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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


Your Vietnam

Enjoying happiness and safety in Việt Nam



Lê Hương

Việt Nam was the first place Charlotte Lou visited in Asia back in 2016. After falling in love with the country, she decided to make it her home. 

That summer, Charlotte backpacked for a month from HCM City to Hà Nội.

Anyone following her Instagram account can see beautiful landscapes throughout Việt Nam, while clips on her TikTok page are funny, with the young woman sharing her feelings and incidents when trying to speak Vietnamese.

What shines through social media is an energetic woman with a deep love for Việt Nam and the Vietnamese people.

Charlotte Lou enjoys travelling throughout Việt Nam. — Photos courtesy of Charlotte Lou

“It just clicked, like I had an epiphany, I just fell in love with Việt Nam,” she told Việt Nam News. In the summer of 2017, she backpacked alone in Indonesia for a month and in 2018, again, she backpacked for three months in Thailand and Cambodia.

When she came back after her summer break, she knew she wanted to stay longer than three months. She then asked her boyfriend if he wanted to do something crazy – travel more, for even longer. They prepared and then in January 2019 they left Switzerland with their backpacks.

They went to the Philippines for one month but it didn’t go as planned, she didn’t feel the same connection and it wasn’t as awesome as she expected.

They decided to go to Việt Nam.

Charlotte’s main vehicle is a motorbike. 

“After all the countries I visited, Việt Nam was still number one for me in my heart, so I asked him if he wanted to go and he agreed,” she recalled. “We arrived in Sài Gòn, bought bikes and travelled from Vũng Tàu to Hà Nội.”

“We drove for two months, visited so many beautiful places, and met so many incredible people, even back then when we couldn’t speak any Vietnamese, the people, the culture, the landscapes, everything was incredible… So, when we arrived in Hà Nội, we talked, and decided that we would not leave.”

Lou said she hasn’t faced any big challenges living here.

“I guess the biggest challenge, was for me to adapt to one specific detail. In Switzerland we’re known to be right on time, if you tell a friend, let’s meet at 1pm, it’s really 1pm, not 1.15pm. We’re very punctual.

“So every time I travel, whether it’s in Brazil to see my family or even in other countries in Europe, I need to relax and remember that people are often late, or just not as punctual as in Switzerland. In Việt Nam, it’s the same thing, I regularly stress myself to be prompt and on time but then I remember that here, I can be late too; otherwise, I’ll be waiting,” she said.

Lou said she loves to hear her Vietnamese friend’s point of view on things, or about how people think about certain topics.

Charlotte Lou (second from left) with her friends during a trip to Bái Đính Pagoda in Ninh Bình Province. 

“Every country has its own culture, customs and manners and I really enjoy being able to understand more after every conversation,” she said.

She is interested in the history of the country, from Chinese oppression to the war with the US.

“It’s dark but so interesting and I see that the people are also really proud to have fought and won,” she said.

“Việt Nam is very unique and I love how Vietnamese people are so proud to be Vietnamese, proud of the country but still love foreigners and are so welcoming.”

She was also impressed that the Vietnamese people are so willing to help. She shared one such experience in a video.

Her motorbike broke down on Hai Bà Trưng Street at around 7pm. She went to a tea shop by the pavement and some men from the tea shop came to see her bike and tried their best to fix it.

“At first two men came, then three, then five men came to fix my bike,” she said. “They spent 30 minutes helping me. I intended to invite them for some beer but they refused.

“Hà Nội is a big city but anytime I have trouble, there is always someone helping me, which is quite different from other big cities in Europe and America that I have been to. People in such cities don’t often help strangers like here. This only happens in Việt Nam. This is one of the reasons I love the country so much.”

The clips received warm comments and reached over three million views.

Lou said her boyfriend has a stable job in Hà Nội, and has been with her for seven years. She also has a cat named Toosie.

“He’s a rescue, we brought him home two years ago after someone posted on Facebook that the cat was found trapped in a plastic box under the sun, covered in flees and bleeding,” she said.

Lou admitted she loves learning languages. Besides her mother tongues, which are French and Portuguese [her mother is Brazilian], she learned English, Spanish and Italian.

Charlotte Lou feels safe in Việt Nam.

Though she speaks a little Vietnamese, Lou said she gets nervous when she has to speak sometimes.

“I’m afraid people will not understand me, or I won’t understand them or they think I’m a bit dumb for not understanding,” she said. “Vietnamese is hard and it’s easy to make a mistake.”

Lou made a TikTok clip on Vietnamese words that western people often mispronounce, including the words “mông” [bottom] for “món” [dish].

Having travelled throughout Việt Nam, Lou finds it hard to say where she was most impressed.

“I remember being so amazed by the beauty of the landscapes when driving on the coast… it was breathtaking,” she said. “And I remember once, me and some friends we slept on the beach, in hammocks, and during the night we saw a family of pigs on the beach, it was really unexpected and beautiful.”

Lou said she and her boyfriend were a bit stressed when the pandemic started and they didn’t know what to do.

“I remember calling my dad, I told him about my concerns.”

He told her to stay if she feels happier and safer in Việt Nam.

“I’m so proud to be here, I know I didn’t do anything except from staying at home but seriously, Việt Nam handled COVID-19 better than most other countries.

“We were ok for so long, my friends back home were in and out of lockdown for ages and we were here… chilling. The last lockdown was obviously tough but well… nothing compared to Europe,” she said. — VNS

Charlotte Lou is familiar to TikTok users with various funny clips.


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Your Vietnam

Young Vietnamese turn to ant keeping for peace, relaxation



One of Vietnam’s newest trends is ant keeping – a not-so-traditional hobby that involves caring for the ants, occasionally auctioning off colonies, and using the pastime to build a deeper connection with the natural world.

Nguyen Tan Minh Nhut, a 30-year-old resident of Binh Tan District, Ho Chi Minh City is busy putting the final touches on 30 formicaria – the formal name for man-made ant tanks – he plans to deliver to customers at the end of the week.

Each of Nhut’s ant farms boasts two compartments: a nest and an outworld.

The nest, made from cement or light brick, is typically placed at the bottom of the formicarium and is meant to simulate a natural ant colony.

It features a manmade system of tunnels that allows the ants to exist in nearly the same way they do in their natural habitats. Within these tunnels are a living area, food reserve, and nesting place.

Nests in formicaria are not always manmade. Ant keepers who prefer ant-led tunneling use sand and soil and let the ants tunnel as they please.

Atop the nest is the outworld, where ants can work and play.

Ant keepers sometimes make highly creative designs for their ant farms. Photo: Huy Le / Tuoi Tre
Ant keepers sometimes make highly creative designs for their ant farms. Photo: Huy Le / Tuoi Tre

To build an outworld, Nhut works closely with customers in order to meet their exact requirements. While some customers prefer stones and twigs so that the outworld resembles a rainforest, others prefer a more desert-like appearance.

There are even ant keepers who prefer to keep their formicaria simple and simply fill their tanks with little more than dry leaves.

Of course, different ant species require different environments.

Field ants, for example, prefer holes where they can play hide-and-seek, while ants which typically live on plants need spacious areas with lots of branches and twigs.

“An inappropriate outworld stresses the ants out. It reduces the efficiency of female workers and the fertility of the queen ant,” said Nhut.

“Sometimes the whole colony perishes.”

Formicaria feature a transparent cover which allows a clear view of their daily activities.

Many ant keepers liken watching their ants to viewing a living painting.

It takes meticulous work to design and assemble a formicarium. Even the tiniest scratches on the glass, or misplacement of mundane details, can create a nuisance for observers. 

Formicaria must also be properly sealed to protect against any external factors and prevent outsider ants from encroaching on the colony.

“Keeping ants? Are you nuts?”

Raising ants is sustainable and basically cost-free.

Devoted keepers go to great lengths to build their colonies, often venturing to the suburbs of Ho Chi Minh City looking for queen ants after a torrential rain.

Le Duc Huy owns 10 species of ants, a few of them can be seen in this supplied photo.
Le Duc Huy owns 10 species of ants, a few of them can be seen in this supplied photo.

Some even brave the dangers of forest streams, hills, caves, and bushes to find rarer species.

“I often ride to Binh Duong, Binh Phuoc, or Dak Nong Provinces on ant-hunting trips. Even after driving between 45 and 250 kilometers, there are days I can’t find anything but snakes and centipedes,” said Nhut.

“I do occasionally find queen ants, but they don’t always lay eggs. I have to take them to a laboratory for inhabitation. Only 10 out of 100 queen ants can spawn a colony, and that process can take up to a year.”

Not everybody, however, appreciates the joy of ant keeping and Nhut occasionally experiences criticism for his love of ants.

“People get mad because ants damage their food, but ants are actually very clean,” said the experienced ant keeper.

“They typically take their trash away from the living area, so it’s important to make sure they have a few empty compartments to keep their garbage.”

Nguyen Hoang Ngan is a 25-year-old ant lover in Tay Ninh Province. His family simply cannot understand how he spends so much timing feeding, caressing, and even talking to his ants.

Yet, Ngan ignores the criticism, explaining that his hobby is extremely relaxing.  

“Watching my ants relaxes me after hours of stress at work,” he said.

“They remind me to keep myself busy. It’s an indescribable joy to witness a hatching ant egg.”

25-year-old Le Duc Huy, another Ho Chi Minh City-based ant lover, uses his YouTube channel to share his knowledge about ants and provide ant-keeping tutorials for newbies.

Each type of ant is distinct in both looks and habits. Therefore, owning different species is seen as a sense of accomplishment for an ant keeper.

Huy currently has more than 10 species of ants in his collection, including the colorful Camponotus, and he claims to have learned a different lesson from each.

The diacamma ants, for example, are solitary hunters, but work together when a cricket is placed in their tank.

“I was staggered to see such unity in the natural world. The ants put aside their personal habits to work for a common cause,” he explained.

Ant auction

Considering the enormous amount of time it takes to go from a single queen ant to an entire colony, many ant keepers buy and sell ants, typically in packages of one queen and several female workers.

Social network groups of ant keepers generally ban the selling of the queen ant alone because of the potential for buyers to be scammed with immature or infertile queens. The most common rule seems to be that sellers can only offer queens that have produced at least 10 workers.

This design of an ant formicarium can hold up to 100 members. Photo: Trong Nhan / Tuoi Tre
This design of an ant formicarium can hold up to 100 members. Photo: Trong Nhan / Tuoi Tre

The prices for one ant tank ranges from VND300,000 (US$13) to VND800,000 ($35), depending on the ant species.

The most popular species are camponotus albosparsus and camponotus turcestanus due to their impressive appearances.

Buyers typically pay VND600,000 ($26) to VND1 million ($43.8) for a queen and 40-60 workers of these species.

The messor barbarus sells at VND600,000 for one queen and ten workers, while the tetra rufonigra is priced at VND500,000 ($21.9) for the same number of ants.

Purchasing a large colony is also a popular choice. Three queens and 100 workers of the rufipes species sell for VND650,000 ($28.4).

Meanwhile, 12 trap-jaw queens and 200 workers sell for VND1.2 million ($52.5).

According to ant keepers in Vietnam, these prices have gone up threefold over the last two years due to the increased popularity of the hobby.

Online auctions of ants on Facebook attract a great number of viewers. For the auction of a messier aciculatus tank with two queens and 50 males, the highest price was settled at VND600,000 after 30 bids, six times as high as the initial offering.

Ants require water, carbohydrates, and protein. Carbohydrates provide energy for the laborers and can come from honey juices or sugary liquids.

Protein caters for the gynes and larvae. This can come from crickets, caterpillars or worms.

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Your Vietnam

Hàng Mã street decked out in red ahead of the Lunar New Year



Hàng Mã is one of the 36 old streets of Hà Nội and is now decked out in brilliant red ahead of the Lunar New Year. It is home to the traditional craft of making joss paper in different shapes such as horses, shoes, clothes and even houses. These items are burned as offerings to worship ancestors.

The street is also famous for selling themed decorations.

On special occasions such as Christmas, the Mid-Autumn Festival, and Valentine’s Day, the street sells decorations that match the theme of the holiday.

Now Hàng Mã Street has had a bright makeover as Tết (Lunar New Year), the biggest and most important holiday of the year, is just around the corner.

Hàng Mã Street puts on a brilliant red makeover as Tết (Lunar New Year) is just around the corner. VNS Photo Trương Văn Vị

Paper firecrackers, handmade Tết wreaths and posters of calligraphy are among the most sought-after items ahead of the holiday. Wishes of luck, peace and happiness are written on these decorations.

Paper firecrackers, handmade Tết wreaths and calligraphy are among the most sought-after items during the occasion. VNS Photo Trương Văn Vị

The wishes of luck, peace and happiness are written on the decorations. VNS Photo Trương Văn Vị

Decorative hangings replicating traditional foods during Tết, such as bánh chưng, bánh tét or watermelon are also snapped up by many customers as they believe that these items will bring prosperity to their families.

Locals go to Hàng Mã Street to buy decorations and necessities for upcoming Tết celebrations. VNS Photo Trương Văn Vị

For Vietnamese people, no holiday is as significant as Tết. It’s an occasion for family reunions, worshipping ancestors, taking a once-a-year rest and preserving traditional values.

Children are brought to Hàng Mã Street by their parents to enjoy the Tết atmosphere. VNS Photo Trương Văn Vị

Many families have taken their children to the street to explore the Tết atmosphere and give the kids a chance to embrace the traditional and cultural values at a young age. — VNS


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