Friday, July 04, 2008

Economic zone becomes a crime zone

Two workers under treatment at the Dung Quat Hospital last week. They were injured in a revenge attack after they accused some other workers of skipping shifts after checking-in.
Some 54 crimes have been reported at the Dung Quat Economic Zone in central Vietnam so far this year, including murders, stabbings and drug deals.

The Quang Ngai Province zone, 870 kilometers from Ho Chi Minh City, is home to many petrochemical and heavy industry projects, including the country’s first oil refinery.

Since a boom in investment last year, Dung Quat has attracted over 25,000 workers to the zone, located in a poor rural area.

Local officials have said that lax personnel management on the part of companies was the main cause of trouble in the area.

Statistics showed that 54 criminal cases were reported in the economic zone over the first quarter of this year, more than one per week.

The cases included 44 robberies, two drug-related cases and a host of others.

Additionally, 11 traffic accidents in the zone killed six and injured 11 people in the first four months of 2008.

In 2007, there were 160 criminal cases reported at the economic zone, according to statistics from Dung Quat police station.

That year, police arrested 38 people, pressed charges against 56 and investigated 20 cases.

In a recent case, a group of workers at Post Lilama Company attacked and seriously injured two managers on June 20.

Both managers were cut with knives and had fingers nearly severed.

On June 21, Nguyen Van Thuong, a Lilama Company worker, was caught stealing electric wire.

On June 23, company guards also found a guard for Japan’s Toyo Company, which is working on a Lilama Company project, stealing electric cable.

The culprit, Nguyen Hieu, was caught red-handed at a pumping station in Dung Quat’s oil refinery.

On May 1, Mai Duc Truong, a worker at Post Lilama Company, was stabbed to death by a group of workers who attacked several patrons and staff at the 24H restaurant inside the economic zone.

Most of the workers are not from the area and it’s hard to manage a large number of workers, said Cao Tuan Dung, a construction site manager for Lilama 45-1 Company.

“We have some 900 engineers and workers. They often hang around to drink after work. Drinking adds to the conflicts,” he said.

Senior Lieutenant Phan Thanh Phuong, deputy chief of police in the economic zone, blamed the lack of security and management personnel.

“We can’t control the fighting here – it’s too large an area and we lack personnel,” he said.

“It’s very difficult to control the workers because they aren’t from around here and are only doing short-term work without contracts,” he said.

Head of Dung Quat Economic Zone’s Management Board, Tran Le Trung, said only better management from both local authorities and companies could help solve the problem.

“I suggest a broad-spectrum solution to restore security conditions here,” Trung said. “We shouldn’t leave the issue only to the police.”

“The firms should raise awareness of the issue with workers and implement better labor management.

“They should also cooperate with local authorities to manage the temporary residences of their workers in the area.”

In a recent visit to the economic zone, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung also stressed the necessity of public order and security in the area.

Dung Quat Economic Zone, transformed from an industrial park in Quang Ngai Province in 2005, has attracted several investments during recent years.

In 2007, zone authorities granted 89 investment licenses worth a total of VND84.435 billion (US$5 billion) and approved another 51 projects worth VND55.652 billion ($3.3 billion) in total.

Last year, the zone contributed nearly 50 percent of the provincial budget’s income, 50 percent of export turnovers and over 20,000 jobs.

The zone’s Dung Quat oil refinery – the first of its kind in the country – is expected to be completed on February 2, 2009.