Posts tagged ‘Vietnam’

August 20, 2014

Former enemy Vietnam seeks U.S. help to counter China

USA Today

Former enemy Vietnam seeks U.S. help to counter China

Tom Vanden Brook, USA TODAY

7:40 a.m. EDT August 18, 2014

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2014/08/17/vietnam-war-dempsey-visit-counter-china/14185033/

(Photo: Tom Vanden Brook, USA TODAY)

HO CHI MINH CITY — Army Gen. Martin Dempsey has served 40 years in the Army, fought in Iraq, traveled the world many times over.

None of that fully prepared him for his first visit to Vietnam — the first by a chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff since Adm. Thomas Moorer visited in 1971. At that time, there were 300,000 U.S. troops in Vietnam.

“Flying in, it’s almost visually overwhelming,” Dempsey told USA TODAY, which joined him on the trip. “The architecture. The mopeds. The images of modernity clashing with the past. Women in the fields tending to the rice patties, walking down the street with the pole and two buckets.

“So you’ve got this juxtaposition with who they’ve been and who they are now.”

The war’s imprint, though faint, still can be traced. Part of Dempsey’s mission here was to acknowledge but not be shackled by the past as the once-bitter enemies seek new and deeper ties. Dempsey’s four-day visit to three cities offered glimpses of the past, present and future of this country of 93 million people crowded into a space about the size of New Mexico.

AP_VIETNAM_RETROSPECTIVE_200753

A U.S. Marine helicopter evacuates people from the roof of a U.S. Embassy building in Saigon in April 1975.(Photo: NEIL ULEVICH, AP)

A litany of past and present problems confronted Dempsey on the trip — from the toxic effects of the defoliant Agent Orange to the rise of China, whose muscular military response in the South China Sea has unnerved Vietnam and other countries in the region. The specter of the Vietnam War, and the 58,000 U.S. troops killed here, looms over all the issues, a reminder of the war the United States lost and the humiliating helicopter evacuation of diplomats and dependents from the roof of a U.S. Embassy building in May 1975. There are opportunities for increased trade for Vietnam, a country that has bounced back from war’s devastation.

Dempsey’s visit signals that the United States and Vietnam want to forge closer military ties, says Ernie Bower, an expert on Southeast Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Full diplomatic relations with the communist country were established in 1995, though a U.S. ban on selling weapons to Vietnam remains.

“The Vietnam War — or the U.S. War, as the Vietnamese call it — is fading fast in the rearview mirror,” Bower says. The United States and Vietnam find common interests in developing a stable, peaceful and prosperous region, he says.

Dempsey saw a land evolving in ways small and big. Small: Luxury retailer Hermes bustles while relics such as ’60s-era tanks and warplanes from the war rust and molder in the tropical heat and humidity. Big: Vietnam courts the United States, the superpower it booted out, as counterweight to China.

From north to south, signs of new nudging old abound. Just beneath a billboard touting bathroom fixtures from the U.S. plumbing giant Kohler is a woman in a field, wearing a conical hat and tending to emerald-green rice stalks.

DANANG: EXPIATING SINS OF WAR

The airport in this pretty port city in central Vietnam on the South China Sea has a very dirty but open secret. In the shadow of the modern terminal lies what would be known as a Superfund site in the USA. The U.S. Agency for International Development is cleaning up poisonous residue from 20 million gallons of herbicide sprayed to destroy crops that fed Viet Cong troops and the jungle foliage that concealed them. U.S. troops who set foot in Vietnam are eligible for treatment of ills linked to the toxin, Agent Orange.

This chemical scourge got its name from the stripe on its 55-gallon shipping drums and was a cocktail of herbicides containing dioxin. From 1962 to 1971, U.S. Air Force crews loaded the chemicals on planes at Danang Air Base. Cargo planes, much like crop dusters, sprayed Agent Orange on broad tracts of farmland and jungle.

In Danang, the defoliation mission, dubbed “Operation Ranch Hand,” contaminated 95,000 cubic yards of soil. Dempsey toured the cleanup site, a sawed-off concrete pyramid that holds and heats the dirt until dioxin breaks down. The cleanup is scheduled to be complete in 2016.

An outside observer, Wallace “Chip” Gregson would like to see the United States step up its efforts to exorcise another deadly reminder — unexploded munitions. U.S. bombs and shells leveled chunks of Vietnam. Many didn’t explode yet remain deadly.

Gregson, who fought in Vietnam as a young Marine, retired in 2005 as a three-star general. In 2009, he was named assistant secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, a post he held until April 2011. He visits Vietnam regularly and is an expert on the region for the Center for the National Interest.

The United States and Japan have technology to destroy the unexploded ordnance at the site, avoiding the hazard of removing it and blowing it up elsewhere, Gregson says. “We can and should provide some major help to them,” he says. “Aiding Vietnam’s rapid development seems an appropriate riposte to China, as well as fulfilling a moral obligation from the war.”

HANOI: WHAT VIETNAM WANTS

It’s a concern Dempsey hears time and again during his visit: What matters most to Vietnam?

“China, China, China,” an academic tells him during a roundtable discussion with local think-tanks.

The most recent clash stems from China’s claim to offshore mineral rights and islands in the South China Sea. China has moved a deep-sea oil drilling rig into disputed waters and sank a Vietnamese fishing boat near it in May.

Vietnamese reporters at a briefing quiz Dempsey about China and what help the U.S. military can provide. It’s not a fray the United States is eager to join, he says. A prosperous China that treats its neighbors well is the U.S. goal. “We’re not trying to make anybody choose between China and the United States,” Dempsey says.

Vietnam and China have fought as many as 18 wars over 2,000 years, the most recent in 1979. That makes China a preoccupation for Vietnam, but it’s not in Vietnam’s interest to provoke a major conflict.

Instead, Vietnamese leaders want a deeper relationship with the United States that includes being a member of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal being negotiated among 12 nations that promises to boost investment and exports.

The Vietnamese want a clearer picture of what’s happening over the horizon in the South China Sea. Their military lacks the radar and other surveillance aircraft, which limits their ability to see what China and others are doing.

If the weapons ban is lifted, Dempsey says, the Pentagon could sell Vietnam’s navy better tools for surveillance of the sea.

HO CHI MINH CITY: VIETNAM’S FUTURE

Ho Chi Minh City — once known as Saigon and named after the revolutionary who led North Vietnam to victory in 1975 — pulses with energy. Torrents of scooters course through the streets, joined in increasing numbers by luxury vehicles.

Dempsey said he expected to be greeted warmly in Ho Chi Minh City but was a bit surprised to find a similar reception in Hanoi.

“I didn’t know if there would be lingering war legacy issues that would cause them to be suspicious of us,” Dempsey said. Instead, he found “that their population has in fact moved on. I’m sure not all of them, by the way.”

Economic growth, which had buzzed at high rates for years, has slowed since 2008. Corruption throttles foreign investment and chokes growth, according to studies by the U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Center.

Vietnam joined the Trans-Pacific “negotiations in part because it needs to reform its economy to compete effectively and in part because it realizes that economic engagement is the foundation for a strong security relationship,” Bower says.

If Vietnam gets its act together, the country could be another South Korea, according to government reports, including one by the United Kingdom’s trade and development agency in July. Helping Vietnam could benefit the United States.

“It occurred to me oftentimes that adversaries in our past can become our closest friends,” says Dempsey, 62, who graduated West Point in 1974, too late to go to the war.

“That’s not to say it won’t happen without some effort. But I think there’s a possibility that Vietnam could be a very strong partner. Look at our history with the British or the Germans or the Japanese. It could be like a phoenix rising from the ashes. That’s what I hope happens here in this relationship.”

Follow @tvandenbrook on Twitter.

 

 

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June 28, 2014

Effects of Laos dam project to be revealed

 

Laos takes ‘courteous’ approach to next Mekong dam project, agrees to consult before work starts

Reuters

June 28, 2014

Updated 2 hours 31 minutes ago

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-06-28/laos-dam/5557196

Fishing at rapids in the Siphandone area of the Mekong River in Laos

Fishing at rapids in Siphandone area, site of proposed Don Sahong hydro-electric dam.  Photo: International Rivers

Laos has agreed to consult its neighbours before starting construction of a second controversial dam on the Mekong River.

It’s already going ahead with the much bigger Xayaburi dam to supply power to China, despite opposition from Vietnam and Cambodia.

Agreement to allow environmental assessments and for a formal consultation process on the proposed Don Sahong dam was reached at a meeting of the Mekong River Commission in Bangkok.

The commission comprises Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand.

Laos accepted environmental and other studies for the Xayaburi dam after pressure from its neighbours, but went ahead with construction even while they were being conducted.

But this time Vientiane has given an assurance work will not start during the six-month consultation process, describing the move as a “courtesy”.

The Don Sahong project is the second of 11 hydroelectric dams planned for the Mekong mainstream, which has raised concerns about the impact on the environment and livelihoods of millions of people.

It will generate 260 megawatts of electricity, mainly for export to Thailand and Cambodia compared with Xayaburi’s 1,260 megawatts, around 95 percent of which will go to Thailand.

The environmental group International Rivers is among those to have welcomed the decision.

But it says further action is needed “to ensure that the rapid progress of dam building on the Mekong … does not go unchecked”.

Officials say recommendations resulting from the studies of the Don Sahong project would not be binding on Laos.

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Effects of Laos dam project to be revealed

Posted on 27 June 2014

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://wwf.panda.org/?224398/Effects-of-Laos-dam-project-to-be-revealed

Two Mekong Irrawaddy dolphins spotted at Tbong Kla deep pool
© WWF- Cambodia/ Gerad Ryan

WWF welcomes the Lao Government’s decision to have the Don Sahong hydropower project undergo a formal consultation process, a decision likely to delay construction of the project.

The consultation process requires Laos to hold inter-governmental consultations before proceeding with the dam, and conduct and share studies on the project’s environmental and the social impacts. The process will take at least six months to complete.

“Laos is now promising to do what they already signed up to under the Mekong agreement, and should have done months ago” said Marc Goichot, WWF-Greater Mekong’s lead on sustainable hydropower. “Their decision to consult on the Don Sahong project, and share critical details about the project’s impacts, comes after intense pressure from neighbouring countries. It is critical that pressure is maintained to ensure Laos delivers on their promise.”

In September last year, Laos announced its decision to proceed with the Don Sahong dam, bypassing the Mekong River Commision’s (MRC) consultation process.

The much-criticised project was discussed at the June 26-27 meeting of the MRC – an inter-governmental agency made up of representatives from the four Lower Mekong nations — Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.

The Don Sahong dam threatens the Mekong’s critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphins and will block the only channel available for dry-season fish migration, putting the world’s largest inland fishery at risk. Close to 200,000 people have signed WWF’s petition calling on the dam builder, Mega First, to pull out of the project.

“We thank people around the world who signed the WWF’s petition to stop the Don Sahong dam,” added Goichot. “Mega First would do well to listen to the growing voices of opposition to this disastrous project and reconsider their engagement.”

The Don Sahong dam is the second dam on the Lower Mekong mainstem, following the controversial Xayaburi dam that Laos has begun constructing despite opposition from neighbouring Cambodia and Vietnam.

“The Mekong River Commission’s joint decision-making process was effectively broken in 2012 when Laos decided unilaterally to proceed with Xayaburi dam, against the express wishes of Vietnam and Cambodia,” added Goichot.

“There is currently little faith in the MRC’s process to ensure joint decisions are made for the benefit of all Mekong nations. If Laos fails to be held to account, the MRC will soon lose its legitimacy and 60 million people living in the Mekong basin will suffer.”

Crowd of children with Pra or River catfish (Pangasianodon hypophthalmus). River catfish are closely related to the Mekong giant catfish (Pangasianodon gigas), a critically endangered Mekong endemic specieis. The Mekong giant catfish migrates from the Tonle Sap Lake to the Mekong River at the end of the rainy season each year and a dam like Don Sahong would block their migration.
© Zeb Hogan / WWF-Canon

 

 

June 27, 2014

Construction on Laos’s Mekong dams harried by lawsuits, political pressure

 

Construction on Laos’s Mekong dams harried by lawsuits, political pressure 

Friday, June 27, 2014 16:04
In a gesture likely aimed at placating its neighbors, Laos has agreed to submit its second Mekong River dam to the regional consultation process it sidestepped last year.
But experts say Laos is nowhere close to abandoning the dam and another it’s building on the Mekong. Environmental groups say these projects threaten the livelihood of tens of millions of people who depend on the mighty river.
“I fear that this will, at the best, only delay the construction by six months,” Marc Goichot, who works for environmental group WWF’s Greater Mekong program on sustainable hydropower, told Thanh Nien News.
“There are not yet any signs that the proponents of the project are taking seriously the concerns voiced by other Mekong riparian governments,” he said, adding that he believes the Lao government is unlikely to reconsider the project.
Last September, Laos announced that it would embark on the Don Sahong project, the second of 11 dams planned by Laos on the lower reaches of the 4,900-kilometer (3,045-mile)-long Mekong, which is second only to the Amazon in terms of biodiversity. Work on the Don Sahong dam is slated to begin in December at a site less than two kilometers from the Cambodian border, according to Lao officials.

Cambodian fishermen who live by the Mekong River pass the time by their boats outside Phnom Penh. Photo credit: Reuters

Environmental groups have warned that the 260-megawatt dam threatens to block the only channel that currently allows year-round fish migrations on a large scale and will certainly wipe out one of the last populations of endangered Irrawaddy dolphins.
Laos, which shrugged off those concerns altogether, has also been at odds with its riparian neighbors — particularly Vietnam and Cambodia — over the project’s prior consultation (e.g. regional decision-making) process.
Laos maintains that it need only notify its neighbors of its intent to build the dam because it is located neither in the tributary nor on the mainstream of the Mekong. It’s downstream neighbors, however, have demanded that the consultation process take place before the dam is built, citing its trans-boundary impacts.
Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia are bound by a 1995 Mekong treaty that requires each signatory to hold inter-governmental consultations before damming the river. No single country has veto powers and Laos will have the final say on whether or not to proceed.
At a regional meeting of the Mekong River Commission — a regional body established to coordinate dam projects on the river — in Bangkok on Thursday, Laos said it would agree to resubmit the Don Sahong project to the prior consultation process.
But environmentalists say they view the process as a diplomatic formality.
During the meeting, Laos’ Deputy Energy Minister Viraphonh Viravong told participants “with your support and constructive input, the Lao government will continue to develop the project in a responsible and sustainable manner.”

He told reporters that construction would not start during the six-month consultation process. “No, we will not start building. That is courtesy. Laotians are courteous,” he was quoted by Reuters as saying Friday.

Naturally, that didn’t go over too well.
A recent site visit by International Rivers, a California-based environmental group, has confirmed that construction work towards the Don Sahong dam in southern Laos.
The site visit held in early June confirmed that workers have begun construction of a bridge connecting the mainland to Don Sadam Island, the group said. The bridge will create an access route for construction on the Hou Sahong Channel, it added.
“One has to wonder how sincere a consultation process is when infrastructure in support of the project is being put into place at the same time,” said Ian Baird, an expert on Laos and specialist on hydro-power dams and fisheries at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
‘Laos has few resources’
In November 2012, Laos broke ground on the US$3.8-billion 1,260-megawatt Xayaburi dam project despite vehement objections from environmental groups and its neighbors who said the 810-meter (2,600ft) dam would unleash massive ecological changes on a river that feeds around 60 million people. The project is now 40 percent complete, according to Lao officials.
Opponents of the Xayaburi and Don Sahong projects said their commencement would usher in the construction of the 9 other dams planned by Laos on the Mekong, which begins in the Tibetan plateau and flows through China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam before emptying into the East Sea (internationally known as the South China Sea).
At that time, Laos prematurely insisted that the prior consultation process on the Xayaburi project was already over, which drew sharp criticism from three other Mekong nations. Since then, the four countries have failed to agree on whether or not the process is still ongoing.
“The failure to reach consensus was interpreted by Laos as a green light to move ahead with construction of the Xayaburi dam,” Goichot said. “We cannot see any signs that this will be different for Don Sahong.”
Landlocked Laos plans to become the “battery of Southeast Asia” by exporting the vast majority of its power – mostly to Thailand – and has promoted the Xayaburi dam as a potential source of income and investment that will spur its small economy.
“Laos has few resources. Hydroelectricity is one, and the Lao government is determined to exploit it,” said Martin Stuart-Fox, a Laos expert at the University of Queensland in Australia. “Most dams have been relatively uncontroversial because they have been on tributaries. Don Sahong and Xayaburi are controversial because they are on the Mekong itself,” he said.
“From the Lao point of view, why should they be prevented from exploiting the river?”
Light at the end of the tunnel?
But on the bright side, the concession made by Laos has come at a convenient juncture for environmental groups and activists.
On Tuesday, Reuters reported that a Thai court agreed to hear a lawsuit against state-owned Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) and four other state bodies for agreeing to buy electricity from the Xayaburi project. Thailand plans to buy around 95 percent of the electricity generated by the massive mainstream dam.
Villagers from Thai provinces near the Mekong petitioned the Administrative Court in 2012 to suspend a power purchasing agreement signed by EGAT and Laos’s Xayaburi Power Company Limited, but the court ruled it had no jurisdiction to hear the case. That decision was reversed on Tuesday when the Supreme Administrative Court sided with villagers, who are demanding full environmental and health impact assessments.
The court will now call on the Thai government agencies to respond to questions and allow the plaintiff to rebut their response.  The court could take a year or longer to renders a verdict.
“[If] the power purchase agreement is suspended or cancelled, it will be financially risky for the developer to proceed with construction on the Xayaburi Dam as there will be no buyer for the dam’s electricity,” said Ame Trandem, Southeast Asia program director for International Rivers.
A growing civil society movement against dam construction has taken hold throughout the region. Meanwhile, Vietnam and Cambodia have reiterated their calls for a 10-year moratorium on all dam construction on the Mekong’s mainstream.
Numerous studies have underlined the threat the dam poses to Vietnam’s Mekong Delta (the world’s rice basket) which is already sinking and shrinking.
Activists say that although it is still not too late to halt the dams and devise a plan to promote the sustainable development of the Mekong, success in doing so would hinge on the political will of governments to make sound scientific decisions before forging ahead with any more dam construction.
If the dam-building binge continues unchecked, “Vietnam, as the most downstream country, has probably the most to lose, but millions of people in Cambodia Laos and Thailand are also at risk,” Goichot said.
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An Dien
Thanh Nien News

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Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://asiancorrespondent.com/124211/laos-to-forge-ahead-with-controversial-mekong-dam/

Jun 27, 2014, 1:58 PM UTC

Serious concerns remain despite officials’ promise to hear input from locals and neighboring Mekong nations

Activists concerned with development along the Mekong River saw a small victory this week when the Supreme Administrative Court of Thailand agreed to take a case against Thai government agencies that purchased power from the Xayaburi dam in neighboring Laos. The Bangkok Post reported that the villagers who filed the complaints “accused the agencies of not complying with constitutional requirements before signing an agreement to purchase power from the Xayaburi dam.”

The villagers filed three orders with the court, according to the Bangkok Post: The first was to withdraw the cabinet resolution that allowed the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) to purchase power from the Xayaburi Power Company; the second was to revoke the Power Purchase Agreement that was signed in 2011; and the third requested that the defendants “respect community rights and comply with the constitution by arranging transparent public hearings, as well as health and environmental impact assessments before signing power purchase.” The first two orders were dismissed, but the court supported the third.

Meanwhile, during a meeting of the Mekong River Commission Thursday Laos announced it will move ahead with plans on a second dam, the Don Sahong, despite concern over construction of that one as well. The Laos government will submit plans to the Mekong River Commission Council for review, but refused to halt construction, according to Asia Sentinel. Viraphonh Viravong, Laos’ vice chairman of Energy and Mines, said the country wants to cooperate with other Mekong nations and open its plans to them under a Prior Consultation process, according to the Bangkok Post.

Teerapong Pomun, director of the Living River Siam Association, which advises the Mekong River Commission, said the court’s decision will allow locals affected by the project to voice their concerns about the impact the dam will have on communities along the Mekong. Teerapong said the companies involved in the dam development need to educate local people and include them in discussions about how the dam will impact their livelihoods, and how to mitigate problems caused by the development. He said that environmental groups hope the Xayaburi court case can be used as a standard in the future, especially looking ahead to the ASEAN integration in 2015. Teerapong hopes Thailand will set a precedent for including locals in the research and planning process, and for mitigating negative construction impacts before building even begins.

The 1,285 mega-watt Kayaburi dam is being built in Xayaboury province in northern Laos. The Laos and Thai governments are cooperating on the project, with one of Thailand’s largest construction companies and several Thai banks (including the government-owned Krung Thai Bank) involved, according to International Rivers. The Kayaburi is one of 11 dams planned for the Mekong region and activists have expressed serious concerns about the detrimental impact these could have on the environment and local economies in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

In its media kit on the Xayaburi dam, International Rivers states:

The costs of the Xayaburi Dam will be borne by the millions of people who live along the Mekong River, including in Laos and Thailand. Scientists expect that the dam will block critical fish migration routes
for between 23 to 100 species, including the iconic Mekong Giant Catfish. The dam would also destroy the river’s complex ecosystems that serve as important fish habitats. It would block the flow of sediments and nutrients, affecting agriculture as far downstream as the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. The Lao government will resettle at least 2,100 people, and 202,000 people living near the dam site will be directly affected. Even in the early stages of construction, many of these people already face threats to their food security.”

On June 25, the Save the Mekong coalition issued a statement imploring regional leaders to “cancel the planned projects, including the Xayaburi and Don Sahong dams, and ensure that future decisions over the shared river are based on scientific knowledge, transboundary impact assessment, and respect for the rights of all riparian nations and the public to a transparent and participatory decision-making process.”

Teerapong said that for him and other activists, the best case scenario is that projects like the Xayaburi will be halted completely until local people have had a real chance to participate. Barring that, he hopes to see locals involved in finding solutions to problems the dams create, such as land erosion and decreased fish population.

Teerapong said Thai and other regional leaders must consider the long-term effects of the dams, such as food security and conflict among the Mekong nations.

“It’s not only [a concern] for Thai and Laos people,” he said. “If it happens, what is the mitigation to solve the conflict? They have to let local people in the Mekong countries join the committee to solve the problems.”

The Mekong is a major food and income source for people in the Mekong nations, and environmentalists have expressed grave concerns about changing water levels and damage to fish populations. Teerapong said soil erosion is already happening and that the water levels will make it harder for farmers to irrigate their fields, costing them more money to raise their crops. He added that people in affected communities who may end up losing land and resources need to be fairly compensated, and that consequence should be taken into account before the dams are even built.

At the commission meeting, Laos officials “admitted that the Don Sahong channel is a key migratory route in the dry season, but there are several other channels that support fish migration,” according to the Bangkok Post. Viraphonh also said Laos will improve the channels in the Khone Falls to aid fish migration and work closely with local officials to promote fishery management, conservation and sustainable fishing, and broaden economic opportunities for fishing families.”

 

May 28, 2014

เวียดนามส่งออกข้าวกว่า 2 ล้านตัน จีนยังครองแชมป์นำเข้าข้าวรายใหญ่ – Vietnam exports over 2 mln tons of rice, over 40 pct to China

เวียดนามส่งออกข้าวกว่า 2 ล้านตัน จีนยังครองแชมป์นำเข้าข้าวรายใหญ่

โดย ASTVผู้จัดการออนไลน์ 28 พฤษภาคม 2557 14:52 น.

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.manager.co.th/IndoChina/ViewNews.aspx?NewsID=9570000059579

ภาพแฟ้มเอเอฟพีวันที่ 18 ก.ย.2556 ชาวนาพ่นยาฆ่าแมลงลงในนาข้าวชานกรุงฮานอย รายงานของสมาคมอาหารเวียดนามระบุว่า ตั้งแต่ต้นปี 2557 จนถึงวันที่ 22 พ.ค. เวียดนามส่งออกข้าวไปแล้วทั้งสิ้น 2 ล้านตัน โดยจีนครองแชมป์นำเข้าข้าวรายใหญ่ที่สุดของประเทศ ที่ 40% ของการส่งออกทั้งหมด.– Agence France-Presse/Hoang Dinh Nam.

ซินหวา – เวียดนามทำรายได้มากถึง 899 ล้านดอลลาร์จากการขายข้าวทั้งหมด 2.061 ล้านตัน ไปยังตลาดโลกนับจนถึงวันที่ 22 พ.ค.2557 โดยมากกว่า 40% เป็นข้าวที่ขายให้แก่จีน ตามการเปิดเผยของสมาคมอาหารเวียดนาม (VFA)

ในช่วง 3 สัปดาห์แรกของเดือน พ.ค. เวียดนามส่งออกข้าวทั้งสิ้น 309,000 ตัน คิดเป็นมูลค่า 133 ล้านดอลลาร์ ตามรายงานของศูนย์ข้อมูลอุตสาหกรรมและการค้าเวียดนาม ภายใต้การดูแลของกระทรวงอุตสาหกรรมและการค้าเวียดนาม ระบุ

ส่วนรายงานของกระทรวงเกษตรและพัฒนาชนบทเวียดนาม เผยว่า การส่งออกข้าวของเวียดนามในเดือน พ.ค. คาดว่าปริมาณจะลดลง 10.2% และมูลค่าลดลง 7.3% เมื่อเทียบต่อปี

อย่างไรก็ตาม ยังมีสัญญาณบวกสำหรับข้าวเวียดนาม เนื่องจากราคาส่งออกโดยเฉลี่ยในช่วง 4 เดือนแรกของปีนี้อยู่ที่ 456.19 ดอลลาร์ต่อตัน ขยับเพิ่มขึ้น 4.4% เมื่อเทียบต่อปี

ในช่วงเดือน ม.ค.-เม.ย. ตลาดฟิลิปปินส์ เติบโตขึ้นอย่างมาก ขยับขึ้นมาเป็นผู้นำเข้าข้าวรายใหญ่อันดับ 2 ของเวียดนาม โดยครองส่วนแบ่งตลาดที่ 18.66% รองจากจีน ที่ยังคงรั้งตำแหน่งผู้นำเข้าข้าวรายใหญ่ที่สุดของเวียดนาม ด้วยสัดส่วน 41.75%.

ข่าวล่าสุด ในหมวด

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Vietnam exports over 2 mln tons of rice, over 40 pct to China

27.05.2014
Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://www.blackseagrain.net/novosti/vietnam-exports-over-2-mln-tons-of-rice-over-40-pct-to-china

Vietnam has earned some 899 million U. S. dollars from selling 2.061 million tons of rice to world market as of May 22 in 2014, with over 40 percent sold to China, said Vietnam Food Association (VFA) on Tuesday.

In the first three weeks of May, Vietnam has exported 309,000 tons of rice, worth 133 million U.S. dollars, Vietnam Industry and Trade Information Center under the Ministry of Industry and Trade quoted VFA as saying.

According to a recent report by the Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), Vietnam’s rice exports in May are expected to dip 10.2 percent in volume and 7.3 percent in value year-on-year.

However, the country’s rice enjoyed a positive signal as the average export price of the product in the first four months of 2014 stood at 456.19 U.S. dollars per ton, up 4.4 percent year-on- year, said MARD.

The Philippines was the market that saw remarkable growth in January-April period with an increase of 5.26 times in volume and 5.79 times in value year-on-year.

The report said the Philippines ranked the second among Vietnam’ s large rice importers in four-month period with 18.66 percent of market shares while China maintained Vietnam’s biggest rice importer, accounting for 41.75 percent of the market shares.

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FAO Estimates Vietnam Rice Exports Will Increase to 7.2 Million Tons in 2014, Up 8% from Previous Year

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://oryza.com/news/rice-news/fao-estimates-vietnam-rice-exports-will-increase-72-million-tons-2014-8-previous-year

May 14, 2014

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has estimated Vietnam’s milled rice exports to increase to about 7.2 million tons in 2014, up about 8% from about 6.7 million tons in 2013 due to higher production and increased export demand from Asian countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, China and the Philippines backed by low prices. In 2012, Vietnam exported about 7.6 million tons.

However, in the last week the Vietnam Food Association (VFA) lowered its 2014 rice export target to 6.2 million tons from the earlier target of 6.5 – 7 million tons due to heavy competition from India and Thailand. USDA estimates Vietnam to export 6.5 million tons of rice in 2014.

Vietnam exported 1.82 million tons of rice in January 1 – May 8, 2014 period, according to the VFA, down about 35% from about 2.8 million tons exported during the same period in 2013.

In its country brief on Vietnam, the FAO has estimated Vietnam’s total paddy rice production at about 44.2 million tons (around 27.6 million tons of milled rice) in 2014, marginally higher than about 44 million tons (around 27.5 million tons of milled rice) produced in 2013. The UN agency however, forecasts Vietnam’s paddy rice production from 2014 winter/spring crop at 20.3 million tons, similar to last year’s production, despite shifting part of the rice area to other crops, due to higher yields, favorable weather conditions, and adequate water supplies.

Domestic wholesale prices of rice continued to decline in April due to increased supplies from the 2013-14 main season winter-spring (January – July) harvest and lower cross-border exports to China, according to the FAO. The one million ton government procurement program, which began in mid-March, limited the decline in prices to some extent, but are generally low, says the FAO.

The VFA has expressed concern about the dependency of Vietnam rice exports on the Chinese market, both official and unofficial exports. Local sources note that some Chinese buyers have  also defaulted on payments, another risk.

 

May 12, 2014

Laos: Crony scheme in control of press and civil society

Laos: Crony scheme in control of press and civil society

By Helen Clark / 12 May, 2014

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2014/05/laos-crony-scheme-control-press-civil-society/

The Laotian president, Choummaly Sayasone, made a five day official visit to France in October 2013 — the first such visit in 60 years. (Photo: Serge Mouraret / Demotix)

When travellers and writers talk about Laos, they mention how peaceful it is, and how Buddhist. The people, says Lonely Planet, are some of the most chilled out in the world.  People forget, as they rarely do with Vietnam or China, that it is still a communist state.

The Lao People’s Revolutionary Party (LPRP) has absolute control over the press and civil society. Professor Martin Stuart-Fox, a Laos expert with the University of Queensland, has written widely on the country’s history and government and has said that the party is little more than a crony scheme, with many of those in power now descended from the old Lao aristocracy. It is necessary to have a powerful patron, almost always in the party or closely connected to it, for success. Information is difficult to get hold of and even local journalists, who often have close ties to the government, complain publicly, if respectfully, about the impenetrability of government departments.

Freedom House writes: “Press freedom in Laos remains highly restricted. Despite advances in telecommunications infrastructure, government control of all print and broadcast news prevents the development of a vibrant, independent press.”

These media restrictions are part of a wider pattern of suppression of information, lack of transparency in business dealings, prevention of protests and cultural and religious oversight by the government and party.

However the most noticeable event of the past 18 months has been the disappearance of Sombath Somphone. At the end of 2012 the Lao development expert went missing and many of his colleagues quietly believe the government may be responsible. Little but the bare facts have been written in the local, state-owned press.

Somphone was, according to reports, well respected by both the local and international communities and hardly an anti-government firebrand. He did, however, jointly give a presentation in late 2012 to the ASEAN-Europe People‘s Forum held in Vientiane  with the United Nations Development Program. A western aid source told Index on Censorship: “In my opinion — one shared by many others as well –Somphone’s statement at the AEPF was the last straw for the government. He was particularly concerned with forced resettlement, directly linked to government land grabs to provide natural resources to Chinese companies [that are] full of bribes.” The source says since Somphone disappeared any attempts at criticism of government policy, either by the press or organisations “have taken a quantum leap backwards and are currently frozen”.

The World Trade Organisation accession of last year appears not to have much of an effect in promoting a freer or transparent climate. Though the global trade body did make the right noises little concrete action was taken.

This is in contrast to Vietnam’s 2007 WTO accession. In the lead up, the Vietnamese government made public attempts at allowing more freedom of press and speech and open criticism of government policies. Once it became the 150th member crackdowns began again. A small measure of transparency in regards to the business climate has been seemingly taken in Laos.

The LPRP has been in power since 1975. Agricultural reforms began in 1978 and economic reform in 1986, known as the New Economic Mechanism, which began its transition to a more market-based economy. Vietnam instituted its own doi moi, or renovation, policy the same year.

Laos has, in the past 15 years, pursued a policy of economic growth and regional and global integration with an eye toward world affairs. Joining ASEAN in 1997 was a step forward for the small nation, though the spillover Asian financial crisis engendered a certain skepticism among leaders of the manifold benefits of globalisation.

Many smaller nations racing towards development, especially those with sometimes problematic political systems, usually host an event that is as something of a “coming out party”. Vientiane’s hosting of the 2009 Southeast Asia Games was Laos’. Longtime Asia journalist Bertil Lintner pointed out in the Yale Global Review, that though the SEA Games may not have been compelling for much of the globe they are an important regional sporting competition. Chinese and Vietnamese donors and investment built much of the needed infrastructure, such as stadiums.

Despite the rapid development and a “strong” growth outlook for 2013 – 2014, according to Euromonitor, the country still struggles under Least Developed Nation status and poverty rates are high outside the cities while access to services remains low, as do literacy rates.

Unemployment is officially at 2.6 percent of the population, but it is widely believed to be far higher and according to market research and intelligence firm Euromonitor there will be twice as many job entrants as positions for them to fill. Labour export is favoured by the government to partially solve the issue and earn currency. The poverty rate has dropped in recent years and the government’s plan has been to halve it by 2015.

Freedom of the press?

“The Ministry of Information and Culture controls all media in Laos. There is no freedom of the press and no legal protection for Lao journalists who fail to reflect the party line. Most Lao journalists are actually party members attached to the MI,” Stuart-Fox wrote for Freedom House in 2012.

“Laos is the region’s black hole for news…. Because there is no functioning independent media, there are few overt press freedom violations,” Shawn Crispin of the Committee to Protect Journalists told Index. “No local reporting is allowed whatsoever on government corruption, official abuses or factional divisions inside the ruling communist Lao Revolutionary People’s Party. These are all pervasive in Laos, but you’d never know it reading local papers on watching local TV.”

Laos enshrines freedom of speech in its constitution, written in 1991, while ensuring harsh penalties in its penal code that can easily be applied to journalists, or bloggers — though bloggers are few and generally timid. Slandering the state, distorting party and state policies, inciting disorder or propagating information or opinions that weaken the state can all be prosecuted. The vague wording means many things can, if deemed necessary, fall under this ambit.

The English language Vientiane Times largely functions as a platform for photographs of handshakes, ribbon cuttings and deeply earnest affirmations of the great friendship between Laos and whichever national delegation dropped off in the capital on its Southeast Asia tour. It is essentially a showcase organ for what the government wishes foreigners to see, and understand, about modern Laos however its often rather old-fashioned, orthodox rhetoric and complete dearth of anything interesting do not ensure an avid readership.

“The Vietnamese media is much more open, skilled, and sophisticated than the Lao media. And the Lao media are dominated by self-censorship,” a senior Lao source from Radio Free Asia said in an email to Index. “Within limits some publications in Vietnam do try to do investigative journalism. You simply won’t find that in Laos.” The source pointed out that a query on the large scale illegal logging with logs going to Vietnam might not yield much past government authority saying that the government tries to protect the environment.

The 2008 media law is theoretically more friendly to the media and transparency — journalists are guaranteed the right to seek and publish information and to access to public records — there is in practice not much more freedom. The government allows a small measure of criticism of bureaucracy or government actions but reporters have not fully tried to push barriers until they push back. Self censorship is endemic and might be one reason why reporters do not languish in prison as they do in Vietnam or China. Stories on culture and social ills are permitted to a degree, but rigorous investigation of, for example, detainment in rehabilitation centres for all drug users might be going too far.

There is also the tricky situation that government bodies rarely respond to media requests and little information is provided to reporters, though a couple of departments do apparently have a communications department. The information that is provided is expected to be used to further the government’s message and aims.

“There is an endemic culture within our society where people are wary of the news media, and adequate protection is not granted to those willing to speak out on sensitive topics. As such, accessing information is not easy, which makes presenting it even harder”, said a Vientiane Times report quoted by a Southeast Asia Press Association report from 2012.

News on HMong returning refugees, hydro plants, land clearance and illegal logging — some of the most contentious issues in the country — do not make it into the news often. Many of the issues of concern to Lao people can thus remain localised either with those directly affected or educated urban dwellers able to afford access to foreign news sources. It does not appear activist groups have mass organised online yet. Those with access to Thai media may be able to learn more — the government does not block the Thai channels whose broadcasts make it into border areas.

There have been some moves towards private media ownership, although some sources have remarked the industry is too small and rewards too low at this point for anything but a nascent media industry. “There have been a few attempts to launch more trendy, lifestyle magazines, but most have been short lived, I suspect because the relatively small market size for this does not make it economically viable,” said one anonymous source.

There are really no permanent foreign news bureaus in Laos. Though Voice of Vietnam opened a bureau in 2010 and both Radio France International and China Radio International have broadcast from Laos. It should be noted that the 2008 media law does allow foreign news but Stuart-Fox argues that the hoops foreign papers must jump through are too difficult for it to be worth their while.

Problems of censorship go beyond no free press: even if a savvy reporter could persuade an editor to run stories on corruption finding any hard data would be difficult. Party members do not have to disclose their holdings or assets meaning their ownership of firms in Laos is hard to track down. A lack of data cannot be blamed simply on wilful or mendacious opacity; there is not always the capacity for nation-wide gathering and management of statistics.

It is also worth noting, as Stuart-Fox has, that Laos historically has a lower level of literacy and literary traditions than Vietnam. Policy documents often remain unread (many laws have been drafted with foreign help but few ranking civil servants remain au fait with them) and the fierce, bookish debate of intellectuals can be less prevalent in Laos than its Confucian neighbours. On the upside, Lao officials are sometimes, he says, more amenable to friendly informal chats over a Beer Lao or two.

Laos has some two dozen newspapers and almost twice as many radio stations–useful when one considers how remote some communities are. There has been investment into telecommunications infrastructure which better connects Laos to the ASEAN region.

The Southeast Asia Press Alliance wrote in 2012: “The launching of the country’s stock market towards the end of 2010 should be seen as a welcome step towards greater access to information inside this secluded communist regime as foreign investors need a more transparent government and greater access to its policies on social and economic development.” The World Bank ranked Laos at 159 out of 189 nations for ease of doing business, up from 163 the previous year.

Not all censorship is political. Authorities and the older generation worry about the cultural shifts brought about by rapid modernisation and integration with the wider world. A decade ago young people believed Western influences were “bad” according to a survey published in a 2000 book — Laos at the Crossroads —  by authors Vatthana Pholsena and Ruth Banomyong. Today, there are still moves by the government toward modesty and a “Lao” way of being that encompasses tradition and religion. Women still largely wear sins – an embroidered sarong, more or less —  and until not so long ago long hair on young men was frowned upon or outright illegal — along with earrings or “eccentric clothes”. The same Vientiane Post article quoted also noted that while Western music was technically illegal in nightclubs it could be permissible provided it made up no more than 20 per cent of the music content of the venue, which had to be well-lit to prevent “indecent acts”. However Vientiane’s nightclubs seem to play largely western music or at least the bland, synth-heavy electronica found across the world.

Religious freedom

Laos is Buddhist, which the government recognizes and publicly embraces. In fact, it even went so far as to argue, on more than one occasion, that Marxism and Buddhism are not so much mutually exclusive as eminently compatible. The Sangha, the Buddhist clergy, was asked as early as 1975 to study Marxism and be a kind of emissary or teacher of the doctrine especially to those in the countryside. Regimes in Southeast Asia reasserting legitimacy by linking themselves with the nation’s dominant religion is not new and serves a useful dual purpose: They are linked to something deeply esteemed by the people but also more able to control what could otherwise be a powerful dissenting force.

Christians face more persecution on the whole. Hmong Protestant Christians — as opposed to Catholic groups — possibly the more so. The Hmong were co-opted by US forces during the Secret War when the United States undertook a covert bombing of the nation to disrupt the supply chains operating through the Ho Chi Minh Trail that assisted Vietnamese forces.

It is important also to understand that though many Hmong face difficulties in the nation and are discriminated against, it is largely the Christian Hmong who face the worst persecution, similar to Central Highlands Protestants in Vietnam, who are loosely grouped under the umbrella term Degar. Both of these cases stem from involvement with and support of US forces during wartime. Lao Hmong in the United States make up a reasonable sized diaspora and the older generation not only rails against the communist government but enjoys support from US veteran’s advocate group the CPPP — which erroneously reported the murder of 72 Hmong by Vietnamese-trained Lao forces in 2011. Former leader, the late Vang Pao, went so far to plan a coup from his home in California. Many Hmong who fled to Thailand during the war years and remained in limbo were forcibly repatriated a few years ago.

According to Stuart-Fox, Hmong who have maintained their traditional animist beliefs or became party-friendly communists do not suffer the same discrimination or persecution. One woman even made it into the Politburo.

Laos’ multitudinous ethnic minorities also follow many religions and the government officially allows this and officially advocates religious freedom. However this only goes so far as preserving or allowing “good” practices. Religious ceremonies considered backward have been suppressed where possible — like slaughter of animals in rituals. “Superstition” is not kindly looked upon.

Digital freedom

Internet access is far lower than any of Laos’ neighbours with only 9 percent using it in 2011. More recent data suggests an expansion: In 2012 there were 400,000 Facebook users in Laos; up from 60,000 in 2011 in a population of over 6.5 million.

Internet use is growing in Laos but still remains confined to larger cities and towns. A report from academic Warren Mayes guesstimated there were some 50-60 internet cafes in Vientiane in 2006. He noted then online life was growing fast for young people and their interactions with the wider Lao diaspora.

Laos may yet crackdown on Facebook. Last year the communications ministry was to introduce internet regulations to allow official monitoring of the internet — though sources suggest it is already very much unofficially monitored. The director general mentioned to the Vientiane Times information on Facebook circulating regarding a crashed Lao Airlines plane was not “helpful”.

The state controls all internet service providers, and there are some reports that the government sporadically blocks web activity. “The government’s technical ability to monitor the internet is limited, though concerns remain that Laos is looking to adopt the censorship policies and technologies of its neighbors, Vietnam and China,” says Freedom House.

Much of Vietnam’s surveillance ability is already sourced from western companies such as Finn Fisher, Verint and Silver Bullet, rather than homegrown. Sources have previously told Index that Chinese private companies are more likely to assist in surveillance than the government proper; however many including the CPJ strongly suspect Chinese government involvement.

One problem for Laos is that Lao language and alphabet programs have been slow to catch up, though young people do use a phonetic, romanised script known as pasa karaoke.

Deputy Minister of Post and Telecommunications, Thansamay Kommasith, told the Vientiane Times that an “official” Lao script program was being developed, saying: “This is for unity and prosperity, using the official Lao language in those technologies for the future development of IT in Laos as well as to develop the country through them.” There are already unofficial ones being used. Vietnamese military-owned telco Viettel is to assist in the development, according to local news stories. The telco was previously linked to malware attacks within Vietnam.

Laos has plans to launch its own communications satellite. Minister of Post and Telecommunication, Hiem Phommachanh, said at a “groundbreaking ceremony” the satellite would contribute to the nation’s socio-economic development. The $250 million (£147 million)  satellite will be funded by China, though Laos will hold a 30 per cent share.

Formerly message boards like Laoupdate and Laosmiles have been popular with both the younger diaspora and native Lao. The former site shut down, some suggest thanks to government pressure. The latter censored posts, explaining earnestly to the outraged users that it was to avoid trouble.

The Electronic Freedom Frontier has reported that Laos is on the Global Online Freedom Act’s blacklist, which was passed by a US House sub-committee, meaning US companies are prohibited from selling surveillance gear to repressive regimes. The EFF called it “an important step toward protecting human rights and free expression online”. US companies have sold such technology in the past to Vietnam.

Just as Laos has laws which can govern the press or activists, it has also specified similar acts in its internet laws. Article 15 (points 6 and 7) states people must “Not to use communication to defeat national stability, peace, socio-economic or cultural development of the country”; “7. Not to use the telecommunication system to defame persons or organizations.”

Staying friendly with the neighbours

Laos, neighbour to Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, China and Burma, has long been called land-locked for its lack of access to any sea. With so many roads being built, Chinese railway funding and Laos’ own ambition to turn itself into a goods transport corridor it’s now more often called “land-linked”. But Laos has been balancing its neighbours and acting as either a buffer or corridor for a long time.

Historically beset from three sides by China, Vietnam and Thailand the nation has learned how to balance its neighbours’ needs and demands while paying expected tribute and playing them off against one another. Laos shares religion, a measure of culture and language with Thailand, as well as strong cross-border trade and cultural products like television shows and popular music. China and Vietnam have more invested both politically and economically. China’s projects and influence are seen more in the north of the nation; Vietnam in the south.

While China cooperates with the party and offers no criticism, Vietnam has more invested in the party. Both Professor Carl Thayer of the Australian Defence Force Academy and Stuart-Fox say that Vietnam has a greater interest in the political status quo in Laos being maintained. A change in regime could have repercussions for Hanoi. Vietnam has traditionally offered more political guidance and military assistance. The two nations also have a shared wartime history. But it has been Chinese involvement in Laos that has prompted some of the few public demonstrations, though protests over land reclamation often related to dams are also growing.

For example, the New City Development would have involved 50,000 Chinese workers to build the stadium for the 2009 SEA Games.  It was met with public opposition and even members of the largely party-member legislative National Assembly disapproved. There are also many towns, especially in the north, with large Chinese populations, Chinese markets and even signage in Chinese. Some in Laos have publicly wondered why, for example, Chinese workers must be imported for Chinese building projects when Laos has its own workers available.

China exerts political influence by virtue of not trying to. Unlike western aid, packages from China are not conditional upon human rights. China has a policy of non-intervention, though this is true for all nations it aids and invests in; there has been criticism of its similar policies in Africa. The two nations raised their bilateral relations to a comprehensive strategic partnership in 2009. Chinese development aid from 1997 to 2007 was estimated at $280 million and the nation provided another $330 million from 1998 – 2001, according to Thayer.

The problems already present in Laos such as lack of transparency, corruption and environmental degradation have been raised as issues in regard to Chinese investment also by western aid agencies and NGOs and concerned Lao. At the same time there are worries about Chinese goods pushing out locally-made goods.

The ongoing non-investigation

Writing in the Asia Times in February, more than a year after Somphone went missing, his wife Shui Meng Ng pointed out that his disappearance has barely been mentioned in the local press and certainly no words of distemper from the foreign press have made it into local news. Questions on his whereabouts have been met with official blandness: “We have found nothing yet, but the relevant authorities are still doing their best to investigate the case.”

The European Parliament expressed grave concern, and many foreign aid groups and private NGOs have also tried to put pressure to bear on the government to explain or transparently investigate the man’s disappearance. The government, it seems, does not care. “Tough words,” from these groups she writes “have not been followed by equally tough actions.” She described questions by resident or visiting dignitaries as an “irritation” to local officials but nothing more.“Within Lao officialdom, no one wants to hear his name, no one wants to be reminded of his disappearance, and no one dares to talk openly about him.”

Given few in Laos read much aside from the official papers it is easy enough to whitewash his disappearance. Another source speaking to Index suggested a certain laissez-faire attitude even among some local, educated aid workers, characterised with: “Well, he should have known what might happen to him for speaking up so much.”

Ng makes a useful point: The nation’s steadfast drive to greater international and regional roles is, seemingly, belied by its refusal to even acknowledge what has gone wrong, or why.

Human rights and freedom of speech are not, despite what we would often like to believe, essential for a well respected global role. But for small, hitherto forgotten and least developed nations, a respect for international norms helps ease notions of “backwardness”.

This article was published on May 12, 2014 at indexoncensorship.org

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