Difference and Future: a story told by autistic children

A painting, inspired by Dong Ho folk paintings, by 12-year old Nguyen Gia Bao.  "Goat and cow" by Pham Binh Minh.  "A wolf on the mountain" by Pham Binh Minh, 11.  Visitors at the exhibition in Hanoi

"Playing the guitar", a painting of Nguyen Gia Bao. Dozens of paintings made by five young autistic artists are on display in a Hanoi coffee shop. Trung Hieu, the oldest of the five aged from 10 to 15, started by scribbling on the wall when he was five. Since then drawing has become the only way for him to connect with the outside world. "Through his paintings, I can gauge his mood, know if he is happy or sad," Hieu’s mother Nguyen Thi Mai Anh says. Binh Minh, 11, chose another way to express his feelings. "Wherever he sat down in the house, he would find a piece of paper and begin to tear it apart," his mother recalls of his early years. The boy later knew how to stick pieces of paper onto a frame and color them with oil paints. "He also knows there is an exhibition," his mother says referring to "Difference and Future", which is on at 24 Ly Quoc Su Street until May 31. "He was glad though he did not understand and had to ask what an exhibition was. "Then he seemed to … [Read more...]

Samaritan alley: where everything is free for poor people


While tanks of free iced tea are common on Ho Chi Minh City streets, Alley #96 off Phan Dinh Phung Street is unique for providing things like medicines and even coffins for free for poor people. Photo: Thao Vi Its official name is Alley #96 in Phan Dinh Phung Street -- in Ho Chi Minh City's Phu Nhuan District -- but locals call it free alley or samaritan alley. This is because it offers heaps of things, from iced tea to motorbike repair, from medicines to coffins, for free to poor people. Samaritan is a 52-year-old man named Do Van Ut, who fixes motorbikes and operates a xe ôm (motorbike taxi) in the alley. Ut, better known as Viet, lives with his wife, a part-time janitor, in a rented nine-square-meter room in a nearby alley. He earns a mere VND100,000-200,000 (US$4.6-9.2) a day. But the meager income does not prevent him from doing charity. Do Van Ut, better known as Viet, repairs a motorbike at the entrance to the alley on May 26, 2015. Photo: Thao Vi He had begun by … [Read more...]

Vietnam airport shut down as heat wave cracks runway


Cat Bi Airport in the northern city of Hai Phong. File photo The Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam closed Cat Bi Airport in the northern city of Hai Phong for a day Thursday after a runway was found cracked, possibly due to the heat. A heat wave has blanketed the region, with the city recording over 39°C (102°F) that day. The airport is expected to reopen Friday after the problem is fixed, according to the CAAV. It said airport staff discovered the runway's asphalt cracked at one end at nearly 3 p.m. after Vietjet Air airplane took off with 157 passengers for Ho Chi Minh City. Technicians sent to inspect the crack concluded that it had been caused by the heat. Authorities then ordered 12 flights that were scheduled to land at Cat Bi to fly to Hanoi instead. However, by the time the crack was discovered, 12 flights had departed or landed without incident, according to the CAAV. Earlier this month a heat wave took temperatures in the central region to around 40 degrees … [Read more...]

$114,000-plus bridge collapses merely 2 weeks after opening


A bridge invested with $114,400 collapsed in the southern province of Long An on May 27, only two weeks after its opening. Photo credit: Tuoi Tre Authorities in the southern province of Long An are looking into reasons why a local bridge which was invested with a total of nearly VND2.5 billion (US$114,400) fell down only two weeks after it was opened to traffic. Pham Van Canh, director of Long An's transport department, said on Thursday that Vinh Hung District's authorities will have to investigate the case of Vinh Binh Bridge, and that a design consultant in Ho Chi Minh City will also be invited to inspect it. The cable-stayed bridge, which crossed a canal in Vinh Binh Commune, was put into operation on May 13 and started showing cracks on May 26. Local authorities then shut it down to fix the problem, but half of it tumbled down the next day. They said one of supporting substructures apparently slipped from its position. Initial information is that while Vinh Binh's People's … [Read more...]

Bonsai exhibition to open in Ho Chi Minh City next week

A bonsai exhibition featuring specimens from 17 countries will open in Ho Chi Minh City next Friday, June 5. The four-day event organized by the Asia-Pacific Bonsai Friendship Federation (ABFF) will take place at Rin Rin Park, a Japanese-style garden, in Hoc Mon District, Saigon Times Online reported. More than 500 bonsai specimens and many suiseki stones (miniature landscape stones) will be displayed at the event, according to ABFF. A bonsai competition and an auction will also be held. During the event, several local and foreign bonsai experts will give presentations and share their experience. ABFF has eight members: Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. Some non-members countries will also join the event. … [Read more...]

US travel site lists Ha Long, Son Doong Cave among Asia’s best eco spots


Ha Long Bay as seen from a seaplane. Photo credit: Reuters US travel guide site Smarter Travel has named three places from Vietnam in a list of favorite natural wonders in Asia. Ha Long Bay, which has already been famous since UNESCO named it a world natural heritage, ranks first among 27 destinations for its "turquoise water" with more than 1,500 islands and inlets. Tourists can book an overnight cruise trip on the bay to watch sunrise or sunset in the spectacular setting. A private seaplane operator last September also launched a service over the bay. Son Doong, or Mountain River, made the list for being the biggest cave in the world, and one of the most beautiful ever explored. Inside Son Doong Cave. Photo credit: National Geographic The cave stretches around five kilometers in the jungle of central Vietnam, contains at least 150 individual grottoes, a dense subterranean jungle and several underground rivers. Local man Ho Khanh discovered the cave for the first time in … [Read more...]

Pressure mounts on Blatter as FIFA scandal widens


FBI agents bring out boxes after an operation inside the CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football) offices in Miami Beach, Florida May 27, 2015. Photo: Reuters/Javier Galeano Pressure mounted on FIFA President Sepp Blatter on Thursday as the corruption scandal engulfing world soccer's governing body deepened, with warnings from big sponsors and growing criticism from senior Western politicians. Despite FIFA statements that it was business as usual following the arrest of seven senior figures on U.S. corruption charges, Blatter kept out of sight on Thursday when he failed to show up at a medical conference. The embattled 79-year-old Swiss national, who rarely misses a FIFA-related event and usually stops to speak to the media, was also conspicuous by his absence on Wednesday when he failed to attend a meeting of African soccer delegates, assembled in Zurich ahead of Friday's FIFA Congress. FIFA's chief medical officer, Michel D'Hooghe of … [Read more...]

Vietnam’s lawmakers divided over the right to silence for crime suspects


Nguyen Thanh Chan (C) has made headlines in Vietnam since April 2014 when he had his name cleared after serving 10 years as part of a life sentence for murder. Photo: Ha An A government proposal aiming to offer crime suspects the right to remain silent during interrogation has been panned by several lawmakers at a National Assembly meeting on Wednesday. The proposal, which is among draft amendments to the Criminal Procedural, came at a time when several cases of wrongful conviction have been making headlines. In most of the cases, police were suspected of coercing the suspects into false confessions. If the new legislation is passed, crime suspects will no longer be obliged to make any statement when taken into custody. But there has been some strong opposition. Trinh Xuyen, a representative from the central province of Thanh Hoa, called the proposal "very nonsensical" and "unacceptable," saying that it will cause trouble for investigators. Suspects have an obligation to talk, … [Read more...]

U.S. hopes Chinese island-building will spur Asian response


Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea in this still image from video taken by a P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft provided by the United States Navy May 21 By releasing video of Beijing’s island reclamation work and considering more assertive maritime actions, the United States is signaling a tougher stance over the South China Sea and trying to spur Asian partners to more action. The release last week of the surveillance plane footage - showing dredgers and other ships busily turning remote outcrops into islands with runways and harbors - helps ensure the issue will dominate an Asian security forum starting on Friday attended by U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter as well as senior Chinese military officials. As it pushes ahead with a military "pivot" to Asia partly aimed at countering China, Washington wants Southeast Asian nations to take a more united stance against China's … [Read more...]

Vietnam orders Chinese novel to be pulled for inaccuracies about territory


The cover of the Vietnamese version of "Daomu Biji." File photo. Vietnam authorities have ordered a popular Chinese novel to be withdrawn from publication and sale after discovering inaccuracies regarding Vietnam's territory in the book. The fantasy series Daomu Biji (Grave Robbers’ Chronicles) was written by Kennedy Xu, aka Nan Pai San Shu. The first book was published in Vietnamese last year. It tells the adventures of Chinese grave robbers searching for treasure inside ancient tombs at many locations, including Tien Nu Island, which is the name of an island of the Paracel Islands, and That Lien, which is the name China uses to call a group of islands of the Spratly Islands. Officials also noted that the first book was illegally published by Bach Viet, a local company, without any publishing permit. Thoi Dai Publishing House, which was named on the book cover, said that it had never licensed the book. China and four ASEAN members Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and … [Read more...]

Death penalty still needed to punish corrupt officials, lawmakers say


Duong Chi Dung (C), former chairman of state shipping giant Vinalines, stood an appeal trial in Hanoi last April. He and one of his subordinates were sentenced to death for embezzling VND10 billion (US$474,000) each in a dock scam busted in May 2012. Photo: Hoang Trang Many lawmakers have objected to the government's plan to let convicts escape death penalties by returning half of the money or property they gained from their offenses. According to the proposal, part of a series of amendments drafted for Vietnam's Penal Code, the rule should be applied to people who do not commit "extremely serious" crimes, without specifying which ones. Lawmakers interpreted the proposal as a way out for corruption convicts, arguing that they will be the main beneficiary and that the rule, if passed, will cause injustice. Nguyen Duc Chung, an assemblyman from Hanoi, said at a meeting on Tuesday it is "unfair" that corrupt officials who steal a huge amount of public money can live, while while poor … [Read more...]

Hoi An launches wedding photo contest


A Vietnamese couple pose for a wedding photo in the Old Quarter of Hoi An. Photo: Xuyen Huynh Authorities in the ancient town of Hoi An announced Tuesday the launching of a wedding photo contest for Vietnamese and foreign couples. Nguyen Van Lanh, chief of the town’s Office of Culture and Sports, said the contest will start receiving entries from June. Couples are encouraged to send their wedding photos taken in various locations in the town. The results of the contest will be announced on December 4, which is also the day Hoi An was recognized as a world heritage site by UNESCO 16 years ago. Those who make it to the final round will be invited to take part in wedding fashion shows held as part of celebrations for the day. The photo contest is one of many activities that local authorities will organize to attract more tourists this summer. Others include a street food festival taking place every Friday at the night market Dong Hiep, a full moon lantern festival on the Hoai … [Read more...]

52 garment workers hospitalized again, one day after toxic gas leak in Vietnam


Two female workers share the same bed at Dong Nai General Hospital on Tuesday evening, one day after being discharged from the hospital. Photo credit: VnExpress Doctors in the southern province of Dong Nai said that 52 of the 95 garment workers treated on Monday for exposure to a gas leak were rushed back to hospital again on Tuesday, with the same symptoms. That prompted local officials to order the company Asia Garment in the Amata Industrial Zone to suspend work at its factory and evacuate more than 800 people later on Tuesday. The hospitalized workers reportedly fainted around 6 p.m. on Tuesday with gas poisoning symptoms. Most of them had breathing difficulties and vomited. Two most severe cases required special treatment, doctors said. "This is the first time gas poisoning patients are re-hospitalized after discharged," doctor Pham Long Thang of Dong Nai General Hospital told VnExpress. He suspected that there was still a small amount of ammonia -- a strong and colorless … [Read more...]

Vietnamese woman had 18 abortions as her husband wants a son: report

Vietnam Television aired a story on Wednesday about a woman in the northern province of Hai Duong who had 18 abortions because her husband wants a son. The story quickly spread on the Internet in Vietnam, where gender-based abortion is believed to be widespread. The woman, whose identity has been protected, said her life has been hard due to both poverty and the pressure of giving birth to a male child. Her husband is the eldest son in his family and many families in rural Vietnam still stick to the age-old tradition that only sons can inherit and protect the family assets and values. After the first four births of all girls, her husband was disappointed and she was depressed. She decided to terminate all pregnancies unless it’s a boy. Gender discrimination In the video, she did not say how many abortions she had had, but the newsreader reported 18 abortions in total when introducing the story. Although her story is extreme and it might be rare for a woman to have that … [Read more...]

Dozens may have come in contact with anthrax: US military

As many as 22 people in South Korea and four US lab workers may have been exposed to anthrax after the American military accidentally shipped out at least one live sample, officials said. The four lab employees were undergoing medical treatment as a precaution after the military sent the sample inside the country to a commercial lab in Maryland, US officials said Wednesday. As many as 22 personnel may have been exposed to anthrax during a laboratory training exercise at the US Osan Air Force Base in South Korea using samples shipped from the same batch, a military statement said Thursday. In addition to the military base in South Korea, more than a dozen other government and commercial labs in nine US states had received samples from the accidental shipment, officials said. All of the samples had been irradiated in March last year at a military lab in Utah and were supposed to be "dead." But on Friday, a private firm in Maryland notified authorities that its sample was still … [Read more...]

S. Korea reports seven MERS cases, one suspect flies to China


A microscopic view of the MERS coronavirus. Photo: AFP South Korea said Thursday it had confirmed two more MERS virus infections, bringing the total number of cases to seven, as one suspected victim ignored warnings and flew to China on a business trip. The infections, all traced to the original case of a 68-year-old man diagnosed on May 20 after returning from a trip to Saudi Arabia, have triggered public concerns of a wider outbreak. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is considered a deadlier but less infectious cousin of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) virus that appeared in Asia in 2003 and killed hundreds of people, mostly in China. Symptoms may range from flu-like aches and pains to pneumonia and kidney failure. The Korea Centre for Disease Control and Prevention said more than 70 people who may have been exposed directly or indirectly to the original patient were currently in voluntary quarantine. However, one of them, a 44-year-old man, left for China on … [Read more...]

Vietnam arrests South Korean man for scamming students out of $300,000

Investigators from the Ministry of Public Security on Wednesday arrested a South Korean man for allegedly swindling around US$300,000 from local students who wanted to study abroad. A source from the ministry said it has received several complaints from Hanoi claiming Kim Young-hwan, 52, and his Vietnamese wife Hoang Thi Cuc were scammers. They said the couple opened a company in Hanoi that provided "educational services." They collected money from prospective students in advance but never brought them to South Korea. The duo have received nearly 100 applications. Police are also investigating Cuc but has not put her in custody as she is taking care of her little child. … [Read more...]

Vietnam’s Party chief confirms strengthened ties with US


Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong (R) receives US senator John McCain in Hanoi on May 27, 2015. Photo credit: Vietnam News Agency Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong has reiterated Vietnam’s consistent policy of attaching importance to strengthening ties with the US for the long-term interest of both the two countries’ peoples, Vietnam News Agency reported. Trong made the statement while receiving a delegation of US senators led by John McCain, an Arizona Republican and former Vietnam prisoner of war, in Hanoi on Wednesday. The Party chief said he was pleased with positive developments in the two countries’ multi-faceted cooperation and that Vietnam will continue to pursue an external policy of independence, cooperation and development with a view to creating favorable conditions for its national construction and defense. He acknowledged the US cooperation in addressing war consequences in Vietnam and asking the US Congress, government and Senator … [Read more...]