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Registration date : 2011-01-31

PostSubject: An inter-governmental body that came up after   Sat Jun 25, 2011 4:34 am

Washington and the European Union this week expressed concern over human rights and free expression in Vietnam after a high-profile dissident was jailed for anti-state propaganda activities, including advocating an end to one-party rule. In Beijing, also criticised by activists and Western governments over rights, Dylan did not play two politically-charged songs that are among his most well-known: "The Times They Are A-Changin'" and "Blowin' in the Wind". In the former song he says: "The order is rapidly fadin', And the first one now will later be last." The second song asks: "Yes, 'n' how many years can some people exist, Before they're allowed to be free?"

Brad Adams, an executive director at Human Rights Watch, accused Dylan of allowing censors to choose his playlist. "Dylan should be ashamed of himself," he said. Nga, of the foreign ministry, said the concert was being eagerly anticipated in the country of 86 million.

"I trust that the concert will be held very successfully," she said. Since poverty-stricken and isolated Vietnam began to embrace the free market 25 years ago it has developed rapidly and become increasingly integrated with the rest of the world. Searcy sees the Dylan concert as part of that process. "I think it's... just part of a continuing awakening and dialogue at the international level that the Vietnamese very much support and encourage," he said.

For the Vietnamese, Dylan's visit is significant because he is a major international artist, not because he is associated with the anti-war movement, he added. "I think that's probably more important to Americans and to foreigners," Searcy said. Dylan's concert comes after two much-hyped shows by nineties boy band Backstreet Boys, who reportedly drew about 30,000 fans last month. Dylan will play an 8,000-seat venue at RMIT University.

Government-controlled media have given the musician only brief coverage, leaving more space for commemorating the anniversary of the death of singer Trinh Cong Son -- known as Vietnam's Bob Dylan when he sang about peace at the height of the war. Son, whose voice the powers on both sides of the war tried and failed to silence, died in Ho Chi Minh City on April 1, 2001. Unlike Dylan, Son's music still resonates among Vietnam's youth -- as well as its older generation. "Trinh Con Son is a genius," said Phan Quoc Nam, 35, a musician. "To understand his songs is quite hard. The lyrics are profoundly subtle and romantic." Vietnamese singers will perform 15 of Son's love songs to open Dylan's concert, official media reported, quoting the late musician's sister.

uth. The potential threat of the 3.5 billion dollar dam in the Mekong delta, Vietnam’s "biggest rice producing and fish farming area", has been highlighted by The Saigon Times too.

Vietnam’s government officials have raised their voice against the 32-metre- tall, 820-metre-wide dam. "If built, Laos’ Xayaburi dam will greatly affect Vietnam’s agriculture production and aquaculture," deputy minister of natural resources and environment Nguyen Thai Lai reportedly said in a meeting of the country’s Mekong River experts. Such criticism goes against the spirit of a 1977 treaty of friendship and cooperation that binds them in a ‘special relationship’. The treaty followed the communist triumph against the US in the Vietnam War.

Towards the end of the Cold War conflict from 1954 to 1975 the communist North Vietnam defeated and annexed the US supported South Vietnam. The protracted conflict left a long trail of death and destruction in the former French Indochina territory that includes Laos and Cambodia. "The criticism reflects the concerns and the opinion of the public and the government," said Nguy Thi Khanh, deputy director of the Centre for Water Resources Conservation and Development, an NGO based in the northern Vietnam city of Hanoi. Vietnamese scientists have also said "the project should be stopped," Khanh added during a telephone interview from the Vietnamese capital. "Vietnam’s silence about this dam has been broken."

For its part, the Laotian government is still sticking to its plan. "We are confident that the Xayaburi Hydroelectric Power Project will not have any significant impact on the Mekong mainstream," officials from Vientiane (the capital of Laos) have explained in a note to the Mekong River experts. Mekong experts from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam—the four countries that share the waters of the lower Mekong—are meeting in late March to approve the Xayaburi dam plans.

Laos has appealed to its neighbours not to place any roadblocks. The government does not want to raise the political stakes to the point of being compelled to get its dam blueprint approved by ministers or even prime ministers. "There will be no need for any extension of time and no need to forward this matter to the (ministerial) level," revealed the note by the Laotian government to Mekong River experts.

This dam issue has become the first major test of environmental diplomacy for the four countries in the lower Mekong, members of the Mekong River Commission (MRC). An inter-governmental body that came up after a 1995 agreement, the Vientiane-based body aims to manage the development of the Mekong basin in consensus. Any plan to dam the Mekong has to be scrutinised for its cross-border impact under a special mechanism, formally known as the Procedure for Notification Prior Consultation and Agreement (PNPCA). "This is the first time that we are going through the prior consultation process," Jeremy Bird, MRC’s chief executive officer, told IPS. "Countries do not have a veto right (to stop a dam being built in a neighbouring country) yet countries cannot proceed without consultation."

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