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.”