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This Weekend in Asia: Myanmar PM Settles In, Chaotic Bangladesh Reopening, Southern Vietnam Extends Lockdown

As global brands await a return to some kind of normalcy in Myanmar amid disapproval of a military coup that has dislodged democracy in the nation, it appears some stability is returning and with it more legitimacy.

On Sunday, military ruler Min Aung Hliang was sworn in as prime minister with a newly formed caretaker government.

He has promised to hold elections by 2023.

Meanwhile, there was chaos in Bangladesh, as factories announced reopening plans Sunday, despite a countrywide lockdown through Aug. 5. Workers struggled to return to work on short notice, as the government responded to lobbying by factory owners and announced they would be allowed to open once again. Using the brief window of public transportation opened to help them, traffic was jammed along ferry and bus routes, as workers put aside social distancing concerns to rush back to their factories.

In Vietnam, the lockdown in Ho Chi Minh City and 18 other cities that comprise the main manufacturing area that was originally set to lift on Aug. 1 has been extended another two weeks. It has given factory owners more reason to think through their production plans— particularly the mandate of “three to three” where factories provide workers food, living and work on location—as industry analysts in Vietnam pointed out the toll the situation is taking on businesses and workers as well.

“Recently VITAS Sustainability Committee and PPP working group already had many virtual meetings and we have been writing letters to find solutions to the situation,” Hoàng Ngọc Ánh, general secretary, Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association (VITAS), told Sourcing Journal.

These have included pleas for the government to speed up vaccinations, calls on the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) and the American government to share vaccines with Vietnam, seeking support from brands, retailers and traders to aid Vietnam suppliers and a call for joint collaboration from other stakeholders to find alternative solutions.

However, AAFA president Steve Lamar has already taken the industry’s case to Vietnam’s prime minister, asking the Southeast Asian nation’s government to make vaccinations a first priority.

A woman receives a shot of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Hanoi, Vietnam on Sunday, June 27, 2021. Vietnam is ramping up the vaccination program against COVID-19 as new cases increase.
A woman receives a shot of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Hanoi, Vietnam Sunday, June 27, 2021. Vietnam is ramping up the vaccination program against Covid-19 as new cases increase. AP Photo/Hau Dinh

In a letter Wednesday to Vietnamese Prime Minister Phạm Minh Chính, Lamar urged the leader to “prioritize the distribution of vaccines to Vietnam’s apparel, footwear, and travel goods industries. We also urge you to work closely with our trade association counterparts – VITAS and LEFASO (Vietnam Leather, Footwear Association) – to quickly develop and implement flexible and effective protocols to make sure these industries, and the workers they employ throughout the country, can safely produce and transport goods, keeping a vital part of the Vietnam economy intact.”

Noting that the United States has already given Vietnam 5 million Covid-19 vaccine doses, Lamar said AAFA is now advocating with our government that supply more on an urgent basis.”

Apparel, footwear and travel goods represent Vietnam’s second-, third- and fourth-largest export sectors, Lamar added, shipping $40 billion in goods annually to international markets. “The success of this industry is critical for the success of Vietnam’s economy,” he wrote.

Additional reporting by Jessica Binns.