Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Comparative Discussions, Initiatives for the Future

January 12, 2017

The day began with class with Professor Fincher, where we talked about TPP. While the TPP has been seen as a large source of controversy in the United States, the government of Vietnam saw it as a way forward. Further reduction of tariffs and liberalization has been seen by Vietnam as a way to boost their manufacturing and export-led economy, fueling huge gains in growth. While some still believe that TPP is possible through bilateral agreements or in another version, others may see a shift towards China as more likely. TPP has had interesting implications for labor rights as well. In agreeing to the deal, Vietnam promised to allow FOA among its workers, but even with the deal in a precarious position, some still believe that Vietnam may implement FOA even without the pressure of TPP. If this was to occur, it means major changes in the labor law of Vietnam and more legal power guaranteed to workers.

After discussing TPP, we debated an arbitration case. Members of our group took many different positions on the issue, some that favored enforcing the law strictly, and other that wanted leniency for the worker, while a couple desired a middle ground. In this way, we learned about the great powers of interpretation of an arbitrator, and how judging the validity of evidence can be a challenging part of the process.

In addition to this, we had a comparative discussion on labor arbitration in Cambodia. Professor shared a presentation about the Cambodian Labor Arbitration Council and their role in settling labor disputes there. I found it informative to learn about another system in Southeast Asia. Finally, we ended class with a presentation on the Cambodian genocide. Between 1975 and 1979, after Pol Pot’s regime came to power, the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia killed millions of people, especially those considered educated or against their regime bet. The actions of the regime led to the death of 25% of the population of Cambodia and thousands of bodies were put into the “killing fields.” Professor Fincher showed us many photos he had taken at those sites and we discussed the current Cambodia War Crimes Tribunal and the trials of the former leaders of the Khmer Rouge under direction of the government and the United Nations. We talked about how the court system has dealt with seeking justice and compensation for the victims of the genocide. We also discussed the purpose of the courts, the political context surrounding them, and ideas of punishment versus the type of amnesty practice in South Africa.While the presentation did not focus on labor relations, it certainly gave us a better idea of the events in Southeast Asia and how they terribly impacted the people to this day. In addition, our discussion about conflict resolution and legal forms of justice showed how these types of procedures could be used to mend conflicts on a larger and more traumatic scale.

Cambodian Labor Arbitration Council
In the evening, we attended the national competition of Vietnam for the Hult Prize, held at TDTU. The Hult prize is an award given to a group of students from a university who participate in social entrepreneurship and have worked to build a business or have an idea that would create positive social change while maintain profit.  The prize is sponsored by the Clinton Initiative and awards the winning school group with a million dollars worth of seed capital. This year’s theme was refugees and TDTU hosted student’s groups from other universities to present their ideas. They were judged by a panel of business people who were executives at a number of Vietnamese companies and provided honest criticism of their ideas. Some of the ideas were pretty interesting, such as how one team suggested converting old buses into shelters where refugees could stay for a small price.  Another team came up with a e-commerce app, that allowed refugees to withdraw money and pay for purchases electronically, since many think carrying cash is unsafe and banks typically will not allow refugees to set up accounts. The competition was interesting in how invested the students were in promoting their ideas and how prepared they had to be to respond to pretty harsh criticism by the judges and displayed the creativity off some of the students. In addition, the competition was another reminder of how Vietnam has changed from when the private sector had a very small role in the economy of the country.

Competitors for the Hult Prize, Vietnam National Round
Finally, after watching some of the competition, we enjoyed a very interesting and tasty meal at a local restaurant. Our food was decided by Lowell pretty much pointing randomly at items on the menu leading us to a random assortment of items. We started off with two snail dishes, and the snail were enormously hard to get out of the shells. We spent a great deal of type sticking little tiny forks into their shells, wiggling the prongs around, trying to force out bits of snail. Then a platter of pig liver arrived, which I thought was pretty tasty, and was served in a sauce full of onions and vegetables. Next came chicken feet, which did not have very much but skin to eat on the bone, but tasted delicious. While some of our group was hesitant to try it, they eventually took a bite, and immediately enjoyed a new favorite food of our group. Finally, we finished the meal with a steaming and spicy hot pot, packed to the brim with vegetables and noodles, that we finished off, and filled out stomachs. 

No comments:

Post a Comment