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VIETNAM, Landmine Monitor Report 2001
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Key developments since May 2000: The government has carried out clearance activity related to construction of the new Ho Chi Minh national highway. Clearance by non-governmental organizations has expanded. The US and Vietnam signed their first mine action assistance agreement. An advance survey mission was conducted in May 2001 in preparation for a national Landmine/UXO Impact Survey.

Mine Ban Policy

Vietnam has not acceded to the Mine Ban Treaty. There has been no change in Vietnam’s official attitude toward a mine ban, according to Nguyen Manh Hung, Director of Americas Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.[1] Vietnam was one of 22 nations to abstain on the vote on the November 2000 UN General Assembly resolution in support of the Mine Ban Treaty. However, Vietnam participated as an observer in the Second Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty in September 2000. It did not attend the meetings of the Standing Committees in December 2000 and May 2001. Vietnam has not ratified the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW), although it signed in 1981. Vietnam did not attend the Second Annual Conference of States Parties to CCW Amended Protocol II (Landmines) in Geneva in December 2000.

Production, Transfer, Stockpiling and Use

The Institute for the Study of Weapons Production under the Ministry of Defense, which had been responsible for production of Vietnam’s landmines, now focuses on the study of detection and clearance equipment for landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO).[2] Ministry of Defense officials would not discuss, on grounds of national security, whether and at what levels Vietnam may be currently producing landmines.[3] However, at Expo 2000 in Hanoi, the Institute of Military Technology listed scatterable landmines in the display of their top ten research projects.[4]

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs again maintained, “Vietnam has never exported and will never export mines.”[5]

Vietnam will not reveal information about the size or composition of its current stockpile of antipersonnel mines. An official of the Ministry of Defense Mine Technology Center (BOMICO) said that their policy is to destroy immediately newly detected mines and UXO, and not to keep them in inventory.[6] Previously a BOMICO official had indicated that it was in the process of destroying “tens of thousands” of unsafe pre-1975 mines and planned to destroy 2,000 tons of mines during 2000.[7]

There is no evidence of recent use of landmines in Vietnam, although Ministry of Defense officials would not comment for reasons of national security.

Landmine/UXO Problem

The Landmine Monitor Report 2000 described the heavy contamination of many areas of Vietnam by landmines and unexploded ordnance. The problem has abated slightly, notably in Quang Tri Province where most international mine action projects are located. At the national level, the priority is mine and UXO clearance in support of economic development, especially major infrastructure projects for transportation such as roads and bridges. Construction on the new Ho Chi Minh Highway is reported to be 30 percent behind schedule, presumably because of the seriousness of the UXO problem along the route.[8]

Surveys and Assessment

In early November 2000, the US Department of State signed a $1.4 million agreement with the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (coordinator and fiscal agent for the Survey Action Center) to conduct a Level One Impact Survey, contingent on approval by the Vietnamese government. Ministry of Defense officials expressed an interest in a national survey, but indicated that they would consider accepting the funding and carrying out a survey by themselves.[9] The Survey Action Center reported to Landmine Monitor that an advance survey mission was conducted in May 2001; it will be followed by a pilot survey, then the national Landmine/UXO Impact Survey.[10]

In March 2001, the Mines Advisory Group undertook a study mission to seven other mine affected provinces, seeking to identify new projects to set up and implement in 2002. The provinces selected for visits were identified by Vietnamese officials as national priority areas: Quang Binh, Thua-Thien Hue, Quang Nam, Quang Ngai, Binh Dinh, Binh Phuoc, and Tay Ninh. MAG said local officials in all seven provinces affirmed that there were continuing problems with landmines and UXO.[11]

A proposal for a new project in Quang Tri province, requested by the Provincial People’s Committee and initially funded by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, includes plans for a Level One Survey in Trieu Phong District of the province.[12] Specific authorization and implementation of the survey must still be formulated and agreed to by Vietnamese authorities at the province and national levels.

Mine Action Funding

Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. The Ministry of Defense has a budget for mine action, but the figure is not available. Most of the government's funding comes through the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI) in the form of development projects. The government so far has spent 100 billion Vietnam dong (around US$6-7 million) for mine/UXO clearance during construction of the new Ho Chi Minh Highway. An estimated cost for complete clearance of that project is US$500 million.[13]

On 14 March 2001, Tran Huong, Chief of the My Son Champa Vestige Management Board, stated that the Board is to spend 700 million dong (about US$50,000) for mine/UXO clearance in a 90,000 square meter area of the E, F, and G sites of the My Son Vestige, a popular tourist site.[14]

AusAID. Representatives of the Australian government’s international development agency, AusAID, have been reviewing the landmine/UXO problem in Vietnam with the intention of offering some funding in the near future. According to Shireen Sandhu, First Secretary of AusAID at the Australian Embassy in Hanoi, Hanoi, a field visit and assessment conducted in March, which included an AusAID representative from Canberra, resulted in a commitment to fund as yet unspecified landmine/UXO activities in Vietnam at a level of $1 million Australian dollars a year for the next five years. AusAID will seek out an Australian NGO paired with a commercial demining company to work with the Vietnam government to determine an appropriate demining project. In the future AusAID may expand into other mine/UXO issue areas such as victim assistance.  AusAID already has extensive development assistance projects in Quang Ngai Province, so they are considering that as a possible priority location, but will also consider Thua-Thien Hue, Quang Tri Province, and Quang Binh Province.[15]

DANIDA. The Danish government, through its aid agency, DANIDA, provided the initial US$1 million in funding for the MAG project in Gio Linh District. DANIDA declined to provide funding for extension of the project.[16]

Japanese Government. A Vietnamese official source says the Japanese Government has pledged to provide US$10 million for demining efforts through the Ministry of Transport of Vietnam, but this has not been independently confirmed through the Japanese Embassy.[17] A Japanese company, Nichimen, which is licensed to sell a large Hitachi front-end loader adapted for minefields, has contacted several NGOs about a possible partnership, because the Japanese ambassador has discretionary authority to provide two grants in Vietnam of US$1 million each for two projects associated with demining activity.[18]

US Government. President Bill Clinton visited Vietnam in November 2000. At a demining event in Hanoi on 18 November he pledged, “You will have America's support until you have found every landmine and every piece of unexploded ordnance.” He also noted that since June 2000, the US had provided over $3 million “to purchase equipment and survey the countryside,” and said, “Today, our Defense Department is donating more than $700,000 in hospital supplies to Quang Tri Province,” to help mine victims.[19]

According the US State Department data, the US provided $2.596 million in its fiscal year 1999 (October 1999-September 2000) and another $1 million in FY 2000.[20] In June 2000, the US and Vietnam signed an agreement under which the US provided $1.75 million in demining equipment. In early November 2000, the State Department signed a $1.4 million agreement with the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation to conduct a Level One Impact Survey, contingent on approval by the Vietnamese government. The Department of Defense has committed $200,000 for technical mapping and $80,000 for mine awareness education and landmine database support.[21]

Freeman Foundation. The US-based Freeman Foundation has contributed some US$3 million so far to clearance efforts in Vietnam. The Freeman Foundation provided $1.5 million to the American NGO, PeaceTrees Vietnam, which contracted with UXB, a US commercial demining company, to clear a 170,000 square meter residential area for construction of a community called the PeaceTrees Friendship Village.[22] In addition, the Freeman Foundation has provided approximately half of the $2.7 million that is needed for continuation of the demining project launched in January 1999 in Quang Tri by the Mines Advisory Group. The Freeman Foundation also provided nearly $250,000, or half of the funding required, to launch Project RENEW under the sponsorship of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. The other half of start-up funding was donated by an individual American businessman, Christos Cotsakis, founder of E-Trade online brokerage, who is himself a veteran of the Vietnam War and was in Quang Tri Province. Project RENEW is described as a two-year pilot (or model) program in Trieu Phong district, Quang Tri, encompassing the establishment of a mine action coordination office, a Level One Survey, mine awareness, and victim assistance.[23]

SODI and Potsdam Kommunikation e.V. According to Karl Heinz Werther, Gerbera project manager in Quang Tri Province, most of the projects contracted to Gerbera either by Solidaritatsdienst-International e.V. (SODI) or Potsdam Kommunikation e.V. are budgeted in the range of just under US$5 million. In Cam Lo District, Cua Commune, a 600,000 square meter site is being cleared at a cost of about US$480,000. And a new Potsdam Kommunikation e.V. project in Thua-Thien Hue is estimated to cost about US$450,000.[24] Demining for these projects is being funded by the German government.

Mine/UXO Clearance

Vietnamese Army

The Ministry of Defense engineer units continued active clearance efforts in association with construction or engineering projects, but little specific information is available. The key new clearance activity related to construction of the new Ho Chi Minh national highway. The Mine Technology Center carried out clearance activities along a 310 kilometer distance from Khe Co (Ha Tinh Province) to Ben Tat (Cam Lo District, Quang Tri) along the new HCM highway. An official told Landmine Monitor that as of early 2001, the engineers had cleared 97 antipersonnel and antitank mines, and 23,514 UXO, including different types of bombs and bombies, artillery shells, rockets, mortars, and grenades.[25] Construction on the highway is reported to be 30 percent behind schedule, presumably because of the UXO problem.[26]

Other highway construction projects currently being cleared include three east-west highways to the Laos border.[27]

Mines Advisory Group[28]

Mines Advisory Group (MAG), received agreement from the Vietnamese government in December 1998 to begin a clearance project in Gio Linh District on the site of a former US military base seven kilometers south of the DMZ. The project began in January 1999 and Phase One, carried out by 40 staff and support personnel, was completed in November 2000. The Project is designed for clearance, resettlement, and environmental rehabilitation for families that have not been able to use their land since the war. Once MAG's clearance work is complete, Oxfam Hong Kong and PLAN International will work together with MAG and the community to resettle 78 families and help rebuild a sustainable economy.

As of July 2001, MAG had cleared about half of the mines and surface and underground UXO, over half the project area. More than 7,000 UXO and 700 mines had been located and destroyed. MAG uses large-loop detectors to search for buried UXO, and deploys where appropriate mechanical excavators and a “sifter.” MAG also purchases PPE from the Cambodia Technology Workshop. At July 2001, MAG employed 110 staff of which 84 are deminers. The remaining staff are medics, drivers, mechanics, laborers and administrative support staff.

In January 2001, with the permission of the Quang Tri Province People's Committee, MAG initiated the first Mine Action Team response unit to be operational in Gio Linh District. The team consists of Vietnamese staff skilled in demining and EOD, community liaison, and medical support. In consultation with district and commune authorities, the team rotates through villages dealing with mines and UXO reported by the community. To July 2001, the MAT had disposed of 964 items of UXO and 18 mines, in response to 150 task requests.

MAG expects to hand over management of its projects in Quang Tri to the Vietnamese in December 2002, under direction of the Provincial People's Committee, with the continuing presence of a MAG advisor to assist in monitoring and technical assistance.


According to Karl Heinz Werther, director of a clearance project in Quang Tri Province sponsored by SODI and operated by the demining company Gerbera, between March 2000 and March 2001, Vietnamese deminers have cleared 712,330 square meters and destroyed 2,241 pieces of UXO under this project. Since the project began in June 1998, a total of 1.7 million square meters has been cleared, and 5,604 UXO destroyed. Most recently, SODI-Gerbera completed clearance of a former US airbase, Ai Tu, in Trieu Phong District. That area is now being planted in rubber trees by the Vietnamese government.

SODI-Gerbera funded teams of Vietnamese deminers are now working in Cam Lo District, Cua Commune, clearing a former South Vietnamese military base of approximately 600,000 square meters. When completed, the land will be resettled and used for agriculture.

In Thua-Thien Hue, Potsdam Kommunikation e.V is funding a new Gerbera clearance project in Phu Loc District. From June until December 2000, a total of 22 Vietnamese technicians cleared an 8.24 million square meter area, disposing of 181 UXO. The area will be resettled and a school and kindergarten will be built there.[29]

Coordination of Mine/UXO Action

The pending plan to form a national landmine policy or steering committee made up of multiple ministries still has not been approved by the government. However, from 15-28 April 2000, Oxfam Hong Kong and the Vietnam Union of Friendship Organizations organized a trip for a nine-member team from various government institutions to visit and learn from the experiences of Mine Action Centers in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia.[30] Their recommendations in a report following the trip included greater participation by Vietnamese representatives in the NGO Landmine Working Group; establishment of a Vietnamese landmine working group under the government’s Committee for NGO Affairs, in charge of mobilizing NGO aid for UXO clearance, and cooperating with provincial People’s Committees in project areas; integrating NGO demining assistance into resettlement, post-clearance production promotion and poverty alleviation; and, “in the long run, consideration should be given to the establishment of a national committee for UXO control with the participation of various central government bodies in order to mobilize funding from governments, international organizations and NGOs, coordinate and manage demining and follow-up developmental activities.”[31]

Recently, representatives of the concerned ministries met and proposed to set up a direction board on mine/UXO affairs, which involves the Ministry of Defense, MPI, Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs (MoLISA), Office of Government, Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment (MOSTE), and the Vietnam Union of Friendship Organizations (VUFO).[32]

Mine/UXO Awareness Education[33]

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has acquired funding to develop a school-based mine/UXO education project in Quang Tri Province, intended to introduce curriculum-based classroom teaching in the school system with appropriate training of teachers and teaching aides, textbooks, and other materials. Project RENEW in Trieu Phong District of Quang Tri Province will also include mine/UXO awareness and education.[34]

Landmine/UXO Casualties[35]

The US State Department said in October 2000 that Vietnam suffers over 2,000 casualties a year from landmines and UXO.[36] There are newspaper reports at least weekly of deaths and injuries caused by landmine/UXO explosions, although there have been no new published reports of aggregate figures of casualties since 1998. Prior to President Clinton’s visit in November 2000, an article in Tien Phong newspaper referred again to the 1998 figures, reporting that, up to May 1998 there were 38,248 people killed and 64,064 injured by mines and UXO left after the war.[37]

Although information on mine/UXO casualties was available in the past from Quang Tri Province, inquiries at the Foreign Relations Department revealed that no records were maintained in 2000 due to lack of a budget. According to unofficial information, there were 15 victims of landmines and UXO in the year 2000 in Quang Tri Province, and between 1 January and 12 June 2001, six people were killed and 14 injured by mines and UXO in Quang Tri Province. Two of those killed and 11 of the injured were children.[38]

In unofficial inquiries made by Landmine Monitor sources indicate that in Trieu Phong district there are five to ten mine/UXO accidents every year that occur mostly when people are engaged in farming activities.

Survivor Assistance[39]

There is no specialized assistance for landmine and UXO victims in Vietnam other than the medical and health care services provided by the national Ministry of Health network at the province, district, and commune levels, and rehabilitation services provided by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Labor, Invalids, and Social Affairs. No distinction is made in treatment and rehabilitation services for victims of landmines and UXO.[40]

However, the Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) program, established in 40 of the 61 provinces nationwide, is a network of trained volunteers who visit the homes of disabled persons at the commune and village level and offer basic medical and health assessments and institutional referrals, training for family members in physical therapy, provision of adaptive technology including prosthetics and simple orthotics, advice on home modifications for greater disability access, and assistance in community reintegration, both social and educational, as well as vocational training.[41]

Some NGOs, including PeaceTrees Vietnam and Clear Path International, provide individual assistance for landmine victims on a case-by-case basis, in the form of cash payments for emergency medical care or transportation or other kinds of support.[42]

Handicap International (Belgium) started a project in Quang Tri in 1994 initially aimed at providing support to landmine/UXO amputees. The project has evolved to provide services to all disabled people, but mine/UXO amputees remain the main target group. Since 1994, the project has provided 643 prostheses (73% mine/UXO amputees), 86 orthoses, 37 wheelchairs, and 16 walking aids. A total of 2,763 people have been treated. The rehabilitation department can now provide an average of 250 devices a year.[43]

PTVN’s victim assistance program provides support to UXO victims in different ways according to their needs, said in-country representative Quang Le. He cited the specific example of a child in Quang Tri Province who was injured last year by a piece of UXO and who was sent to the General Hospital in the city of Hue because of a lack of equipment at the Quang Tri Province hospital. Later, PTVN took the child to Hue again for follow-up treatment. PTVN’s goal is to assist victims and families to become self-supporting, in addition to providing medical, transportation, and hospital assistance. PTVN’s position is that, in the long run, direct cash payments to victims and families may not be the best way.[44] 

CPI is working with the People’s Committee of Quang Tri Province to formalize victim assistance efforts. CPI is committed to offering support for emergency medical treatment for UXO victims, primarily children; follow-up care and transportation to appropriate medical institutions; support for special surgeries and medical expenses; educational scholarship programs for UXO victims or victim families; possible upgrade of the Province Hospital’s emergency room; and possibly a visiting medical team from the US.[45] 

Disability Policy and Practice

It has been two years since the government's Ordinance on Disabled Persons took effect.[46] In order to coordinate the implementation and enforcement of the Ordinance, the Minister of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA) issued on 22 January 2001 Decision No. 55/2001/QD-BLDTBXH to establish a National Coordinating Council on Disabilities (NCCD). The Council, chaired by a Vice Minister of MOLISA, has 14 members representing MOLISA; Ministry of Construction; Ministry of Health; Ministry of Transport and Communication; Ministry of Culture and Information; Ministry of Education and Training; Committee on Sports and Physical Culture; and the Association of the Blind of Vietnam.

However, according to Hong Ha, Coordinator of the Disability Forum, which is comprised of about twenty NGOs and ten local groups of people with disabilities, its implementation is very slow.[47] The new building codes issued by the Ministry of Construction also contain some requirements for buildings to be accessible for the disabled, but so far there is no supervision on implementation from the concerned ministries.[48] This year marks the second year in which the national Day of Protection and Care for Disabled Persons, 18 April, is celebrated.[49] An exchange program for disabled people from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, sponsored by foreign NGOs including Health Volunteers Overseas, Vietnam Assistance for the Handicapped, World Vision International, and Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation, was held in Hanoi in April 2001. A nationwide exchange program is being planned for February 2002.[50]

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[1] Correspondence from Nguyen Manh Hung, Director of Americas Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 8 March 2001.
[2] Interview with Eng. Nguyen Trong Canh, Vice Director, Mine Technology Center, Army Engineering Command, Hanoi, 1 March 2001.
[3] A Ministry of Defense official did confirm to Landmine Monitor last year that production continues. Interview with Col. Bui Minh Tam, Director, Mine Technology Center, Hanoi, 15 March 2000.
[4] Interview with Lt. Col. Frank Miller, Military Attaché, US Embassy, Hanoi, 2 February 2001.
[5] Correspondence from Nguyen Manh Hung, Director of Americas Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 8 March 2001.
[6] Interview with Eng. Nguyen Trong Canh, Vice Director, Mine Technology Center, Army Engineering Command, Hanoi, 1 March 2001.
[7] Landmine Monitor Report 2000, p. 542.
[8] Interview with Lieutenant Colonel Frank Miller, Military Attaché, US Embassy, Hanoi, 2 February 2001.
[9] Interview with Eng. Nguyen Trong Canh, Vice Director, Mine Technology Centre, Army Engineering Command, Hanoi, 1 March 2001.
[10] Survey Action Center submission to Landmine Monitor Report 2001, received July 2001.
[11] Interview with Nick Proudman, MAG Program Manager, Hanoi, 9 March 2001.
[12] Project Renewal Proposal, February 2001-December 2002, Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.
[13] Meeting with General Vu Tan, Director of External Affairs, Ministry of Defense, Hanoi, 27 February 2001.
[14] N.T.H., "Seven Hundred Million Dong to Clear Mines/UXO at My Son Vestige," Lao Dong newspaper, 15 March 2001, p. 2.
[15] NGO Landmine Working Group (LWG) meeting, Hanoi, 30 March 2001; meeting with Shireen Sandhu, First Secretary of AusAID, Australian Embassy, Hanoi, 8 February 2001.
[16] Interview with Nick Proudman, MAG Program Manager, Hanoi, 9 March 2001.
[17] Interview with unnamed government official, Hanoi, 27 February 2001.
[18] Meeting with Mr. Kitai, Nichimen representative, Hanoi, 16 January 2001.
[19] The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, Remarks by the President At Demining Event, International Trade Center, Hanoi, 18 November 2000.
[20] US Department of State, “Demining Program Financing History,” fact sheet dated 24 October 2000; Department of State, “FY 2000 NADR Project Status,” fact sheet dated 27 December 2000.
[21] US Department of State Press Statement, “Vietnamese Humanitarian Demining Experts Tour the United States,” 27 October 2000.
[22] Friendship Village Project Proposal, January 2001 - Summer 2002, PeaceTrees Vietnam.
[23] Project RENEW Proposal, February 2001 - December 2002, Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.
[24] Interview with Karl Heinz Werther, Gerbera Project Manager, 9 March 2001.
[25] Interview with Eng. Nguyen Trong Canh, Vice Director, Mine Technology Centre, Army Engineering Command, Hanoi, 1 March 2001.
[26] Interview with Lieutenant Colonel Frank Miller, Military Attache, US Embassy, Hanoi, 2 February 2001.
[27] Interview with Lieutenant Colonel Frank Miller, Military Attache, US Embassy, 2 February 2001. Miller also commented, “The problem with some of these projects is that the Vietnamese don't have the sophisticated technology they need for deep search, and if they identify a small piece of ordnance maybe a meter underground, and they blow it in place – which is the procedure preferred by the United Nations – if they don't know what may lie deeper underground, such as 1,000- or 2,000-pound bombs, even 3,000-pounders, a small detonation could generate a much larger blast that would totally destroy the roadbed or any preparatory work already completed.”
[28] The following information on MAG activities was provided in an interview with Nick Proudman, MAG Program Manager, 9 March 2001, and an email from Tim Carstairs, MAG Communications Director, 19 July 2001.
[29] Interview with Karl Heinz Werther, Gerbera Project Manager, 9 March 2001.
[30] Vietnamese Delegation to UXO Centers in Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand, 15 - 28 April 2000, final report prepared for Oxfam Hong Kong.
[31] Ibid.
[32] Interview with unnamed official, 1 March 2001.
[33] For more information see Landmine Monitor Report 2000, p. 550 – 551.
[34] Memorandum of understanding between the Foreign Relations Department of Quang Tri Province and Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, April 2001, Quang Tri.
[35] For more information see Landmine Monitor Report 2000, p. 551 – 552.
[36] US Department of State Press Statement, “Vietnamese Humanitarian Demining Experts Tour the United States,” 27 October 2000.
[37] "Enhancing the Vietnam-U.S. cooperation in bomb and mine clearance," Tien Phong newspaper, 4 November 2000.
[38] Emails from Chuck Meadows, PeaceTrees Vietnam, 13 June 2001 and 17 July 2001.
[39] See Landmine Monitor Report 2000, pp.553-554 for a broader overview of survivor assistance programs.
[40] Interview with Dr. Tran Trong Hai, Deputy Director, International Cooperation Department, Ministry of Health, General Secretary, Vietnam Association of Rehabilitation, 16 April 2001.
[41] Ibid.
[42] NGO Landmine Working Group (LWG) meeting, Hanoi, 30 March 2001.
[43] Information provided by Handicap International (Belgium), 30 July 2001.
[44] Quang Le, Program Coordinator, PeaceTrees Vietnam, LWG meeting, 30 March 2001.
[45] Kristen Leadem, Country Representative, Clear Path International, LWG meeting, 30 March 2001.
[46] The Ordinance on Disabled Persons was promulgated on 8 August 1998, and supposed to take effect from 1 November 1998. But in fact, it took effect only after a government's decree regulating in detail the implementation of the ordinance was issued on 10 July 1999.
[47] Telephone interview with Hong Ha, Coordinator, Disability Forum, 11 April 2001.
[48] Building Codes, Ministry of Construction.
[49] Ordinance on Disabled Persons, Article 31.
[50] Information provided by Hong Ha, Coordinator, Disability Forum.