UK Court Convicts Two Men Over Death Of 39 Vietnamese Migrants

Man Bags 15 Years In Prison For N5.2m Fraud
A file photo of a court gavel.


Two people were found guilty on Monday of manslaughter and people smuggling over the gruesome discovery of 39 dead Vietnamese migrants in the back of a lorry in England last year.

The bodies of the men and women were found inside a sealed container near London in October 2019 after suffocating in sweltering temperatures.

Lorry driver Eamonn Harrison, 24, from Northern Ireland, and Romanian national Gheorghe Nica, 43, were found guilty on of 39 counts of manslaughter by a London court.

They are expected to be sentenced early in January.

READ ALSO: Philippines Set To Raise Age Of Consent From 12 To 16

Christopher Kennedy, 24, and Valentin Calota, 38, were also convicted for their part in the smuggling operation after the 10-week trial.

All four were found guilty over their roles in a lucrative smuggling ring which prosecutors said had been motivated by greed.

Home Secretary (interior minister) Priti Patel said Monday’s verdict had motivated her “to do all I can to go after the people smugglers who prey on the vulnerable and trade in human misery”.

“I’m determined to bring callous people smugglers to justice and keep our communities safe from the actions of horrendous organised crime groups.”

Monday’s convictions brings the total number found guilty in the UK in connection to the crime to eight.

Prosecutors are considering charges against a further three people.

Maurice Robinson, 26, who collected the container and found the bodies, had already pleaded guilty to 39 counts of manslaughter and to conspiring in people-smuggling.

Haulage firm boss Ronan Hughes, 41, has also admitted 39 manslaughter charges.

– Left messages for families –
The bodies were discovered at the southeastern English port of Purfleet after being sealed inside the container for at least 12 hours, in unbearably high temperatures.

A forensic expert calculated it would have taken about nine hours for the air to turn toxic in the trailer, with death coming soon after.

The victims were all aged between 15 and 44.

Prosecutors have said the trapped Vietnamese were unable to get a phone signal inside the container, whose cooling system was turned off.

Mobile phones recovered from the bodies of the 39 victims showed they had tried to raise the alarm and left messages for the families as they ran out of air.

Others had used a metal pole to try to punch a hole through the roof or attract attention, the court heard.

During the trial, British police officer Jack Emerson described finding the trailer “full of bodies” when he first arrived on the scene and searched for signs of life.

He said he was unable to check if all of those inside were still alive, as they were “closely packed” in the back of the truck.

The deaths of the Vietnamese victims in the UK have highlighted the vast and unscrupulous trafficking networks spanning the globe.

Many of them had come from poorer regions of Vietnam with their families, and like others, were plunged into thousands of dollars of debt to people smugglers to pay for the dangerous journeys.

Seven individuals were convicted in September in Vietnam for varying degrees of involvement in the trafficking in the country’s central Ha Tinh province.

Investigations in France and Belgium also led to dozens of suspects being charged following an investigation led by the EU’s law enforcement cooperation agency Eurojust.


Vietnam Reports First Coronavirus Death

In this file photo taken on April 19, 2020, residents wearing face masks practise social distancing while shopping from behind a line as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, at a wet market in Hanoi. Manan VATSYAYANA / AFP


Vietnam recorded its first coronavirus death on Friday as the pandemic rebounds in a country that had previously been praised for stubbing out the contagion.

The patient, a 70-year-old man, died in the central city of Hoi An nearly three weeks after being admitted to hospital with serious underlying conditions, according to state media.

The communist nation was applauded earlier this year for controlling COVID-19 with strict restrictions on movement, extensive quarantine measures and a robust track-and-trace regime.

But an outbreak over the weekend in the beach resort of Danang, near Hoi An, has put the country back on high alert.

Health officials on Friday also announced the country’s highest single daily caseload since the pandemic began.


Police wearing protective facemasks amid concerns of the COVID-19 coronavirus allow a local resident to pass through a checkpoint with goods in Son Loi commune in Vinh Phuc province on February 13, 2020.


“Elite medical experts” have been mobilised to help tamp down the outbreak in Danang, Doctor Tran Nhu Duong, deputy head of the National Institute of Epidemiology, told state TV as news of the first death emerged.

They will join “around 1,000 people including military men” heading to the the epicentre of the latest cluster, a city that had been bursting with domestic tourists until authorities announced the virus had made a comeback.

Before the weekend Vietnam had not recorded a locally transmitted infection for nearly 100 days.

But since then nearly 100 people who had travelled to Danang have tested positive across the country, leaving health authorities scrambling to snuff out the outbreak.

– Makeshift hospital –

The number of “infected people increased at a record figure” with 45 new cases, said the Suc Khoe Doi Song newspaper, a health ministry mouthpiece.

The patients aged between 27 and 87 were all being treated at or were employed at Danang’s hospitals, or were their relatives, it added.

State media said a makeshift hospital was being set up at a Danang sports centre in anticipation of the outbreak worsening.

Flights in and out of Danang and public transport within the city have already been suspended, and the majority of its 1.1 million inhabitants have been advised to remain at home.


A file photo of the Vietnam map.


At least 21,000 people are undergoing rapid-test swabs for the virus in the capital Hanoi after travelling to Danang. Similar tests were also conducted in business hub Ho Chi Minh City for returnees from Danang.

Bars have been closed in nearby Hue, while tourism is suspended in historic Hoi An.

Vietnam has won praise for its handling of the virus — reporting just 509 infections in total, including those from the new wave, and until Friday no deaths despite sharing a long border with China.

Earlier this month state media trumpeted the survival of a British pilot who spent more than two months on life support in Vietnam with the virus.

Stephen Cameron, 42, was the sickest patient medics have had to treat during the coronavirus outbreak and was given just a 10 percent chance of survival.


Football Suspended In Vietnam After New COVID-19 Cases

File: Soccer balls are seen on the ground prior to the opening game of South Korea’s K-League football match between Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and Suwon Samsung Bluewings at Jeonju World Cup Stadium in Jeonju on May 8, 2020. AFP


Vietnam suspended its domestic football leagues Sunday until further notice following news of the first locally transmitted case of coronavirus in nearly 100 days.

After more than three months with no local cases, a 57-year-old retired Vietnamese man in the central city of Danang tested positive for the virus.

Following the discovery, authorities announced Sunday that they have found three more infections connected to the Danang case.

In response, the Vietnam Professional Football (VPF) announced all domestic football leagues have been suspended.

The country’s top Vleague and the First Division were supposed to play new rounds starting July 29.

The change in plans is “to ensure the safety of the players”, organisers said in a statement.

No details were provided on when the matches might resume.

Vietnam has won praise for its handling of the virus, registering just 420 infections and no deaths despite sharing a long, ungovernable border with China.

Communist authorities were quick to lock down the country after the virus emerged in neighbouring China, with a rigorous state quarantine and the contact-tracing system put in place.


13 Killed In Vietnam Road Accident


A high school reunion trip in Vietnam took a fatal turn on Sunday when a bus carrying the alumni crashed and flipped over at a bend on the highway, killing more than a dozen passengers.

The nearly 40 passengers on the bus were classmates from Dong Hoi High School who were travelling to visit the area in central Quang Binh province for the 30th anniversary of their graduation.

But the driver lost control on a sharp turn on the highway, said state media.

At least 13 people were killed, and many more injured.

“People on the coach said that when the coach was travelling down the slope, there were signs the brakes were broken,” reported Tuoi Tre newspaper.

Images shared on news websites showed a bus on its side in a gutter by the asphalt road, with bystanders looking on as rescuers tended to the injured.

Travelling on Vietnam’s roads can be a hazardous affair, and World Health Organization says traffic accident injuries are the leading cause of death for those aged 15-29.

So far, the country has recorded more than 3,200 deaths in the first six months of this year.


Vietnam Opens World’s ‘First’ Gold-Plated Hotel

Staff wait to welcome guests in the lobby of the newly-inaugurated Dolce Hanoi Golden Lake hotel, the world's first gold-plated hotel, in Hanoi on July 2, 2020. (Photo by Manan VATSYAYANA / AFP)
Staff wait to welcome guests in the lobby of the newly-inaugurated Dolce Hanoi Golden Lake hotel, the world’s first gold-plated hotel, in Hanoi on July 2, 2020. (Photo by Manan VATSYAYANA / AFP)



For guests at the “Dolce Hanoi Golden Lake” coffee comes in a gold cup and bath time is taken in gilded splendour.

The world’s first self-proclaimed gold-plated hotel is open for business — and the Vietnamese owners insist they have the Midas touch despite the cramping of global travel during the coronavirus pandemic.

The hotel cost $200 million to construct with a 24-carat plating across lobbies, an infinity pool and rooms with even cutlery, cups, shower heads and toilet seats receiving the golden treatment.


The sink and toilet bowl are seen in one of the rooms of the newly-inaugurated Dolce Hanoi Golden Lake hotel, the world’s first gold-plated hotel, in Hanoi on July 2, 2020. (Photo by Manan VATSYAYANA / AFP)


While expensive for Vietnam, at $250 a night it is not prohibitive for wealthy locals craving a few nights living like Donald Trump, the US President renowned for his love of all things that glitter.

The hotel wants “ordinary people to the super rich… to check-in” both physically and on social media, said Nguyen Huu Duong, chairman of Hoa Binh group that owns the hotel.

A gold-plated infinity pool overlooks the city, while meals at the 25-storey hotel in downtown Hanoi may be mixed with a mysterious “gold substance”, according to the owners.

So far, the smattering of customers appear to be delighted with Hanoi’s flashiest new digs.

Staff wait to welcome guests in the lobby of the newly-inaugurated Dolce Hanoi Golden Lake hotel, the world's first gold-plated hotel, in Hanoi on July 2, 2020. (Photo by Manan VATSYAYANA / AFP)
Staff wait to welcome guests in the lobby of the newly-inaugurated Dolce Hanoi Golden Lake hotel, the world’s first gold-plated hotel, in Hanoi on July 2, 2020. (Photo by Manan VATSYAYANA / AFP)


“When I arrived here… I felt like a king, you know, the Pharaoh… the king of Egypt,” joked Phillip Park, a South Korean guest.

“I really enjoyed the luxury atmosphere,” added Vietnamese guest Luong Van Thuan, saying he felt his status had automatically been “raised”.

The relatively modest construction price tag was achieved by sourcing the gold plating locally — significantly reducing costs.

“Our group has a factory that can do gold-plated stuff, so the cost for our equipment and furniture here is quite cheap,” Duong said.

A staff member poses for a photograph inside the 1,000 USD per night executive two bedroom suite of the newly-inaugurated Dolce Hanoi Golden Lake hotel, the world's first gold-plated hotel, in Hanoi on July 2, 2020. (Photo by Manan VATSYAYANA / AFP)
A staff member poses for a photograph inside the 1,000 USD per night executive two bedroom suite of the newly-inaugurated Dolce Hanoi Golden Lake hotel, the world’s first gold-plated hotel, in Hanoi on July 2, 2020. (Photo by Manan VATSYAYANA / AFP)



And the pandemic which has strafed global tourism has not put him off opening, with Vietnam winning praise for its swift lockdown which has contained the coronavirus spread.

“For sure next year, we will make money,” he added.





COVID-19: Vietnam Eases Restrictions As Cases Plateau

(FILES) In this file photo taken on April 19, 2020, residents wearing face masks practise social distancing while shopping from behind a line as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, at a wet market in Hanoi. Manan VATSYAYANA / AFP


Vietnam eased social distancing measures Thursday, with experts pointing to a decisive response involving mass quarantines and expansive contact tracing for the apparent success in containing the coronavirus.

Despite a long and porous border with China, the Southeast Asian nation has recorded just 268 virus cases and zero deaths, according to official tallies.

Although the numbers tested for COVID-19 are relatively low and experts caution the authoritarian government’s health ministry is the sole source for the figures, they also say there is little reason to distrust them.

Vietnam was one of the first nations to ban flights to and from mainland China and in early February, when it had barely more than a dozen cases, villages with 10,000 people close to the nation’s capital were placed under quarantine.

There has also been aggressive contact tracing.

One 72-year-old Hanoi resident described how he and a team in his community had been tasked with zeroing in on any suspected cases, falling back on grassroots Communist party networks in charge of overseeing neighbourhoods.

“We go to each and every alley, knocking on each and every door,” Nguyen Trinh Thang told AFP.

“We follow the guidance from our government that ‘fighting the pandemic is like fighting our enemy’.”

Vietnam’s success in convincing the public to cooperate has been key, said Takeshi Kasai, the World Health Organization’s Western Pacific regional director.

“They’re really doing their part,” he said earlier this week, adding he believed around 80,000 people were placed under quarantine.

“I think that’s the reason why they were able to continue to keep the number (of infections) small.”

There are now almost no international flights arriving in Vietnam and the country has been under partial lockdown since the beginning of April.

The streets of Hanoi — normally flooded with motorbikes, tourists and vendors — have been virtually deserted, save those most in need queueing at so-called rice ATMs for handouts.

The strict controls have apparently paid off.

After reporting no new infections for the sixth consecutive day on Wednesday, the government said some shops and services will be allowed to reopen.

On Thursday, a few of the capital’s cafes had resumed service, although the streets were still fairly quiet.

– Exceeding expectations –
Across Europe and the United States, local governments are struggling to keep their citizens indoors — with beachgoers crowding on a shoreline and protesters refusing to comply with lockdown orders.

In contrast, Communist Vietnam has put tens of thousands under state quarantine, including overseas citizens returning home, at military-style camps across the country.

Vu Thi Nhung and her son spent two weeks sleeping in dormitory bunk beds with no mattresses at a camp in Hanoi after returning from Germany in March.

Their three meals a day were deposited outside their rooms by soldiers.

“You can’t compare it to being at home but given Vietnam and its current economic situation during an epidemic, it exceeded my expectations,” she told AFP.

Neighbouring Thailand, which reported the first case outside of China in mid-January, has also seen a declining number of new cases in the past week, with doctors applauding government restrictions such as a night-time curfew.

In Cambodia, the case number has remained unchanged at 122 for over a week, while cases in Laos have stayed at 19.

But Oupass Putcharoen, head of Chulalongkorn Hospital’s Emergency Infectious Disease Clinic in Thailand, said its neighbours’ numbers could be due to the “low rate of testing”.

So far, Thailand has done more than 142,000 COVID-19 tests, Cambodia around 9,000 while Vietnam has carried out over 180,000 for its 96 million people.

Vietnam expert Carl Thayer, an emeritus professor at the University of New South Wales, said Vietnam’s case numbers should be treated with caution as Hanoi can punish for anyone who disputes them.

But he added: “There are too many people from overseas, too many people with mobile phones, too many people on the internet (for a cover-up).”

Vietnam Vows To Punish Hiders Of Coronavirus After New Cases

This handout illustration image obtained February 27, 2020 courtesy of the National Institutes of Health taken with a scanning electron microscope shows SARS-CoV-2 (round blue objects) emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab,

Vietnamese authorities vowed Monday to punish anyone concealing sickness after 13 people caught the deadly new coronavirus on a flight to Hanoi, sparking lockdowns and panic-buying in the capital.

The Southeast Asian country had previously reported only 16 cases of the virus despite bordering China — the epicentre of the global outbreak — but a cluster of infections was discovered at the weekend among 201 passengers on a Vietnam Airlines flight from Britain.

The group were in quarantine Monday and recovering, Vietnam’s health ministry said, with the hospital they were held in placed on lockdown along with several houses and hotels in Hanoi where they had stayed.

READ ALSO: China Makes Progress In Fight Against Covid-19

Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc vowed Monday to “duly punish” those who fail to disclose a coronavirus diagnosis, according to state media.

He told a meeting of officials in Hanoi that “we need strong, adequate and immediate measures to effectively stop the source of infection”.

Authorities have launched an online tool asking all citizens to declare their health status.

“Declaring false information… may be subject to criminal handling,” stated an official notice.

A 29-year-old woman on the flight from London was found to be suffering from the disease after returning to Hanoi from a tour of France, Italy and Britain.

She is believed to have infected her aunt and driver, forcing authorities to isolate several houses near her home and a private hospital where she first sought treatment.

The other patients included Vietnamese, British, Irish and Mexican nationals.

A minister on the same flight tested negative for the virus but was also quarantined for 14 days with the group.

The health ministry said there may be “more cases to be discovered as a result of close contact” with the first patient.

People in the capital were seen panic-buying staple items as the lockdown of the hospital began.

The infections bring the country’s total to 30, including a man who returned from South Korea, but more than 18,600 people have been monitored for illness or placed in isolation since early February. No-one has died from the virus.

Vietnam has granted limited access to visitors from China and South Korea — another major coronavirus hotspot — since the outbreak began at the start of the year, imposing a 14-day quarantine at government-controlled centres.

Several sports and cultural events have been cancelled across the nation, but Vietnam’s inaugural Formula One race is still set to go ahead on April 5 in Hanoi.

Vietnam Quarantines Area With 10,000 Residents Over Coronavirus

Police wearing protective facemasks amid concerns of the COVID-19 coronavirus allow an ambulance to pass through a checkpoint in Son Loi commune in Vinh Phuc province on February 13, 2020. PHOTO: Nhac NGUYEN / AFP


More than 10,000 people in villages near Vietnam’s capital were placed under quarantine Thursday after six cases of the deadly new coronavirus were discovered there, authorities said.

In the first mass quarantine outside of China since the virus emerged there in late December, the Son Loi farming region about 40 kilometres (25 miles) from Hanoi will be locked down for 20 days, the health ministry said.

Checkpoints have been set up around the six villages that make up Son Loi, said an AFP team on the outskirts of the area in Binh Xuyen district.

Health officials wearing protective suits sprayed disinfectant on vehicles. Police warned people wanting to enter the quarantined area that while they would be allowed in, they would not be able to leave.

The order comes after the health ministry reported that five people have been infected with the virus. It later announced a sixth case.

Police wearing protective facemasks amid concerns of the COVID-19 coronavirus allow a local resident to pass through a checkpoint with goods in Son Loi commune in Vinh Phuc province on February 13, 2020. PHOTO: NHAC NGUYEN / AFP


They all originated from a female worker who was sent to Wuhan in central China — where the virus originated — for training.

The disease then spread to her family and her neighbours, including a three-month-old baby.

So far, only the female worker has fully recovered and been discharged from the hospital, according to updates from the ministry, while the others remain in a “stable” condition.

Cannot get out

The Son Loi area of roughly 1,000 hectares (2,500 acres) is made up of farmland. Many of the 10,600 residents also commute to nearby factories for short-term labour jobs.

Villager Tran Van Minh told AFP that authorities had already advised them to avoid large gatherings, though the cluster of infections in his village likely began due to Tet lunar new year celebrations last week.

“The woman infected her family and neighbours after Tet visits,” he said, adding that he and his family remain in good health.

But “life has been badly affected,” he told AFP by phone, adding that much of the labour force is reliant on jobs in construction and house painting.

“Now we cannot get out and even if we do, clients don’t welcome us that much as before.”

Authorities in Son Loi began handing out face masks after the Tet holiday ended on January 30. Since then children and elderly have largely been confined to their homes.

Minh said he was not worried about running out of food, but he hoped “the epidemic will end soon”.

More than 1,350 people have died in China from the virus, and nearly 60,000 others have been infected since it was first detected in Hubei province in December.

While thousands have recovered, scientists and pharmaceutical companies are racing to test a vaccine and treatment to better target the virus — though health experts say it could be months before it is readily available.

China has imposed unprecedented quarantines across Hubei, locking in about 56 million people, in a bid to stop it spreading.

Tens of millions of others in cities far from the epicentre are also enduring travel restrictions.

The virus has also had massive ramifications globally, with many countries banning travellers from China in a bid to stop people spreading the disease.

Vietnam, which shares a porous border with China, has 16 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, including those in Son Loi.

It had banned all flights to and from mainland China in a bid to stop the virus from spreading.

It also suspended new tourist visas for Chinese nationals or foreigners who had been in China over the past two weeks.


Police Among Four Dead In Vietnam Land Clash

Vietnam Flag



Three policemen and a villager died Thursday in rare violent clashes with Vietnam’s communist authorities over disputed land around a military-owned Hanoi airport.

Construction of the Mieu Mon facility has been a long-running sore for villagers who say it is being built on land illegally seized by the military.

Clashes erupted on Thursday before dawn when authorities attempting to erect a perimeter fence were met by residents armed with “grenades, petrol bombs and knives”, the Ministry of Public Security said in a statement.

The “social disorder” led to the “deaths of three policemen and one resident”, the statement said, adding other villagers were “arrested for serious violations of the law”.

It was not immediately possible to confirm the toll or verify the authorities’ version of events, disseminated with unusual speed in a country where secrecy and control normally trump transparency.

But a video widely circulated on Facebook by an activist at the scene appeared to show gunfire lighting up the dawn gloom around the village as several truckloads of security guards arrived.

Human Rights Watch urged Vietnam to launch an investigation that “gets to the bottom of what happened” and to provide unfettered access to the site for impartial observers including journalists, diplomats and UN officials.

Land disputes are common in Vietnam, where powerful individuals and companies often make claims on property.

The government strictly controls freedom of expression and the right to protest but flashpoints occur.

In 2017 villagers held more than a dozen police officers and officials, hostage, for several days at the airport site in a standoff that gripped the tightly-controlled country.

Vietnam Ex-Minister Gets Life Sentence In Bribery Case

Vietnam Flag


A court in Vietnam sentenced a former communications minister to life in prison Saturday for receiving millions of dollars in bribes, as the hardline administration presses its anti-graft drive against once-powerful figures in the communist state.

Nguyen Bac Son was charged alongside his then-deputy Truong Minh Tuan with receiving $3.2 million in bribes to approve the 2015 purchase of a TV firm that would have lost state-run telecommunications firm Mobifone $300 million.

The two-week trial in Hanoi for the men — once members of the powerful communist party central committee — ended Saturday, according to state-run media Tuoi Tre.

Son, a minister from 2011-2016, was sentenced to life in prison while Tuan — who took over as minister until he was fired in July last year — got 14 years in prison.

“The defendants’ behaviour caused bad opinions in society, resulting in especially huge losses for the state,” state media quoted the verdict as saying.

It also “caused $300 million in losses to state coffers,” the verdict said, though the transaction was never fully completed.

Son reportedly admitted wrongdoing before the court and asked for leniency, while Tuan said he was “shameful for his mistakes”, said Tuoi Tre.

Prosecutors had initially proposed the death penalty for Son, but he was spared after he returned the money on Friday before the verdict’s announcement.

Both men had received the money from Pham Nhat Vu, director of the loss-making TV company Audio Visual Global, who was also sentenced to three years in prison Saturday, while 11 other officials involved received jail terms between two and 23 years.

Vu’s brother is Vietnam’s richest man Pham Nhat Vuong, with assets totalling billions of dollars thanks to a cradle-to-grave empire that includes housing, holiday resorts, farms, schools, shopping malls and cars.

The case has captivated a public unused to seeing powerful figures publicly toppled.

Since Vietnam’s transition to a hardline ultra-conservative administration in 2016, the government has ramped up an anti-corruption campaign which has jailed dozens of senior officials, bankers and businessmen.

Some observers believe the drive to be politically motivated.

Vietnam, one of Asia’s fastest growing economies, has long been plagued by endemic corruption, with Transparency International ranking it 117 out of 180 countries on its corruption index.


Michelle Obama Asks Vietnam Girls To Stay In School

Former US first lady Michelle Obama attends the United State of Women Summit at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, on May 5, 2018. CHRIS DELMAS / AFP


Former US first lady Michelle Obama and Hollywood A-lister Julia Roberts toured a high school in rural Vietnam on Monday, urging a classroom of teenage girls to stay focused on their education to transform their lives. 

The promotion of girls’ schooling has been the cornerstone of Obama’s charitable work since her husband Barack Obama left office in 2017 after two terms as US president.

“When you educate a girl you give them power and a voice and an opportunity to improve their lives and the lives of their family and the lives of their community,” Obama said at Can Giuoc high school in southern Long An province in the Mekong Delta.

Accompanied by Roberts and Jenna Bush Hager, daughter of former US president George W. Bush, Obama encouraged the girls to stay the course of schooling.

“I want you all to stay committed and focused, it will get tough at times — it already has for some of you — but it is well worth it,” she said, before the women sat and chatted with students.

“Even if your families don’t understand that today, trust me they will, when you go off to college or start your businesses,” she added.

With its booming youth population and fast-growing economy, Vietnam routinely outperforms its neighbours in education rankings, especially in math and sciences.

School enrolment rates are also high at 91.7 percent, but the quality of schooling often drops off in rural areas, and in the poorest pockets of the country economic pressures can force girls out of school early.

Student Truong Thi Hai Yen said Obama’s visit — and life story — was a major motivation.

“She kept trying every day to be better and now we can see that she is very successful,” the 16-year-old told AFP.

In her best-selling book “Becoming”, Harvard-educated Obama details how her own education and good teachers shaped her life and paved her path to becoming a successful lawyer, university administrator and advocate.

The Obamas have dedicated much of their time post-presidency to the non-profit Obama Foundation, which includes the Girls Opportunity Alliance initiative that Michelle promoted in Vietnam on Monday.

The former first lady announced last week a $500,000 donation to the Alliance’s work world-wide, money earned from merchandise sales related to her book.

She will travel next to Malaysia with Barack and Roberts to speak at an Obama Foundation Leaders event on Tuesday.


Remains Of UK Truck Victims Arrive In Vietnam

Vehicles carrying some of the remains of the 39 UK truck victims leave Noi Bai airport in Hanoi on November 27, 2019. Nhac NGUYEN / AFP



The final remains of the 39 people found dead in a truck in Britain last month arrived in Vietnam Saturday, the foreign ministry said, returning them to bereft families after weeks of waiting.

The victims were among the 31 men and eight women discovered in a refrigerated lorry in Essex, east of London, on October 23 — all Vietnamese nationals who were illegal migrant workers.

The first 16 bodies were returned on Wednesday, with tearful relatives mobbing ambulances when they arrived in their hometowns.

On Saturday, “the bodies and ashes of 23 remaining victims… arrived in Noi Bai Airport in Hanoi,” announced the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Sixteen bodies and the ashes of seven victims were flown from London, state-run Vietnam News Agency reported, and they were immediately “delivered to their homeland by car”.

The victims hailed mostly from the central provinces, some of the country’s poorest, while some were from the north.

Families were given two options for repatriation: $1,800 to bring back ashes, or $2,900 for the cost of a coffin carrying the body.

Many chose to receive the bodies because they wanted to carry out traditional burial rites, and had to take out loans from the government to facilitate the return.

The father of Le Van Ha — who left behind a wife and two children for Europe in the hopes of a higher income to support them — told AFP Saturday that everything was prepared for his son’s return.

“I decided to receive his body back instead of ashes so that we could see him for the last time,” Le Minh Tuan said.

“Everyone is sad but finally my son will be back home.”

Several of the victims’ relatives told AFP they borrowed tens of thousands of dollars to pay for their relatives’ trips to Europe.

The central provinces have well-entrenched networks of brokers who facilitate the risky trips with the promise of well-paid jobs, though migrants typically end up working in nail bars or cannabis farms.

The brokers promised the 39 victims the truck route was safe and billed it as the “VIP route”, their families told AFP.

The Northern Irish driver of the truck, 25-year-old Maurice Robinson, pleaded guilty on Monday to conspiring to assist illegal immigration.

Several other people have been arrested in the UK over the incident, while Vietnam has held at least 10 people — though none have been formally charged.