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

The Vietnamese Magazine
The Vietnamese Magazine

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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The Vietnamese Magazine

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