The Vietnam Briefing, which is released every Monday morning Vietnam time, looks at Vietnam’s political developments of the past week.
Exoduses in Kabul and Saigon, at the same time, for different reasons
The world is talking about people fleeing Kabul as the Taliban enters the city, with some comparing this to the similar situation in Saigon in 1975.
Quotes from VnExpress:
- Thousands are setting out for their hometowns on motorbikes with suitcases and other belongings, creating gridlocks at the eastern gateway of Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) and Thu Duc City.
- “The area near my house has discovered a few Covid-19 cases, and more people have died from the pandemic, so I am very frightened and do not dare to stay,” said one man named Trung, adding that he has received no support from the local government. “I have no choice. I know that many parts of the country are keeping socially distancing, but if I stay I have no money to spend, and I’m afraid of getting infected.”
- “Back home, I still have family and relatives, but in HCMC, I have lost my job and really didn’t know how to live,” said another person.
- Last week, Vietnam added almost 60,000 new cases and 2,187 deaths, pushing the total number of cases over 265,000 with total deaths almost 5,500.
- Saturday witnessed the biggest daily tally with 9,710 new cases.
- Hanoi extended the lockdown order until August 22.
- The two biggest cities, Hanoi and HCMC, briefly introduced highly controversial COVID-19 measures to control the movement of people. Hanoi required people to present proof of assignments issued by their employers while HCMC forced people to fill in an online form at the city’s checkpoints. Local governments quickly reversed course after creating traffic gridlocks and receiving a backlash from the public.
- Vaccines made in Vietnam: “Vietnam may be able to produce a COVID-19 vaccine in September if everything goes smoothly, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh told scientists, units and businesses participating in vaccine production and research at a meeting on August 12.” (VietnamPlus)
- One thing to note: The state media has been playing down the number of deaths, instead emphasizing patient recoveries. Luat Khoa magazine cites an unnamed source saying the Communisty Party has instructed the state media to avoid highlighting the death tolls and concentrate on the “positive” side of the situation.
Critics of the government’s COVID-19 response punished
“Authorities in Vietnam have arrested a Facebook user for posting mild criticism of government COVID-19 policies, while a university fired a lecturer after a student shared her comments faulting Hanoi’s pandemic response on the social media platform.”
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The Diplomat/Le Dong Hai Nguyen/August 13
“There is a strong case to be made that the Vietnamese government leveraged ingrained anti-Chinese sentiment to boost vaccine uptake.”
The 88 Project/August 6
“It’s been an eventful year so far in Vietnamese politics. Arrests of critics of the regime have taken place against the backdrop of the 13th National Party Congress, National Assembly elections, and rising Coronavirus infections. Twenty-three critics of the regime have been arrested during the first seven months of 2021, while 20 have been sentenced to prison. Article 331 was the most frequent charge levelled against critics, with 11 individuals arrested for “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State.” Eight people were charged under Article 117, a broad provision which criminalizes producing or disseminating information ‘opposing’ the State.”
The Hill/Williams Danvers/August 15
“With her planned trip to Asia, specifically to Vietnam and Singapore, Vice President Kamala Harris will take on another foreign policy challenge: helping to implement fundamental pieces of the Indo-Pacific strategy.”
New research: “Two years into CPTPP”
CSIS/Kati Suominen/August 9
“Trade in the CPTPP [Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership] region after the agreement entered into force has largely paralleled members’ trade flows with the rest of the world. Vietnam has grown its trade in goods as well as inbound investment, possibly a positive signal to other Southeast Asian countries that are considering CPTPP membership, such as the Philippines and Indonesia. Japan and Singapore have led the region’s trade in digitally deliverable services, also a key sector for the Philippines and the United Kingdom, another aspiring member. To be sure, these early patterns should be interpreted with care and should not be read as caused by the CPTPP. Further papers in this series explore the extent to which these and other patterns can be attributed to the CPTPP, as opposed to other factors.”
ISEAS/William Choong, Hoang Thi Ha, Le Hong Hiep and Ian Storey/5 August 2021
“The choice of Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines – as well as forthcoming high-level US engagements in these three countries – highlight their importance as ‘critical Indo-Pacific partners’ in the Biden administration’s Indo-Pacific strategy.”
New book by Ted Osius, the former US Ambassador in Vietnam: “Nothing is impossible: America’s Reconciliation with Vietnam”
“Ted Osius, U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam 2014-17, offers a vivid first-hand account of the various forms of diplomacy that brought about the reconciliation between two former enemies and helped bring new prosperity to Vietnam. Nothing is Impossible – with a foreword by John Kerry — tells an inspiring story of how international diplomacy can create a better world.”
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