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UN in the News

Drugged Out

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As published in Time Magazine, 30 May 2011

It is easy to miss the spirit gate that guards the entrance to Phiyer, a remote village in northern Laos. Half submerged in weeds beside a field of towering sugarcane, the simple wooden structure resembles a set of miniature rustic goalposts. Look closely, however, and you will notice it is strung with roughly carved swords and assault rifles made of bamboo. The villagers believe the gate wards off disease and evil spirits.

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Great expectations

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As published in Thanh Nien News, 20 May 2011

Duong Trung Quoc was all set to hang up his parliamentary boots this year, but a lack of younger representatives has made him a candidate in the National Assembly elections yet again.

However, the seasoned legislator, who turns 64 this year, has no plans to take it easy.

Instead, he wants to make sure that the parliament addresses the rising wealth disparity that has bogged down the nation's development over the last few decades.

Quoc said the prevailing Land Law desperately needs a major shakeup, otherwise it would just continue to fuel social inequality that has rendered an increasing number of farmers landless.

"My colleagues and I have repeatedly urged amendments [to the Land Law] but our calls have fallen on deaf ears. Loopholes in the law have enabled profits to accrue only to certain interest groups and pushed more people into stark poverty."

Vietnam: Sea-level rise could "displace millions"

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Boat on the Mekong River
Millions along the Mekong could be affected

As published in IRIN news, 20 May 2011

For centuries, residents around Can Tho, a city of 1.1m people in southern Vietnam, just 0.8m above sea level, have depended on flood cycles to grow crops.

However, experts warn there is a possibility that sea levels will rise in the delta region around Can Tho due to climate change, causing devastating floods that will displace millions and destroy those crops.

Can Tho is in the wider Mekong Delta, a rice-growing region that spans southern Vietnam and is home to 18 million people. More than half of Vietnam's rice is produced in the delta, as well as 60 percent of its fish and shrimp.

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Inflation in Vietnam will push more into poverty

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As published by Reuters News on 10 May 2011

Poverty will rise in Vietnam as a result of soaring inflation this year so the government must stay the course on price-busting policies, John Hendra, head of the United Nations mission in the country, said on Tuesday.

A UN study showed that poverty increased by 2.1 per cent after Vietnam's last bout of high inflation in 2008.

That year, inflation peaked near 28 per cent in August. Last month, the annual rise in the consumer price index hit 17.5 per cent - its highest level since December 2008 - and it is still going up.

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Vietnam's minorities more likely to be poor: UN

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As published by the Associated Press, 10 May 2012

Vietnam's minorities are far more likely to live in poverty than the rest of the population, the UN said Tuesday, singling out the northwest, where ethnic Hmong rallied for autonomy last week.

John Hendra, outgoing chief of the UN's Vietnam mission, told reporters that around half the people from ethnic minorities existed at poverty levels.

"One in two ethnic minorities now are likely to find themselves in poverty," against one in 11 for the rest of the population as a whole, Hendra said.

A World Bank report in 2009 said Vietnam's 53 minority peoples, who are distinct from the majority Kinh, numbered nearly 10 million out of the 86-million-strong population.

Hendra said ethnic areas were among those with the "most persistent and stubborn" poverty, with access to health, maternal mortality rates and nutritional levels far worse then other parts of the country.

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