Vietnam Briefing: Vietnam Records New COVID-19 Milestones; Human Rights And Regional Cooperation Become Key Issues During U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris’ Visit To Vietnam

The Vietnamese Magazine
The Vietnamese Magazine

COVID-19: Vietnam marked new daily infections and deaths record

  • Saturday, August 21, 2021, Vietnam confirmed a total of 13,417 Covid-19 cases, the highest tally since the country detected its first coronavirus infections. On Sunday, the country recorded 737 coronavirus-related deaths, the highest fatality number on any given single day.
  • Quick take: In total, Vietnam’s Covid-19 confirmed cases surpassed 340,000 with over 8,000 deaths. Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) and other southern provinces remain the country’s largest coronavirus hotspots. As of now, only around 1.7 percent of the country’s population have been fully vaccinated.
  • Panic buying has been seen in HCMC as a result of the local authorities’ decision to impose a stringent lockdown, prohibiting residents from leaving their homes, according to Reuters. Meanwhile, chairman of the city’s People’s Committee, Nguyen Thanh Phong, was removed from his position by the Communist Party, possibly on account of his poor handling of Covid-19.
  • Starting this Monday, HCMC will deploy military troops to enforce the strict stay-at-home order for two weeks amid spiralling Covid-19 infections and deaths in the city, Reuters reports. “We are asking people to stay where they are, not to go outside. Each home, company, factory should be an antivirus fort,” said Pham Duc Hai, deputy head of the city’s coronavirus authority.
  • HCMC official: The city records an average of 240 coronavirus-related deaths every 24 hours. Meanwhile, there are “hundreds of acutely-ill patients and thousands of people wishing to flee the city,” he added.
  • Dr. Kidong Park, World Health Organization Representative in Vietnam: “[Vietnam’s] current healthcare system is under enormous pressure” due to the surge in Covid-19 cases. “There is still a lot of work to be done while the next few weeks are crucial […] to contain the recent outbreaks,” Dr. Park affirmed.
  • Vietnam calls for international support to deal with the pandemic: “We hope that other countries and international organizations would continue to share information, technology, finance, health services, and vaccines so that Vietnam can soon control and fight off this dangerous disease,” said Ms. Le Thi Thu Hang, Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman.
  • The Vietnamese government proposed a plan to distribute around 130,000 tons of rice to over 8.6 million Vietnamese people, who face food shortages because of Covid-19 pandemic effects. The food aid will be distributed to 24 provinces and municipalities in the country.
  • Covid-19 vaccine’s arrival in Vietnam, from VietnamPlus: “Vietnam received an additional 1,209,400 doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine on August 19, according to the Vietnam Vaccine JSC (VNVC). This is the ninth batch delivered to Vietnam under the VNVC’s order of 30 million doses with AstraZeneca, which will be handed over to the Ministry of Health at a not-for-profit price.”

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris is set to visit Vietnam this Tuesday, human rights issues to be raised

Families of several Vietnamese prisoners of conscience co-wrote an open letter to Vice President Kamala Harris, asking her to pressure Hanoi for the release of their family members.

RFA reports:

  • The letter, signed by four prisoners’ wives, informs Harris that many prisoners of conscience are jailed for publicly disagreeing with the government, “which does not happen in a democratic country like the United States.”
  • They request the release of their family members “so the old mother may still see her son, the young wife can again cry on her husband’s shoulder, so the two-digit-prison-terms will not take away the life of one man and the livelihood of his whole family. All because they dare to speak the truth, a very normal action in any democratic nation,” the letter said.
  • The letter was signed by the wives of Truong Minh Duc, serving 12 years in prison for “attempting to overthrow the government;” Nguyen Nang Tinh, serving 11 years for his Facebook posts critical of the government; Luu Van Vinh, serving 15 years for spreading information about a 2016 toxic chemical spill at the Formosa steel plant; and Tran Duc Thach, an author serving 12 years for his writings that expose the corruption, injustice and human rights abuses of the Vietnamese government.
  • According to the California-based Vietnam Human Rights Network, Vietnam currently detains around 300 political prisoners.

The 88 Project, a human rights advocacy project, along with other 12 human rights organizations, also released an open letter to Vice President Harris prior to her visit.

The Vietnamese Magazine reports:

  • Released on Wednesday, August 18, 2021, the letter urges the vice president to “emphasize the importance of human rights with Vietnamese leaders” and also calls for specific action to be taken regarding the situation of Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, a prominent Vietnamese democracy activist whose health is slowly deteriorating due to his prolonged hunger strike.
  • In 2010, Thuc was sentenced to 16 years in prison for writing and publishing online articles calling for a multi-party democratic system in Vietnam.
  • Thuc’s imprisonment, detention, and subsequent treatment at the hands of Vietnamese authorities are blatant infringements of his right to a fair trial under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Vietnamese Constitution. He has also been subject to various forms of physical and mental duress which violate the international prohibition against torture.

The full text of the open letter can be accessed here.

The Vietnamese Magazine reports:

  • On October 6, 2020, at 11:30 pm, Pham Doan Trang was arrested by Vietnamese state forces and was subsequently charged with “conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” and “making, storing, spreading information, materials, items for the purpose of opposing the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.”
  • LIV appeals to Vice President Kamala Harris to urge the Vietnamese government to unconditionally release illegally imprisoned journalists, including Pham Doan Trang, and push for a freer and more inclusive Vietnamese media environment, where “no journalist needs to fear oppression by their government.”

LIV’s open letter to Vice President Harris can be accessed here.

Vice President Kamala Harris seeks to “strengthen relationships with partners in the region,” reports CNN:

  • Officials say Harris will look to strengthen relationships with partners in Southeast Asia during her visit to Vietnam and Singapore. She will also engage with members of the private sector and civil society leaders.
  • The vice president will also seek to share the Biden administration’s vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific when she meets with Vietnamese government officials, her office said, and she will raise security issues, including in the South China Sea.

A member of the ‘Provisional Government of Vietnam’ sentenced to a three-year prison term under Article 109 of the penal code

RFA reports:

  • A court in central Vietnam’s Nghe An Province last Monday sentenced a member of a U.S.-based political opposition group to three years in prison for alleged activities aimed at overthrowing the country’s one-party Communist government.
  • Tran Huu Duc, born in 1964 and a resident of Nghe An Province, was accused by prosecutors of using Facebook to connect with other members of the so-called Provisional Government of Vietnam, headquartered in Orange County, California, from June 2020 to January 2021.
  • The Provisional Government of Vietnam was founded in 1991 by former soldiers and refugees loyal to the South Vietnamese government that existed before the country’s takeover by North Vietnam in 1975.
  • In its Freedom in the World 2021 report, Washington D.C.-based Freedom House gave Vietnam an overall score of 19 out of a possible 100, a one-point decrease from last year’s rating. Vietnam scored three out of 40 in political rights, and 16 out of 60 in civil liberties.

Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam

Will Vietnam Be America’s Next Strategic Partner?

The Diplomat/ Alexander L. Vuving/ August 21

“The relationship between Washington and Hanoi is one of the most delicate and most subtle in the world. Historical memories, ideological differences, and domestic concerns often make things unspeakable in this growing relationship. But the largest factor of all that renders the U.S.-Vietnam relationship so delicate and so subtle is China. It is also the critical factor that makes and unmakes the strategic aspect of U.S.-Vietnam ties.”

I Can’t Forget the Lessons of Vietnam. Neither Should You.

The New York Times/ Viet Thanh Nguyen/ August 19

“History is happening again, and again as tragedy and farce. The wars in Vietnam and Afghanistan happened as a result of American hubris, and in both cases, Americans mostly focused on the political costs of war for them. But in each case, the Vietnamese (and Laotians, Cambodians and Hmong), and now the Afghans, have paid the much greater toll in human suffering. In April 1975, the United States recognized its moral responsibility and evacuated about 130,000 Vietnamese people, and then accepted hundreds of thousands more from Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in subsequent decades. This is what must happen now, and anything short of such a vision of responsibility and hospitality will compound the American failure in Afghanistan.”

Afghanistan and the Real Vietnam Analogy

The Diplomat/ Andrew Gawthorpe/ August 18

“In South Vietnam, as in Afghanistan, this U.S. inability to impose its will on local political realities ultimately led to the failure of nation-building and defeat in war. The specific ways in which Afghanistan has collapsed highlight the primacy of the local.”

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