Newspapers in Vietnam, like those in South Korea and I’m sure many other countries around the world, utilized the start of a new year to review the important events that took place during the previous 365 days in the country. Not aware of any news from Vietnam in 2007, I purchased an English paper, Viet Nam News, and read the nation’s top stories.
A few disasters took centre stage last year. Apparently, Vietnamese construction workers suffered two disasters last year. The first, on 26 September, occurred when a bridge being constructed over the Hau River collapsed, killing 54 and injuring 80. Another accident, this time at a new hydro-power station in December, killed 18 workers. Severe flooding in October and November in central Vietnam left over 200 citizens dead, missing, or injured, and caused millions of dollars in damages. As well, a “national disaster” of over 400 corruption cases within the country was a top story last year.
Also in the top news was the number of traffic accidents in Vietnam. With the high number of motorbikes on the roads, I was not surprised to learn that an average of 1100 people were killed in accidents each month. I was surprised, however, to learn that helmets were only made compulsory on 15 December, just a few weeks prior to our arrival in Vietnam. We’re all hoping that helmets will drastically decrease injuries in 2008.
Of the five political and economic stories that made the top ten list, the number one story was not corruption, the country’s rising GDP, new National Assembly, or new “international status” and (non-permanent) membership in the UN’s Security Council. The nation’s number one political event and number one overall news story was the commencement of the nationwide campaign to “Learn and Follow Late President Ho Chi Minh’s Moral Example”. The campaign is intended to teach citizens of Vietnam ethics and moral responsibility, and to encourage people to avoid corruption, as inspired by Uncle Ho.