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‘Rice ATM,’ free meals help the poor survive COVID-19 restrictions in Vietnam



A ‘rice ATM’ and charity groups offering free meals have emerged recently in Long Xuyen City in the Mekong Delta province of An Giang to give support to people in need.

On July 13, the ‘rice ATM’ at My Binh Ward, Long Xuyen City was relaunched after a brief pause, giving free rice to households, ticket vendors, and hawkers, who lost their jobs because of the COVID-19.

The Vietnam Fatherland Front Committee in My Binh Ward has enlisted needy households eligible to receive free rice and given them rice tickets.

When coming to get the free rice, the locals would submit the ticket, sign their name, and then ‘withdraw’ 3.5 kilograms of rice each time.

Tran Thi Kim Dung, 61, a resident with an adult son who has lost his working ability in Binh Long 2 Hamlet, My Binh Ward, was furloughed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, rice, among other food items, is the most necessary for her.

“I work as a garbage collector, but I had to stay home during the period of social distance,” Dung said, crying.

“We can temporarily overcome the suffering now thanks to the rice portion.

“While others can get free rice once each week, I can get two times due to our poverty-stricken situation.

“I am so thrilled.”

A woman waits while another is getting her free rice at the “rice ATM” at My Binh Ward, Long Xuyen City, An Giang Province. Photo: Dang Tuyet / Tuoi Tre

A woman waits while another is getting her free rice at a ‘rice ATM’ in My Binh Ward, Long Xuyen City, An Giang Province, Vietnam. Photo: Dang Tuyet / Tuoi Tre

According to Nguyen Hoang Tu, vice-president of the Vietnam Fatherland Front in My Binh Ward, local authorities distribute 227 tickets of free rice weekly.

The poor can go to get free rice every Tuesday and Thursday. They intend to expand the list in the hope of supporting more impoverished people.

“There are around 9,000 households that have been supported with 17 tons of rice since the rice ATM in My Binh Ward was launched,” said Tu.

“The rice ATM was financed by the Vietnam Fatherland Front Committee in the ward and some donors.”

Apart from the ‘rice ATM,’ a restaurant offering free meals at a cost of just VND2,000 (nine U.S. cents) apiece has been open for more than one week on the street of Thoai Ngoc Hau, My Long Ward.

A restaurant that serves vegetarian food at a cost of VND2,000 has offered over 300 meals each day since July 8. Photo: Dang Tuyet / Tuoi Tre

A restaurant that serves vegetarian food at a cost of VND2,000 has offered over 300 meals each day in An Giang Province, Vietnam since July 8, 2021. Photo: Dang Tuyet / Tuoi Tre

This is an initiative launched by donors in Long Xuyen City, arranging for volunteers to deliver meals directly to the pandemic-affected people.

There were so many people rushing to obtain meals that the restaurant had to temporarily shut down. Until they could eventually maintain social distancing properly, they could not continue to receive the meals.

According to the restaurant’s owner Le Hong Hoa, they have delivered over 1,000 meals since July 8.

Many poor people come to the restaurant to get their VND2,000 meals during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: Dang Tuyet / Tuoi Tre

Many poor people come to the restaurant to get their VND2,000 meals during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: Dang Tuyet / Tuoi Tre

On the opening day, the restaurant served 200 meals at the same cost of VND2,000 for both vegetarian food and food with meat.

Each person can buy a maximum of two meals.

“We serve on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, from 10:00 am to 12:00 am. We plan to serve every day when we have enough staff,” Hong Hoa told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.

“We hope that this can share a little bit with the poor during the social distancing period.”

An old man gives VND2,000 to a young man at the restaurant to get his meal during the COVID-19 pandemic in July 2021. Photo: Dang Tuyet / Tuoi Tre

An old man gives VND2,000 to a young man at the restaurant to get his meal during the COVID-19 pandemic in July 2021. Photo: Dang Tuyet / Tuoi Tre

On July 13, the charity group of Lang Thang An Giang, which is also based in the Mekong Delta province, brought seven cash gifts with various values to visual-impaired individuals. The gifts, fetching VND4-6 million (US$174-261) were delivered depending on everyone’s specific situation.

On top of the cash gifts, the recipients were supplied with rice and necessities previously because of their massage parlor’s shutdown.

Duong Thu Dong (center) and two women prepare vegetables to make vegetarian food meals to support the poor living in Long Xuyen City during the pandemic. Photo: Dang Tuyet / Tuoi Tre

Duong Thu Dong (center) and two women prepare vegetables to make vegetarian food meals to support the poor living in Long Xuyen City, An Giang Province, Vietnam during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: Dang Tuyet / Tuoi Tre

Since July 19, along with 18 other provinces and cities in southern Vietnam, An Giang has been placed under Directive No. 16, a COVID-19 prevention measure that requires people to remain home except for buying necessities, such as medicine and food.

Before the directive, various restrictions implemented to prevent the respiratory disease had left many people unemployed.

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Thailand and Việt Nam: Advancing a Strengthened Strategic Partnership for a sustainable future



An article by H.E. Mr. Nikorndej Balankura, ambassador of Thailand on the birthday anniversary of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej The Great, Thai National Day and Thailand Father’s Day (December 5)

Every year December 5 marks the most significant day for Thai people around the world as we commemorate the National Day of the Kingdom of Thailand, the birthday anniversary of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great and Thailand’s Father’s Day.

In addition, since 2013 the day has been observed as the World Soil Day by the United Nations to honour the efforts and dedication of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great in the field of soil resources based on the adoption of the “Sufficiency Economy Philosophy (SEP)”.

The home-grown approach, comprising the three core principles of moderation, reasonableness and self-protection, has been translated in to over 4,000 royal initiatives and projects that have been guiding Thai people in achieving sustainability by drawing strength from within.

Despite his passing, the late King’s legacy for SEP lives on and has paved the way for sustainable development, not only in Thailand, but also in many parts of the world.

In Việt Nam, the first SEP-driven sustainable community development project was introduced in Thái Nguyên Province in 2019 to promote the development in agri-processing and community-based tourism. Its success can be witnessed through enhanced knowledge of people in local communities, which has equipped them with greater resiliency. To build on the momentum of this cooperation, this year Thailand and Việt Nam agreed to further expand the SEP community development project to Bến Tre Province in Mekong River Delta.

The Thai ambassador Nikorndej Balankura (left) meets President Nguyễn Xuân Phúc on July 13, 2021. — Photo courtesy of the Thai embassy 

Sustainability is also the cornerstone for celebrating the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Thailand and Việt Nam in 2021. As two neighbouring countries with long standing friendship of over 100 years, our peoples have always been very well-connected and continue to be the backbone of our relations.

Since the formal establishment of bilateral relations, the special relationship between the two countries has matured and enjoyed the status of “a Strengthened Strategic Partnership” since 2019.

This year, Thailand and Việt Nam are celebrating the 45th anniversary of our diplomatic relations amid a the new set of challenges accompanying the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, the partnership between the two countries has broadened and deepened in all dimensions.

Recently, Don Pramudwinai, deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs of Thailand, and Bùi Thanh Sơn, minister of foreign affairs of Việt Nam, co-chaired the 4th Joint Commission on Bilateral Cooperation on November 19 2021, which has paved the way for exchanges of high-level visits in 2022, including the 4th Joint Cabinet Retreat to be co-chaired by the two prime ministers.

Furthermore, the Thai Private Sector in Việt Nam will establish the Thai Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ThaiCham) to promote Thai trade and investments in Việt Nam, as well as create a more conducive environment for the two countries to prosper together sustainably. Meanwhile, the friendship between our youths has broadened thanks to modern and alternative communication channels and digital platforms, laying the firm foundation for a new era of cooperation.

Thailand and Việt Nam’s golden jubilee anniversary is just around the corner. Both countries will continue to be key contributors to sustainable growth and prosperity in South East Asia and beyond, particularly when we re-emerge more resilient and stronger from the COVID-19 pandemic.

With a view to achieving our goals, the two countries will advance the Strengthened Strategic Partnership through greater supply chain connectivity to achieve a trade target of US$ 25 billion by 2025, while facilitating travel resumption at the earliest opportunity.

Furthermore, Thailand and Việt Nam will explore potential collaboration on new frontiers such as digital economy, e-commerce and Bio- Circular-Green Economy at bilateral, regional and global levels for more inclusive and innovative growth. These issues will also be prioritised during Thailand’s Chairmanship of APEC throughout the upcoming year.

In the midst of a challenging and increasingly complex geopolitical landscape, we are even more confident that our deepened cooperation and widened collaboration through the Strengthened Strategic Partnership will help shape a sustainable future for both our peoples. VNS


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Replica history complex inspires young students



A corner of the complex in theTrần Mai Ninh Secondary School. VNA Photos Khiếu Tư

By Nguyễn Bình

Newly built replicas of relic sites and landscapes at the Trần Mai Ninh Secondary School are making history and geography classes more vivid for junior students in the central province of Thanh Hoá.

 Autumn sunlight is spread out over the replica complex in the schoolyard inspiring students to learn a new subject — location education. 

Some of the 15 replicas such as the Hồ Dynasty Citadel, the Hàm Rồng Bridge, Ba Đình Square and others are set in a 2,000 square metre yard in the school. The complex was completed two months ago to meet the demands of teaching the new subject for the 2021-22 school year.

CARBON COPY: A replica of the citadel of the Hồ Dynasty (1400-1407). The citadel was recognised as a World Culture Heritage site by UNESCO in 2011.

 The complex was built during the summer vacation with a view to serving Grade 6 students under the Ministry of Training and Education’s instruction and the provincial Department of Training and Education’s curriculum, according to Trần Thị Phương Lan, principal of  the school. 

“The replicas aim to help students see historic relic sites and landscapes of the province at the school who have not had a chance of going to the real sites due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Lan said. 

“It also makes teaching and learning more effective and noteworthy, inspiring students in patriotism and national pride. The students will be aware of the tradition of preservation and development. Field trips cannot be held due to the pandemic, so the replicas are really helpful for teaching and learning.”

The highlights of the site are the replica of Ba Đình Square and the statue of President Hồ Chí Minh reading the Declaration of Independence to establish the Democratic Republic of Việt Nam in 1945.

It is a nice surprise for students who mostly have not had a chance to visit Ba Đình Square in Hà Nội. They possibly do not know that the square was named after the historic Ba Đình Uprising in Nga Sơn District in Thanh Hoá Province in the 19th century. 

Each replica in the complex is accompanied by an information board.

Near the gate of the school is the replica of the relic of the citadel of the Hồ Dynasty (1400-1407), which was recognised as a World Culture Heritage site by UNESCO in 2011. 

The citadel, mentioned in Đại Việt Sử Ký Toàn Thư (The Complete Annals of the Great Việt), was built during the reign of King Trần Thuận Tông (1388-98) by Prime Minister Hồ Quý Ly, who acceded to the throne in 1400.

It is the only fortified citadel with unique stone architecture remaining in Southeast Asia. 

Another replica, Ngõ Nhân (Nhân Lane), was selected among five lanes, namely Nhân, Nghĩa, Trí, Lễ and Dũng, representing the five constant virtues of kindness, uprightness, wisdom, decorum and braveness, in a Đông Sơn ancient village to be placed at the site.

GATE OF LEARNING: Ngõ Nhân (Nhân Hamlet) was selected among five hamlets to be placed in the complex. VNA Photos Khiếu Tư

It is the only original lane gate remaining in the village, according to the principal. 

A replica of a Đông Sơn bronze drum is placed together with Ngõ Nhân to let the students know more about Đông Sơn culture. Đông Sơn District was the first place to unearth ancient Đông Sơn bronze drums dating back to more than 2,000 years ago. 

Selecting the historical sites and landscapes symbolising the province development was discussed by the teachers, according to Lan. 

“We want the students to have a comprehensive view not only of history and culture but also society and economy,” she said. 

This explains why the complex also comprises of the Nghi Sơn Economic Zone, Sầm Sơn Beach and Pù Luông Natural Reserve. 

“The complex is beautiful and useful for us,” said Trương Gia Bảo, a pupil from Class 6H. “It encourages me to learn about the popular historical relic and geographic sites in Thanh Hóa Province.”

Trần Hữu Phước from Class 6B also expressed his interest in the site. 

“This is a wonderful model helping us know more about the historical sites and landscapes of my homeland in an effective way,” he said. 

According to Lê Hà Nhật Lâm, from Class 6A, the complex inspires her and her classmates to learn the new subject in their first year of secondary school. 

“It is amazing to see the vivid replicas at the school,” Lâm said.

“We do not have to sit boringly in the class reading books and watching a projector. We can go to the complex to see the replicas which help us learn about culture, history, geography, society and the economic development of our province.”

The complex was completed at the end of August, aimed at welcoming in the new school year. In a short time, it has been effective for both teaching and learning, according to literature teacher Nguyễn Thị Loan. 

“The students who are lacking knowledge of local history will get to know milestones of the provincial history,” Loan said.

“They will be active to learn and be more proud of their homeland and other cultural values of the nation. I assigned the students a task to research and collect information about the relic sites to summarise both in Vietnamese and English. These presentations will also boost the English learning and presentation skills of the students.”

A large mural on the wall opposite the site gives historic development and geographic milestones helping not only students but school visitors understand the project.

The site construction won the second prize at the provincial 2021 Science and Technology Innovation Awards. It is one of the nominations for the National Awards, which will announce the winners in December. VNS


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It’s time to take the Golden Rule more seriously



Illustration by Trịnh Lập

 by Anh Đức

“Treat others as you would like others to treat you” is probably one of the most common teachings people come across. The great philosopher Confucius is widely known as among the first to preach this idea, and it can also be found in other religions and cultures across the world: in a verse of the Bible, the teachings of Buddha and Prophet Muhammad’s Hadith. It is called “the Golden Rule”.

As society and technology progress, it is confusing and sad that the Golden Rule is being ignored. People now tend to mistreat others, and do whatever they want without consent. And sadly, in most cases it is women who bear this mistreatment, offering little to no retaliation.

An expat TikToker in Việt Nam has become famous for his “crazy” videos. One of his latest videos was, however, polarizing. It shows a young girl sitting alone, happily eating noodle and sausage. The TikToker then shows up, scooches closer and closer to the girl, and gestures for her to put “something” in his mouth as if mock begging. He repeats this for almost a minute, with the girl looking at him angrily, clearly uncomfortable.

The comments in response were of two different worlds: some viewers denounced the TikToker for blatantly harassing the girl for internet fame; others viewed his stunt as “just a joke”, saying “it’s okay for westerners to do such things, their culture is more easy-going”.

The young girl, Ánh Ngọc (not her real name), aged 23, said that what happened in the video did not show the bigger picture. She recalled that man was catcalling Vietnamese girls in front of the convenience store where she bought her food. After a while, he started to film his aforementioned “prank”, without the consent of the girl, nor did he blur her face in the video. Ngọc demanded an apology but the prankster ignored her, and so she turned to social media to help report and remove the content.

“But after I publicly condemned him on Facebook, his wife started to harass me through private messages. The couple even hosted a livestream where my face was again used without my consent and ridiculed,” Ngọc said. “All I wanted was just an apology, nothing more. I felt scared and ashamed.”

But Ngọc’s story is sadly just one of many, and not even the worst example of harassment and mistreatment of women. There are stories of women getting teased, or abused, either in public or private spaces, no matter what they are wearing or what they are doing. And some of those perpetrators are, you guessed it, pranksters doing it for their fifteen minutes of fame.

A prank or a joke by any definition should be funny and make people laugh for the right reasons, not cringe-worthy and make people feel bad. Even hidden camera prank shows like “Just For Laughs” ask subjects for their consent to use footage of their face. People who are annoyed, or scared by the pranks are apologized to immediately. No person should ever be the target of public humiliation.

And in what “easy-going, open” culture is such street harassment appropriate? If you harass people on the street, you can be fined up to 750 euros in France, or spend a month in jail in the Philippines. This is not to mention the public backlash you would almost certainly face if the act was recorded and posted on the internet. You would be ashamed, not the other way around.

Dear readers, how would you respond if what happened to Ngọc happened to your children? Would you want to see them suffer, not only the initial harassment but the ignorant responses of the public? Or would you fight for them and stand up against the bullies and such behaviour? Small “jokes and pranks”, if encouraged and not met with a response, can turn into worse behaviour against women or underprivileged groups.

Equality, either for gender, race, or anything else, does not start with something big and ambitious. It starts with the proper respect that people should give to each other, regardless of who you are, or where you are from. It is only from these small deeds that we can truly try to understand each other more, and foster bigger conversations for grander causes. The Golden Rule needs to be followed and passed down among generations for it to be forever golden. —VNS


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