Hanoi electronics store defends bikini show, says it is for ‘sex education’


Five women in bikinis stand at the parking lot of the Tran Anh Electronics Store in Hanoi. Photo provided by a Facebook user Managers of an electronics store in Hanoi have spoken up about the controversial appearances of a group of women in swimwear at their shop on Thursday, claiming they were only filming "sex education videos." In an interview with Thanh Nien on Friday, Ngo Thanh Dat, marketing manager at Tran Anh Electronics Supermarket, denied allegations that this was simply a promotional ploy to attract the male gaze and lure in customers. He insisted that rival companies were trying to "defame" his store. "Young Vietnamese people have not been provided with appropriate sex education... so we want to make a series of sex education videos," said Dat. The manager did not elaborate on the content of the series and in what way the women in bikinis can teach young people about safe sex practices. In several videos posted on YouTube and dozens of photos online, the women can be … [Read more...]

Japan’s corpse hotels upset some of the neighbors


Customer Hirokazu Hosaka (R) prays to his mother as he stands at her coffin with his wife Minako Hosaka at the 'Corpse Hotel' in Kawasaki, Japan, April 20, 2016. Tucked away in a quiet residential street in Kawasaki city in Japan is a refurbished workshop with a plain silver exterior and black draped windows that residents describe as creepy. The business inside, Sousou, is one of Japan's latest so-called corpse hotels, a camouflaged morgue used to store some of Japan's mounting pile of bodies waiting for a spot in one of the nation's overworked crematoriums. "Crematories need to be built, but there isn’t any space to do so and that is creating funeral refugees," said Hisao Takegishi, who opened the business in 2014. Staff members remove a coffin from a room of the 'Corpse Hotel' in Kawasaki, Japan, April 20, 2016. At a daily rate of 9,000 yen ($82) family members can keep their deceased relative in one of Sousou's 10 rooms for up to four days until a crematorium can be … [Read more...]

Bookies vow never again as 5,000-1 Leicester closes on title


Leicester City's English midfielder Marc Albrighton celebrates scoring their fourth goal during the English Premier League football match between Leicester City and Swansea on April 24. Photo: AFP William Hill Plc and other bookmakers gave better chances to finding Elvis Presley alive (2,000-1) or discovering the Loch Ness monster (500-1) than to Leicester City F.C. winning this season’s English Premier League soccer title. It won’t make that mistake again. On Sunday, the Foxes of Leicester City could capture their first Premier League title in their 132-year history -- with early bets at 5,000-1 odds. If the team’s core of unknown and journeyman footballers defeat 20-time champion Manchester United, William Hill would lose 2 million pounds ($2.9 million), according to company spokesman Rupert Adams. The bookmaker took 58 pounds in bets on Thai-owned Leicester City at odds of 5,000-1, and would have to pay out 750,000 pounds to gamblers who bet later in the season … [Read more...]

China denies U.S. carrier Hong Kong visit amid maritime tension


USS John C. Stennis on April 25 Photo: Bloomberg China has denied a U.S. carrier strike group’s request for a port visit to Hong Kong next week amid escalating tensions in the adjacent South China Sea. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs notified the U.S. Thursday of its decision to deny the USS John C. Stennis and its escort ships access to the former British colony, Darragh Paradiso, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong, said by phone. The ministry provided no explanation for the move, she said. The decision follows weeks of increasing diplomatic sparring between China and the U.S. over Beijing’s claims to more than 80 percent of the South China Sea. The nuclear-powered Stennis has played a central role in U.S. efforts to demonstrate its continued security presence in the disputed waters, with Defense Secretary Ashton Carter visiting the warship on patrol there earlier this month. The Stennis has become a "symbol of efforts to spark strategic … [Read more...]

New Zealand, Oxfam offer drought relief to Mekong Delta province


A woman in Ba Tri District, Ben Tre Province receives drinking water under a New Zealand government-funded program. Photo courtesy of Oxfam The New Zealand Embassy in Hanoi on Thursday announced humanitarian aid worth US$50,000 to communities affected by drought and saltwater intrusion in the Mekong Delta province of Ben Tre. Up to 6,000 cow and goat farmers in Binh Dai, Ba Tri, and Thanh Phu districts will receive cash grants to buy food and water supplies for their animals, which they are dependent on for their livelihoods, the embassy said in a statement. "We recognize the serious impact that the drought and saltwater intrusion is having on communities in southern and central provinces of Vietnam," Ambassador Haike Manning said in a statement. "This assistance is a modest, but practical contribution to the communities we are already working with through our existing project, and is an example of New Zealand’s ongoing commitment to supporting vulnerable communities across … [Read more...]

France’s Casino agrees to sell Vietnam unit to Thailand’s Central


France's Casino Group has agreed to sell its Vietnam unit to Thai conglomerate Central Group for 1 billion euros ($1.14 billion) including debt, the retailer said on Friday confirming an earlier Reuters story. Central Group, controlled by business family Chirathivat with interests in real estate, department stores and retailing, beat rival Thai tycoon Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi's TCC Group to win the majority stake in hypermarket operator Big C Vietnam, people familiar with the matter told Reuters. The two tycoons have been expanding into their neighbouring Southeast Asian markets in search of growth areas. The French group on the other hand is retreating from fast-growing Asia markets as it has been under pressure to cut down its heavy debt load. Its shares tumbled in December after short seller Muddy Waters said Casino was "dangerously leveraged" and managed for the short term. Casino has been battling of late to restore its investment-grade credit rating after Standards & … [Read more...]

Da Nang assures coastal waters safe amid ongoing fish-death crisis


Da Nang beaches are still crowded on recent days. Photo credit: VietNamNet Amid concerns that whatever is killing fish en masse in several central provinces has spread to Da Nang, the city assured Thursday that tests found waters off its coast remain safe. A statement from its Department of Natural Resources and Environment said tests on samples taken along the coast showed that the water is fit for swimming and other activities. Dang Quang Vinh of the department said the water samples were obtained from 100 meters offshore at beaches, piers and other places in all four coastal districts, Lien Chieu, Ngu Hanh Son, Son Tra, and Thanh Khe. The levels of pH, dissolved oxygen, ammonium, suspended solids, lead, mercury and cyanide were all within limits, he told news website VnExpress. "There are no unusual changes" compared to tests done in April last year, he said. The assurance came amid public concern as some dead fish have washed ashore in recent days. People feared Da Nang … [Read more...]

Vietnam’s environment ministry admits to ‘slow response’ to fish deaths, promises action


Tran Hong Ha, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, speaks to the press during his inspection trip to Formosa steel plant in Ha Tinh Province on April 28, 2016. Photo: Tuan Dung It is illegal to install an undersea sewage pipe, Vietnamese environment minister Tran Hong Ha has told Taiwanese steel company Formosa, which is the main suspect in an ongoing environmental disaster that has caused mass fish deaths in several central provinces. Ha led a working team of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment to inspect Formosa, a major firm in Vung Ang Economic Zone in the central province of Ha Tinh, on Thursday. "Under Vietnamese law, it is illegal to install an undersea sewage pipe. We will take measures to inspect and monitor this sewage system," he said. Although the environment ministry has not yet found evidence to prove any direct link between Formosa’s wastewater discharge and the environmental disaster, it will continue to inspect Formosa to find "any … [Read more...]

Thailand’s Siam Cement eyes Vietnam


A cement plant in Quang Ninh Province. Photo: Anh Vu Siam Cement has announced plans to expand operations in Southeast Asia by setting up a plant in Vietnam, where there have been forecasts of a rise in demand. Roongrote Rangsiyopash, President and CEO of the conglomerate, told reporters in Bangkok Wednesday that Siam is looking at a joint venture or merger to enter the Vietnamese market, Nikkei Asian Review reported. Vietnam’s annual cement production exceeds demand, which was 72 million tons last year, according to the construction ministry. But Siam is eyeing an increase in public and private construction as Vietnam has been projected to grow at more than 6 percent for the next three years, its executives said. A time frame for the expansion has not been revealed. The company has plants in Cambodia and Indonesia and will set up production lines in Myanmar later this year and Laos in 2017. Siam Cement’s subsidiary SCG Chemicals Co. is the biggest shareholder with a … [Read more...]

North Korea sentences Korean American to 10 years hard labor


A man, who identified himself as Kim Dong Chul, previously said he was a naturalised American citizen and was arrested in North Korea in October, attends a news conference in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency North Korea's Supreme Court on Friday sentenced a Korean American man to 10 years of hard labor for subversion, North Korean media reported, in the latest conviction of a foreigner for crimes against the isolated state. Kim Dong Chul, 62, was arrested in North Korea in October and had admitted to committing "unpardonable espionage" including stealing military secrets, the North's official KCNA news agency reported earlier. "The accused confessed to all crimes he had committed ... and gathered and offered information on its party, state and military affairs to the south Korean puppet regime, which are tantamount to state subversive plots and espionage," it said. State prosecutors sought a 15-year sentence. His … [Read more...]

China, Russia urge U.S. to drop Korea missile defense proposal


A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is launched during a successful intercept test, in this undated handout photo provided by the U.S. Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency. China and Russia urged the United States on Friday not to install a new anti-missile system in South Korea, after Washington said it was in talks with Seoul in the wake of nuclear arms and missile tests by North Korea. The United States and South Korea have begun talks on possible deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system after North Korea tested its fourth nuclear bomb on Jan. 6 and conducted missile tests. The nuclear test and missile launches are in violation of U.N. resolutions against North Korea backed by Russia and China. U.S. and South Korean officials have expressed concern that the North could attempt a fifth nuclear test in a show of strength ahead of its Workers' Party congress, which begins on May 6. North Korea test-fired what appeared to be … [Read more...]

Half of Americans think presidential nominating system ‘rigged': poll


A voter casts his ballot in the Pennsylvania primary at a polling place inside a firehouse in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., April 26, 2016. More than half of American voters believe that the system U.S. political parties use to pick their candidates for the White House is "rigged" and more than two-thirds want to see the process changed, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll. The results echo complaints from Republican front-runner Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Bernie Sanders that the system is stacked against them in favor of candidates with close ties to their parties – a critique that has triggered a nationwide debate over whether the process is fair. The United States is one of just a handful of countries that gives regular voters any say in who should make it onto the presidential ballot. But the state-by-state system of primaries, caucuses and conventions is complex. The contests historically were always party events, and while the popular vote has grown in … [Read more...]

Google CEO Pichai sees the end of computers as physical devices


Sundar Pichai, chief executive officer of Google. Forget personal computer doldrums and waning smartphone demand. Google thinks computers will one day cease being physical devices. "Looking to the future, the next big step will be for the very concept of the ‘device’ to fade away," Google Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai wrote Thursday in a letter to shareholders of parent Alphabet Inc. "Over time, the computer itself -- whatever its form factor -- will be an intelligent assistant helping you through your day." Instead of online information and activity happening mostly on the rectangular touch screens of smartphones, Pichai sees artificial intelligence powering increasingly formless computers. "We will move from mobile first to an AI first world," he said. Pichai was, in part, talking his own playbook because Google has been working on AI and related technology such as machine learning for years and this advanced software already powers web services and apps such … [Read more...]

Chinese police arrest 25 for trafficking Vietnamese women

The Chinese police have arrested a man in the eastern Anhui Province for allegedly trafficking at least 14 Vietnamese women, including his own wife, local media reported. The man, identified only as Zhang, was arrested along with 24 accomplices who had either sought potential brides from him or trafficked them from Vietnam to the southern Chinese province of Yunnan. In December 140 police officers mobilized to investigate the case had rescued 10 victims, sending back four minors to Vietnam. The remaining six opted to remain with the families that had "bought" them. Three other women had fled earlier, the police said. The first victim was Zhang’s wife, whom he paid for in 2001 since disability in his legs reportedly made it difficult for him to find a local wife. He had been told to go to Yunnan to look for trafficked Vietnamese woman waiting to be "sold" as brides. After choosing his wife, he paid for 13 others and "sold" them to men living in his neighborhood for a … [Read more...]

Man burns ex-wife in public in central Vietnam, surrenders to cops

A man who allegedly burned his former wife with gasoline in the north-central province of Quang Tri Thursday morning turned himself in at a police station last night, authorities said. Nguyen Van Son, 42, told the police that he was unhappy after several unsuccessful efforts to persuade his ex-wife to revive their broken marriage. According to witnesses, Son poured a can of gasoline on Phan Thi Lan while she was sitting in a coffee shop in Dong Ha town at around 9:30 am. The 37-year old woman, who was rescued by her friend and other customers, was rushed to a hospital with severe burns on her face and body. Son fled the scene. The couple separated last year, and Son met Lan several times since in an effort to mend the relationship. … [Read more...]

Vietnam Airlines shares to start trading after ANA deal concludes


Vietnam Airlines Corp., which sold shares in an initial public offering 17 months ago, expects to get them listed "some time later this year" after closing a deal with ANA Holdings Inc., Chief Executive Officer Pham Ngoc Minh said. The shares of the state-owned carrier may start trading on the Ho Chi Minh City Stock Exchange, Minh said in an interview in Hanoi. The company agreed to sell an 8.8 percent stake to the Japanese airline in January for $108 million as part of a plan to offload 20 percent. "We expect to list the shares later this year after completing our strategic partnership deal with ANA and fulfilling some procedural requirements of the exchange," he said. Vietnam Airlines is revamping its fleet with the latest wide-body aircraft from Boeing Co. and Airbus Group SE as it adds international routes to meet demand for air travel from the country’s growing middle class. Pre-tax profit in the first half of 2016 is likely to jump about three to four times amid an … [Read more...]

Chinese ambitions in South China Sea must be resisted, think tank says


This aerial view of a city China built illegally on an island in the Paracel chain, which is claimed by Vietnam. Photographer: AFP via Getty Images The professionalism displayed by China’s navy in some of the world’s most contested seas is masking an underlying challenge to the existing order in the East China Sea and South China Sea that must be resisted, according to a report by an Australian security think tank. "Beijing’s newly acquired taste for maritime ‘rules of the road’ is lowering the risk of accidental conflict," wrote Ashley Townshend and Rory Medcalf in a report published Friday by the Sydney-based Lowy Institute for International Policy. "In turning away from tactical aggression, Beijing has refocused on passive assertive actions to consolidate a new status quo in maritime Asia." China’s strategy is based around its island-building program, which has created more than 3,000 acres (1214 hectares) of land on seven features it occupies … [Read more...]

Frontier Vietnam eyes step up to emerging-market big leagues


Vietnam says it’s on track to attain the holy grail of emerging-market status, which would put its fledgling capital markets on the radars of the world’s biggest asset managers. Index provider MSCI Inc. isn’t so sure. All of MSCI’s criteria for emerging-market classification are expected to be met as soon as the end of 2016, Nguyen Son, head of market development at the State Securities Commission, said in an interview in Hanoi. The "most difficult" remaining obstacle is to alter foreign-exchange policy to improve the ease of fund flows, he said. Raman Subramanian, managing director of equity research at MSCI in New York, isn’t convinced, saying the country is not yet on the watch list for emerging-market inclusion. Vietnam has grown faster than its Southeast Asian neighbors in recent years, but its economy is still dominated by state-owned banks and its stock market is only around a quarter the size of that of the Philippines. The United Arab Emirates … [Read more...]

Vietnam tourism ministry calls for longer visa exemption for European tourists


Foreign arrivals in Vietnam in the first four months increase nearly 18 percent from last year. Photo: Diep Duc Minh Vietnam’s tourism ministry Thursday urged the government to double the visa-free stay period for tourists from five European countries to 30 days to attract more visitors. The visa waiver for visitors from France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK, made last July, would be more effective with a longer period of stay since western tourists usually vacation for three to four weeks, it said. It also wanted the waiver policy to be effective for five years instead of being subject to annual renewal, saying tourism campaigns need long-term plans. Official statistics show that arrivals from the five countries this month increased by 9-34 percent year-on-year. For the past nine months, they were up nearly 14 percent compared to a mere 5 percent a year since 2010. The extra tourists are estimated to have contributed nearly US$171 million to tourism revenues, it … [Read more...]

Major Vietnam insurer Pjico to sell stake to foreign investor: report

Pjico, one of Vietnam's five biggest non-life insurance companies, is set to sell a 20 percent stake to a foreign investor, expecting to increase its charter capital by 40 percent to VND1 trillion (US$44.89 million). The company, 51 percent owned by state-owned fuel trader Petrolimex, would issue more than 17.7 million shares for the purpose by June end, news website Dau Tu reported, quoting CEO Dao Nam Hai. Pjico has been in talks with two foreign companies, it said. The company reported revenues of more than VND2.23 trillion ($100.15 million) last year, up 5.1 percent from 2014. Almost 45 percent came from vehicle insurance, followed by property insurance which accounted for nearly 20 percent. Vietnam's non-life insurance market grew 17.18 percent last year to over VND32 trillion ($1.43 billion), figures from the Ministry of Finance showed. … [Read more...]