Wednesday, 12 August 2009

China Releases Vietnamese Fishermen Seized Near Paracel Islands

By Beth Thomas

Aug. 12 (Bloomberg) -- China freed Vietnamese fishermen detained near the disputed Paracel Islands in the South China Sea after Vietnam requested their release.

Chinese authorities yesterday informed Vietnam’s embassy in Beijing that they had released all the fishermen, who were detained aboard three fishing boats, Le Dung, a spokesman for Vietnam’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, said in a statement.

The seamen are expected to arrive home in the next few days, he added.

Thirteen Vietnamese fishermen from the central coastal provinces of Quang Ngai and Khanh Hoa were arrested near the Paracel Islands on Aug. 1 while seeking shelter to avoid a storm, the Quang Ngai government said Aug. 4. Twelve other men working on two boats from Quang Ngai were detained earlier, Hanoi-based Dung said in the statement.

The Vietnamese authorities are working with China to solve “outstanding problems,” Dung said in the statement.

The Paracel and Spratly Islands are claimed in whole or part by Vietnam, China, the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Vietnam seeks funds for Agent Orange victims

HANOI, Aug 10 (Reuters) - Vietnam launched an "Orange Day" campaign on Monday to raise funds for people it says suffered through the spraying of Agent Orange herbicide by American forces during the war, for long an irritant in relations.

Vietnam and the United States disagree over the impact of the dioxin-laced herbicides, millions of gallons of which was sprayed on Vietnamese jungles by U.S. forces from the early 1960s until the early 1970s in an attempt to deny Communist troops cover.

On Sunday, more than 10,000 people, some in wheelchairs, paraded through downtown Ho Chi Minh City in support of Agent Orange victims and "poor people with disabilities", newspaper Saigon Giai Phong reported.

Vietnam's English state-TV channel VTV4 planned to broadcast Agent Orange-related programmes all day, and the campaign's organisers hoped to raise $3.4 million for shelters, scholarships and vocational training through a range of activities.

The launch date, Aug. 10, marked the day Agent Orange was first used 48 years ago, state media reported.

Hanoi says the defoliants, nicknamed "Agent Orange" from the orange stripe on the barrels in which they were stored, have caused 400,000 deaths and millions of cases of cancer and other ailments. It says 4.8 million people were exposed.

The United States is involved in a project to assess and help clean up dioxin "hot spots" in the central city of Danang and is helping fund services to the disabled community in that area.

Many U.S. veterans exposed to the defoliant have complained for years about a variety of health problems.

Last month, a U.S. Institute of Medicine panel said a study had found that Agent Orange may raise the risk of heart disease and Parkinson's disease, but it said the evidence was far from definitive.[ID:nN24481722]

The findings added to the list of conditions that could be linked to the defoliants, including leukaemia, prostate cancer, type II diabetes and birth defects in the children of veterans.

In March, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand the dismissal of lawsuits by Vietnamese nationals and U.S. veterans against Dow Chemical Co (DOW.N), Monsanto Co (MON.N) and other chemical makers over the use of Agent Orange.

In 1984, seven chemical companies, including Dow and Monsanto, agreed to a $180 million settlement with veterans.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Vietnam capital closes schools to stop H1N1 spread

HANOI, Aug 7 (Reuters) - Authorities in Vietnam's capital, Hanoi, have effectively closed the schools in the city to try to prevent the spread of H1N1 flu, which has infected more than 1,000 people in Vietnam and killed one so far.

A circular by the Hanoi education department said that, effective Friday, schools must "immediately stop every activity that involves gathering students".

The new school year is scheduled to begin as planned on Aug. 17, it said, but some schools had started early and summer classes were in session at many others.

Three schools in Hanoi had reported students infected with the H1N1 virus, the news Web site said. H1N1 cases have been reported in all regions of the country.

In its latest update last week, the World Health Organisation reported 162,230 confirmed cases and 1,154 deaths from the virus. Flu experts said this probably reflected only a fraction of the true count as not every patient can be diagnosed with a lab test.