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Vietnam Opens Hotline to Help Citizens Abroad

FILE - A staff member looks out through a peephole of a locked door at the Vietnamese embassy in Bangkok, Thailand.

Vietnam has opened its first hotline to help citizens abroad with issues ranging from lost passports to being a victim of human trafficking.

Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh, at a ceremony to open the new service this week, stressed the line will help the Ministry of Foreign Affairs improve its effectiveness in protecting Vietnamese citizens abroad.

He added that Vietnamese citizens can call the hotline any time of the day or night to seek help if they are robbed, lose their passport, are in an accident, become seriously ill or are the victim of human trafficking.

However, the new service is not free. Those who dial the line will have to pay standard international rates for a phone call to Vietnam.

Nguyen Manh Thang, a Vietnamese guest worker in Russia, told VOA's Vietnamese Service that he will have to wait and see if the new operation is for real or just a propaganda trick.

“To be honest, I have no trust in the Vietnamese authorities. Maybe they set up this hotline just to build up a good image for themselves in the eyes of the international community. How they would implement this, we don’t know yet," he said.

Thang added that Vietnamese citizens in Russia have yet to see any kind of protection from Hanoi. He said he and his friends never seek assistance from the Vietnamese government, but rather, pay for help from private agencies run by Vietnamese Russians.

Vietnam says more than 500,000 of its citizens work abroad and more than 100,000 are students in foreign countries. An additional 200,000 or so Vietnamese women are living overseas married to foreign husbands.

This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Vietnamese Service.