter Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea.”

Bittersweet: Vietnam’s Mixed Progress on E-Government During COVID-19

Truong Thuy Quynh and Pham Thi Thuy Duong/The Diplomat/July 16, 2021

“The government is in fact taking steps to remedy the system’s shortcomings, from timely adoption of more advanced technologies to smoothing the way for government-private sector collaboration.

On July 11, Ho Chi Minh City introduced a new system that allows facial recognition and location tracking via smartphones to supervise self-quarantine, hoping to ease the pressure on centralized quarantine venues. The city is also using STAYHOME and HCMCovidSafe, smart wristbands produced collaboratively by governmental agencies, tech corporations, and scientists. Such cooperation has sparked the hope for a synergy in ICT capacity building in Vietnam in the near future.

Nevertheless, problems like a lack of coordination within the governmental apparatus, digital inequality, an immature digital culture, and a dearth of ICT-qualified personnel within the public sector may remain pressing in the aftermath of COVID-19. All the experts we spoke to agreed that these issues should now rise to the top of the policy agenda, alongside infrastructure building and technological upgrades.”

Vietnam to pilot virtual currency as crypto thrives in gray zone

Lien Hoang/Nikkei Asia/July 12, 2021

“After years of warning its citizens not to “gamble” on virtual money, the Vietnamese government has decided to explore creating its own digital currency.

The surprise policy move came buried near the bottom of Prime Minister Decision 942, which lays out a strategy for digitizing the government by 2030. Released last month, it directs the State Bank of Vietnam to research, “develop, and pilot the use of virtual currency based on blockchain technology.”

Why we should care about fate of the Mekong

An Pich Hatda/Nikkei Asia/ July 12, 2021

“More than 70 million people rely on the river, partly or entirely, for their livelihood, and its central role in the economies of the Lower Basin countries cannot be understated. Taken together, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam represent around half the Mekong region’s entire production of rice and fish, a third of tourism, and a large percentage of the region’s energy demands, according to a recent study by the Mekong River Commission (MRC).

But the Mekong’s enduring role as a source of life and livelihoods is facing multiple threats. These threats have been compounded by the COVID pandemic that has created unprecedented economic hardship and worsened environmental degradation.”

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