Vietnam Briefing: Vietnamese Public Outrage Over A Woman Being Coerced Into COVID-19 Testing; Migrant Workers Rush To Flee Ho Chi Minh City After Travel Restrictions Are Lifted

Vietnam Briefing: Vietnamese Public Outrage Over A Woman Being Coerced Into COVID-19 Testing; Migrant Workers Rush To Flee Ho Chi Minh City After Travel Restrictions Are Lifted
Photo credit (left to right): RFA (screenshot)/ AFP. Graphic: The Vietnamese Magazine.

A Vietnamese woman coerced into COVID-19 testing infuriates the public

  • On September 28 video footage showing Vietnamese police and security forces breaking into a woman’s apartment in Vinh Phu Ward, Binh Duong Province to force her to get tested for COVID-19. As the video began to spread on social media in Vietnam it caused outrage among the public.
  • The woman, Hoang Thi Phuong Lan, was seen being forcibly escorted to the COVID-19 testing venue by two police officers who pinned her arms behind her; her child was heard crying in the background as the police led her away. According to Lan, she was teaching an online class at that time and had already tested negative for COVID-19 at home. Lan added that she did not want to take the test again in a crowded area, expressing concerns about potential virus transmission. Also in the video, an officer was heard criticizing her for her “lack of discipline” and threatening to fine her. She later tested negative for COVID-19.
  • On September 29 at a meeting with Lan, authorities of the ward where she lives made an apology for their inappropriate actions, citing “a sense of urgency” while they were “on a mission.” She rejected the apology, saying that the apprehension “harmed” her health and “offended” her dignity. Previously, Lan had posted the video of her coercion on Facebook, consulting the public for legal procedures to sue the alleged officers.
  • On the same day, an article regarding the incident was posted on Tuoi Tre Online, a state-owned news outlet, quoting a lawyer as saying that the local authorities’ actions were “in violation of human rights.” The article was briefly online before being removed from its webpage, with no official reason given for the removal.

COVID-19 situation in Vietnam

  • As of October 3, 2021, Vietnam has recorded over 800,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 19,000 fatalities. Meanwhile, the country has seen a significant drop in coronavirus cases and related deaths with an average number of daily cases standing at around 7,400 for the past week, while the national average daily fatality rate has been 105. More than 10 percent of the Vietnamese population has been fully vaccinated.
  • Vietnam’s COVID-19 hotspot Ho Chi Minh City could have around 40 percent unrecorded cases of its official tally, reports Reuters. In an official report, positive rapid tests of around 150,000 people have not been accounted for in the tally of total confirmed cases in the city. Ho Chi Minh City has so far recorded over 370,000 coronavirus cases; if 150,000 more cases were included in the official number, it would reduce the city’s death rate from over 3.8 percent to 2.75 percent.
  • Ho Chi Minh City ends citywide virus lockdown after 3 months of restrictions on movements, reports Associated Press. Beginning on October 1, the city’s residents will be able to leave their homes, while restaurants will be allowed to offer takeaway services and other essential businesses can reopen. However, social distancing measures will still be enforced, schools and public transport remain closed, and gatherings of more than 10 people outside are banned.
  • At the same time, thousands of migrant workers were seen fleeing Ho Chi Minh City after COVID-19 lockdown in the city was lifted, reports Nikkei Asia. Long and harsh lockdown measures have taken a toll on Vietnamese migrant workers’ health and their livelihoods. Many of the laborers were required to sleep in factories to maintain production output while others were left jobless and forced to live off their savings. Relaxed restrictions allow factories in industrial parks, export processing zones and high-tech parks to resume their operations, on the condition that all workers must be fully vaccinated.
  • As migrant workers rushed to leave Ho Chi Minh City for home, scenes of heavy congestion and clashes between laborers and police had been seen at several checkpoints in the city’s suburbs, reports RFA. Multiple videos circulated on social media showing that many workers broke through barricades and fought with police, while others knelt in the street and pleaded with the police to let them through as they had run out of money to stay in the city. State-run media in Vietnam has largely ignored the disturbing situation of migrant workers; on the other hand, they have been reporting on the local authorities’ timely assistance in helping people return to their hometowns.
  • Vietnam to miss GDP target this year as COVID-19 squeezes its economy, writes Nikkei Asia: “The growth figure for the third quarter, anticipated by the end of this month, is being widely projected at under 2% — worse than the same quarter of 2020. A wave of infections and a strict COVID-19 lockdown squeezed the southern commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City, and experts warn the impact could weigh on the economy beyond the third quarter unless the country manages to accelerate vaccinations.”
  • Vietnam received an additional 1.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses from the United States, reports VnExpress: “A batch of 1,499,940 million Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine doses has been delivered to Vietnam by the U.S. through global vaccine access mechanism Covax. The new batch followed three previous vaccine donations from the U.S. to Vietnam through Covax, totalling to 7.5 million doses so far, according to a Saturday press release by the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi.”
  • Vietnam and Russia reached an agreement on COVID-19 Sputnik V vaccine supplies, according to the Vietnamese ambassador to Moscow. Previously, Vietnam had domestically produced a test batch of Russia’s Sputnik V and expected to receive another 20 million doses from Russia this year.
  • On September 29, one million doses of the Chinese-made Hayat-Vax COVID-19 vaccine also arrived in Hanoi, reports VnExpress. The vaccines’ arrival, which marks the first Hayat-Vax doses to land in Vietnam, belongs to a commercial contract of 30 million doses signed by Vietnamese pharmaceutical firm Vimedimex.

British warship stops in Vietnam after transiting through the Taiwan Strait

RFA reports:

  • British Royal Navy frigate HMS Richmond has arrived in Vietnam on a four-day friendly visit after transiting through the Taiwan Strait, which angered China. On September 27, China condemned the frigate’s passage through the Taiwan Strait, saying the United Kingdom is “carrying out a meaningless display of presence with an insidious intention.”
  • The British Royal Navy posted a picture of the frigate docked in Cam Ranh Bay on Friday, followed by a video on its Twitter page saying in Vietnamese: “Hello Vietnam! So proud for Richmond to have an opportunity to visit your beautiful country.”
  • A statement from the British Embassy in Hanoi said, “the ship’s presence underlines the U.K.’s commitment to the Indo-Pacific region, at the heart of which lies the U.K.’s partnership with Vietnam.” It also said the HMS Richmond and Vietnamese partners will conduct “bilateral cooperation activities,” without giving further details.

Sea rises due to human-made climate crisis threaten Vietnam’s low lying areas

The Guardian reports:

“Like much of the region, Vietnam is threatened by flooding and sea rises caused by the human-made climate crisis. More than 15% of the country is below five metres above sea level – compared with just 4.2% in the UK. Of the world’s larger mainland nations, only the Netherlands has more low-lying land.”

Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam

Trans-Pacific Partner Membership And The Love Triangle Of Vietnam – Taiwan – China

The Vietnamese Magazine/ Tan Trung Nguyen Quoc/ September 30

“A couple of days after China’s and Taiwan’s announcements on the CPTPP, President Xi Jinping had a phone call with General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong. This action raised some questions on whether Vietnam would act as an agent of China inside the CPTPP to prevent the accession effort of Taiwan.

If it has to, the Vietnamese government is very unlikely to side with Taiwan; no country has ever dared to, including the United States.

But upon understanding the socioeconomic situation between Vietnam, Taiwan, and China, it is also reasonable to argue that Vietnam gains nothing by explicitly objecting to Taiwan’s membership in the CPTPP. The economic ties between Taiwan and Vietnam are too significant to be sacrificed.”

In Rare Three-Party Conclave, Vietnam Pushes Back Against Growing Chinese Influence

The Diplomat/ Sebastian Strangio/ September 28

“The unusual meeting of party heads speaks to the rising concern in Hanoi that its two erstwhile clients are being drawn slowly into China’s widening orbit. In recent years, Laos and Cambodia have become magnets for Chinese capital and business people of varying degrees of probity, who have established interlocking relationships with the two countries’ respective ruling elites. This has been franked by increasingly close ties with the Chinese government, which have lavished Cambodia and Laos with “no-strings” financing and infrastructure developments.”

What Vietnam’s President Sought to Achieve at the 76th UNGA

The Diplomat/ Le Dinh Tinh/ September 28

“Phuc goes to New York this time to set the stage for the wrapping up of Vietnam’s 2020-2021 tenure as a non-permanent member of the U.N. Security Council. Vietnam’s membership will be remembered for its heightened focus on critical topics such as protection of civilians and essential infrastructure works in conflict areas, the safeguarding of women and children during armed conflicts, the settlement of bombs and mines left by war, U.N. peacekeeping operations, climate change, and peace and security challenges.”

Vietnam bids to woo Cambodia, Laos from China

Asia Times/ David Hutt/ September 27

“Most Southeast Asian countries are now well-rehearsed in the art of geopolitical hedging, particularly by trying to play the United States and China off against one another and never taking sides in order to extract ever greater economic and political benefits from both.

In a similar fashion, Laos and Cambodia are now also hedging between their historic ally Vietnam and their new superpower partner China.”

Webinar: Reviewing the First Six Months of Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh

ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute

Date: October 06 2021

Time (GMT+8): 10:00 am – 11:15 am

Perspectives: Thinking the unthinkable about China’s CPTPP application

VnExpress/ Pham Quang Vinh/ September 26

“As for CPTPP members, they need to carefully re-examine their goals and interests in the pact’s original give-and-take package, in return for having accepted the high standards insisted on by the U.S. They should also consider what their likely benefits will be in terms of competitive advantages, market diversification and reducing dependency on one source.

This is a very critical issue for Vietnam as a member of the CPTPP and RCEP. It requires the nation to be very cautious in reviewing its relationships with all partners to ensure its interest, independence and autonomy.”

Perspectives: Vietnam should walk the talk in climate actions

VnExpress/ Nguyen Dang Anh Thi/ September 30

“The Vietnamese people have already been experiencing pain from climate change impacts. Cutting GHG emissions in the country must be achieved through practical and responsible climate actions using the best available resources.

There is no hope of international support for Vietnam to deal with climate change if its policymakers don’t walk the talk of sustainability.”

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