In 2019, Vietnam has asserted its role in the international community by hosting the second DPRK-U.S. Summit and becoming a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council.
The Southeast Asian country, however, went through a huge tragedy when 39 Vietnamese citizens were found dead inside a refrigerated truck in the UK.
Cracking down on corruption remained a primary task while the country faced unprecedented challenges brought about by air pollution in its major cities.
Tuoi Tre News reviews some of Vietnam’s most notable social and political moments in 2019.
1. Hosting the second Trump–Kim Summit
United States President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met in Hanoi for the second DPRK-U.S. Summit on February 27 and 28.
Although a joint statement was not issued following the historic meeting, the summit remained an important step in the development of dialogue between the two sides, according to Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Le Thi Thu Hang.
“Vietnam, as the host of the summit, spared no efforts to make careful and comprehensive preparations and ensure absolute safety and security for the event, which reflects the country’s external policy of independence, self-reliance, peace, cooperation, and development,” Hang stated.
Vietnam’s role in the summit shows that it is becoming more widely recognized as a responsible member of the international community, the diplomat added.
|North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and United States President Donald Trump have dinner following their brief meeting in Hanoi on February 27, 2019. Photo: Reuters|
2. Elected non-permanent member of UN Security Council
Vietnam officially won the election to become a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for the 2020-21 term following a vote at the international body's headquarters in the U.S. on June 7.
Being the only candidate representing Asia-Pacific countries, Vietnam secured the seat with near unanimous approval, getting 192 votes out of the 193 member countries and territories of the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly in New York.
It was the second time the country had been elected a non-permanent member of the UNSC, after the first time serving in this post in the 2008-09 term.
|An open debate of the UN Security Council on May 23, 2019. Photo: Vietnam News Agency|
3. Essex truck tragedy
The entire world was in complete shock when police in Essex, the United Kingdom announced that a total of 39 people were found dead inside a refrigerated truck on October 23.
In early November, Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security confirmed that all of the victims were Vietnamese.
The 31 men and eight women came from six localities – Hai Phong City and Hai Duong Province in northern Vietnam, and Nghe An, Ha Tinh, Quang Binh and Thua Thien-Hue Provinces in the north-central region.
The bodies of the first 16 victims were brought from the UK to Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi on board an aircraft operated by national carrier Vietnam Airlines on November 27.
The remaining 23 victims were repatriated on November 30.
The discovery of the bodies in the back of the refrigerated truck after being smuggled into Britain has shone a spotlight on the illicit trade that sends the poor of Asia, Africa and the Middle East on perilous journeys to the West.
Police in Vietnam have arrested ten people in connection with the deaths.
|Police are seen at the scene where bodies were discovered in a lorry container, in Grays, Essex, Britain October 23, 2019. Photo: Reuters|
4. Air pollution in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City
During the final week of September, both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City were affected by unhealthy air quality, with the Air Quality Index (AQI) recorded at harmful levels for multiple days, according to statistics from AirVisual, an independent online AQI monitor.
In the southern metropolis, experts also warned of the increasingly alarming health risks brought about by fine dust pollution, or PM2.5, during this period.
On November 12, air pollution in Hanoi soared to the most hazardous level since the beginning of 2019, with AQI hitting 314 in one area.
An AQI of over 300 is considered “hazardous,” according to the Vietnam Environment Administration (VEA).
Air pollution once again plagued the capital in mid-December, but the VEA only issued warnings when the contamination entered its seventh day.
The agency advised local residents to limit their outdoor activities, but failed to mention the cause of such pollution in its announcement.
|Commuters travel on a street in Hanoi on the morning of December 14, 2019. Photo: Danh Trong / Tuoi Tre|
5. Senior officials charged in graft clean-ups
Many high-ranking Vietnamese officials have been subject to disciplinary actions and even prison terms for their severe violations and errors over the past years, and 2019 was no exception.
On December 28, the Hanoi People’s Court sentenced Nguyen Bac Son, who was the Vietnamese Minister of Information and Communications (MIC) for the 2011-16 tenure, to life for receiving US$3 million in bribes to facilitate a scandalous deal where state-run telco MobiFone attempted to acquire a 95 percent stake in AVG, a pay-per-view private TV company.
Truong Minh Tuan, who succeeded Son as communications minister from April 2016 to October 2018, was sentenced to 14 years in total for violations in the same case.
In mid-July, the all-powerful Politburo issued a disciplinary warning against Vu Van Ninh, a Party member and former deputy premier, for his mismanagment of state capital while in office.
In late October, Nguyen Van Hien, an admiral and former naval commander, was probed for irresponsibility and oversight which led to serious consequences during his time in office.
In late September, Nguyen Hong Truong was stripped of the status of former Deputy Minister of Transport for the 2011-2015 and 2016-2017 periods for his serious wrongdoings.
|Nguyen Bac Son (L) and Truong Minh Tuan, former Minsters of Information and Communications. Photo: Ministry of Public Security|