Jun 6, 2007


This story first appeared on Thanh Nien on May 7th (here) and I've been following it ever since. It just has some hilarious connotations. The first story said this:

A company under the Vietnam Ministry of Posts and Telematics has confirmed 11km of fiber-optic cable stretching across Vietnam had been stolen off the coast of a southern Vietnamese province.

Big deal you might say. Then on the 29th of May we had this.

A 98-kilometer segment of the TVH fiber-optic cable responsible for transmitting large volumes of data for landline systems and the Internet was stolen off the Ca Mau coast. Bui Thien Minh, deputy director of state-run Vietnam Posts and Telecommunications Group (VNPT), one of the owners, said repairs were estimated to cost US$2.6 million.

Together with SMW3, the other undersea fiber-optic cable, the damaged network accounted for 82 percent of all data transmitted from and to Vietnam. The rest is transmitted by three land cables and a satellite system.
Minh said if part of SMW3 too was stolen Vietnam would be cut off from the outside world. The Internet would collapse first.

Asean Explorer, a Singaporean ship specializing in cable repair hired by VNPT to survey the problem, said the repairs would take 88 days. Minh said this could take much longer due to paperwork, especially for permission for the vessel to operate in Vietnamese waters.

PAPERWORK! Jesus. Does someone need to be slipped an envelope for this as well?

Then, the next day, we get this - unbelievable!

In August last year the government of Ba Ria Vung Tau province issued a note permitting coast guards to cooperate with civilians in salvaging unused undersea cables laid before 1975.

Such cables are no longer in use and are lucrative as scrap.

This spawned a rush by fishermen to haul up cables along the southern coast and many reportedly failed to distinguish between unused cables and those in use.

Some severed the TVH cable, one of the only two operational undersea cables connecting Vietnam with the outside world.

Last month the Ba Ria Vung Tau government withdrew the permission and banned all kinds of cable salvage.

A reader wrote to Thanh Nien expressing his indignation at the decision which allowed people to recover “cables laid before 1975” at “predetermined coordinates”.

He said the fishermen and soldiers involved were mostly ignorant of coordinates and could not know which cables were laid before 1975 and which after since they lay deep under the sea.

Note the bold above 'lucrative as scrap'. From today's story:

Such scrap cables fetch a mere VND7,000-VND15,000 (less than a dollar) for one km while one km of the TVH line cost $13,000 when it was laid 1-2 m beneath the seabed in 1994.

With Vietnam apparently left hanging by a thread by some fisherman looking for a bit of scrap metal, thank god for this story which first appeared on Thanh Nien in April. Bring it on!

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