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Michael Tatarski

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
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About Michael
Michael Tatarski is a journalist based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. He has covered politics, current events, the environment and more for The Atlantic, Politico, the South China Morning Post, Al-Jazeera, Mongabay and the Guardian. He is available for freelance written assignments, as well as radio and TV hits.
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Audio package (Radio / Podcast) Interview (Video / Broadcast) Feature Stories
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Thailand poised to legalize same-sex marriage after parliament passes bill

27 Mar 2024  |  newsbreak.com
Thailand's lower house of parliament has passed a marriage equality bill, potentially making Thailand the first country in South-East Asia to legalize same-sex marriage. The bill received overwhelming support with 400 of 415 lawmakers voting in favor. It now awaits approval by the senate and endorsement by the Thai king. If enacted, Thailand will join Taiwan and Nepal as the only countries in Asia with legalized same-sex marriage. The bill has been in discussion for over a decade, and recent consolidation of four draft bills into one has been a significant step forward. Human rights groups, while celebrating the progress, have called for the elimination of gendered language in the draft to ensure full rights for LGBTI+ persons.

Thailand poised to legalise same-sex marriage after parliament passes bill

27 Mar 2024  |  www.theguardian.com
Thailand's lower house of parliament has passed a marriage equality bill, potentially making it the first country in South-East Asia to legalize same-sex marriage. The bill received overwhelming support with 400 of 415 lawmakers voting in favor. It now awaits approval by the senate and endorsement by the Thai king. The Pheu Thai Party, which is overseeing the bill, expressed that this marks the beginning of equality in Thailand. Human rights group Fortify Rights acknowledged the progress but noted the need to address shortcomings in the draft to ensure full rights for LGBTI+ individuals. The legislation has been in discussion for over a decade, and the recent development places Thailand ahead of other South-East Asian countries on same-sex marriage rights.

Vượng In Control

10 Jan 2024  |  vietnamweekly.substack.com
The article discusses recent developments at VinFast, a Vietnamese carmaker, highlighting numerous announcements and press releases. The author, Mike Tatarski, notes the significant scale of these developments and hints at more detailed coverage once VinFast releases its Q4 financials.

Vạn Thịnh Phát's Grand Mess

17 Oct 2023  |  vietnamweekly.substack.com
Vạn Thịnh Phát Group is under investigation for an alleged bond fraud involving about 42,000 investors who lost US$1.2 billion. The case has not yet gone to trial, and the scope of the corporation's reach is becoming more apparent as the investigation, which has lasted over a year, continues.

Thailand poised to legalise same-sex marriage after parliament passes bill

11 Oct 2023  |  ca.news.yahoo.com
Thailand's lower house of parliament has overwhelmingly approved a marriage equality bill, positioning the country to become the first in South-East Asia to legalize same-sex marriage. The bill, which received 400 out of 415 votes, now awaits approval from the senate and endorsement by the Thai king. The Pheu Thai party and human rights organizations have expressed optimism, though some call for further improvements to the draft. The legislation marks a significant step forward for LGBT rights in the region, contrasting sharply with neighboring countries where same-sex activities are still criminalized.

Thailand poised to legalise same-sex marriage after parliament passes bill

11 Oct 2023  |  www.aol.co.uk
Thailand's lower house of parliament has overwhelmingly approved a marriage equality bill, positioning the country to become the first in south-east Asia to legalize same-sex marriage. The bill, which received 400 out of 415 votes, now awaits approval from the senate and endorsement by the Thai king. If passed, it will be published in the Royal Gazette and become law after 60 days. The Pheu Thai party and Fortify Rights have expressed support for the bill, though they note that certain shortcomings need to be addressed. The legislation consolidates four draft bills from different political parties and aims to eliminate gendered language to ensure comprehensive rights for LGBTI+ persons. This development marks a significant step forward for LGBTQ+ rights in Thailand and south-east Asia.

The VTP/SCB Fallout Continues

06 Oct 2023  |  vietnamweekly.substack.com
The anti-corruption campaign in Vietnam continues to evolve, with significant developments such as the Vạn Thịnh Phát scandal and increased property fraud cases. General Secretary Nguyễn Phú Trọng emphasized the long-term commitment to fighting corruption. The National Assembly session revealed a historic US$5.2 million bribe, hinting at more high-profile arrests. Intel's expansion plans in Ho Chi Minh City remain unconfirmed.

One Step Closer to JETP

02 Oct 2023  |  vietnamweekly.substack.com
Prime Minister Phạm Minh Chính attended the COP28 climate summit in Dubai, where he participated in discussions on phasing out coal-fired power plants and met with World Bank President Ajay Banga. The World Bank indicated potential loans of up to US$7 billion for projects in Vietnam. A significant announcement was made regarding the Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP) agreement, marking progress in Vietnam's energy transition efforts.

Vietnam's Energy Conundrum

02 Oct 2023  |  vietnamweekly.substack.com
Vietnam's Deputy Prime Minister Trần Hồng Hà has approved the National Energy Master Plan through 2030, aiming for a sufficient energy supply to support an annual GDP growth of 7%. The plan targets renewables to account for up to 20% of total energy sources by 2030 and up to 85% by 2050, with significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, a US$15.5 billion Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP) has been approved, marking a crucial step in Vietnam's energy transition efforts.

The Drunk Driving Campaign's Impact

01 Oct 2023  |  vietnamweekly.substack.com
The high-profile drunk driving crackdown in Ho Chi Minh City has led to significant results, with approximately 770,000 violations recorded last year, a 1.5 times increase from 2022. Despite some initial criticism, the campaign has continued to expand. A six-week campaign from August to October alone resulted in over 6,100 DUI violations, including several hundred government employees. The long-term impact on attitudes towards drunk driving remains to be seen.

An Anti-Corruption Update

01 Oct 2023  |  vietnamweekly.substack.com
The Central Steering Committee on Anti-corruption, chaired by General Secretary Nguyễn Phú Trọng, reviewed the first year of operations of province-level anti-corruption committees. The conference highlighted major scandals involving FLC Group, AIC, Viet A, Van Thinh Phat, Tan Hoang Minh, and the Vietnam Register. Officials shared statistics on the campaign's progress, underscoring significant developments in the ongoing anti-corruption efforts.

Vietnam: 56 people dead after fire at nine-floor apartment building

13 Sep 2023  |  theguardian.com
A fire in a nine-floor apartment building in Hanoi, Vietnam, resulted in 56 deaths. The fire started late Tuesday night, and firefighters extinguished it within an hour. At least 70 people were rescued, with nearly 40 injured. The cause is under investigation, but the aftermath revealed charred vehicles and incinerated interiors. Fire safety is a concern in Hanoi due to high population density, building designs, and narrow alleys that hinder emergency access. Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh visited the site and announced government coverage of treatment costs, criticizing the lack of escape routes in the building.

Biden Visits Hanoi

12 Sep 2023  |  vietnamweekly.substack.com
Mike Tatarski, a reporter and long-time resident of Vietnam, discusses the international media's portrayal of Vietnam in light of President Joe Biden's recent visit to Hanoi. He expresses frustration with the typical narratives and acknowledges the mixed nature of attention Vietnam receives during such high-profile events. Tatarski also mentions his contribution to The Guardian on the new Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.

China concerns drive historic upgrade in US-Vietnam relations

12 Sep 2023  |  theguardian.com
US President Joe Biden finalized a comprehensive strategic partnership with Vietnam during his visit to Hanoi, meeting with Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong. This partnership elevates US-Vietnam relations to the highest diplomatic level, aligning with the status of China, Russia, India, and South Korea. The joint statement emphasized economic cooperation and innovation-driven growth. The move reflects shared economic and geopolitical interests despite the historical legacy of the Vietnam War. Analysts cite China's regional ambitions as a key factor in this upgrade, with recent incidents highlighting tensions. The White House also announced bilateral initiatives and business deals, including a semiconductor partnership and workforce development programs, underscoring Vietnam's strategic role in the Indo-Pacific region.

Sand, Land, Test Kits and Trees

28 Aug 2023  |  vietnamweekly.substack.com
The Vietnam Weekly newsletter, authored by Mike Tatarski, discusses a range of anti-corruption news in Vietnam, highlighting cases of sand mining in the Mekong Delta, illegal land use on Phú Quốc, nationwide issues with COVID-19 test kits, and tree planting in Hanoi.

VinFast Hits Wall Street

16 Aug 2023  |  vietnamweekly.substack.com
VinFast, a Vietnamese carmaker, debuted on the Nasdaq Global Select Market after a merger with Black Spade Acquisition Company, resulting in an opening share price of US$22 and a closing price of US$37.06. This valuation brought the company's market cap to an astonishing US$85 billion, surpassing automotive giants like Mercedes-Benz and Ford. The article examines the details behind VinFast's listing, the involvement of Vingroup's electric taxi company, the groundbreaking of a new factory in North Carolina, and the media coverage that VinFast is now facing.

Picturing HCMC's Future

01 Aug 2023  |  vietnamweekly.substack.com
Ho Chi Minh City is implementing Resolution 98, which aims to address various urban management issues, including infrastructure investment, financial autonomy, and urban administration. The legislation replaces the unsuccessful Resolution 54 and includes provisions for Thủ Đức City. Key developments include increased salaries for city workers and the adoption of the build-operate-transfer model for traffic projects. City officials, including HCMC Party Committee Secretary Nguyễn Văn Nên, are optimistic about the resolution's potential to drive significant improvements.

The Rescue Flight Trial Begins

17 Jul 2023  |  vietnamweekly.substack.com
The trial for the Covid-era repatriation flight scandal, one of the most significant public corruption cases in Vietnamese history, has begun. Authorities are also preparing for Storm Talim, expected to make landfall in Quang Ninh or Hai Phong, with evacuations and safety measures underway.

The Attack in Dak Lak

15 Jun 2023  |  vietnamweekly.substack.com
A group of assailants on motorbikes attacked the People’s Committee buildings and police offices in Dak Lak Province, Vietnam, resulting in nine deaths and several injuries. The Ministry of Public Security arrested 45 people and is continuing the search for others involved. The attack has sparked a military-led hunt and increased border security by Cambodia. Meanwhile, Northern Vietnam is facing severe power shortages, affecting residential life, industry, and tourism. Local media have criticized the power sector, and the government has proposed solutions such as importing coal from Laos. The director of the National Load Dispatch Center was suspended, and there are calls for electricity system reform and concerns over the JETP agreement.

Can Vietnam’s plan to boost energy capacity work amid rolling outages, electricity shortages?

30 May 2023  |  South China Morning Post
Vietnam faces a severe energy crisis amid record temperatures and unprecedented electricity demand, leading to rolling outages and power shortages. Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh has approved the Power Development Plan 8 (PDP8) to double the country's energy capacity by 2030, focusing on renewable energy sources like solar and wind. However, challenges include outdated grid infrastructure, financial losses by the state-owned Electricity of Vietnam (EVN), and the need for significant international investment. Experts emphasize the importance of rooftop solar panels and upgrading the national grid to meet future energy demands and climate commitments.

Is Ho Chi Minh City in Decline?

29 May 2023  |  vietnamweekly.substack.com
Vietnam’s economic heart, Ho Chi Minh City, is facing serious economic challenges as it approaches the midpoint of the year. The city administration's slow budget distribution and the city's low gross regional domestic product growth in Q1 indicate significant economic underperformance compared to other centrally governed cities and provinces, as well as the national rate.

The Disbursement Disaster

09 May 2023  |  vietnamweekly.substack.com
The anti-corruption campaign in Vietnam has significantly impacted public spending, particularly in Ho Chi Minh City, by incarcerating numerous officials and instilling fear among others, leading to near-total inaction. This ongoing issue is worsening, with data highlighting the severe consequences of the campaign on financial disbursement.

Join me on Notes!

12 Apr 2023  |  vietnamweekly.substack.com
The author invites readers to join them on Substack Notes, a new feature on Substack for sharing links, short posts, quotes, photos, and more. The author plans to use it for content that doesn't fit in the newsletter, such as work-in-progress and quick questions.

The 'Rescue Flight' Scandal Ends

05 Apr 2023  |  vietnamweekly.substack.com
The Ministry of Public Security in Vietnam has concluded its investigation into the repatriation flight scandal, recommending charges against 54 individuals across various government departments for crimes including bribery and abuse of power. The scandal, which dates back to January 2022, involved officials exploiting Vietnamese citizens trying to return home during a health crisis. Former Deputy Foreign Minister Tô Anh Dũng, arrested last April, is among the high-level officials implicated.

Ho Chi Minh City's Confounding Paralysis

21 Mar 2023  |  vietnamweekly.substack.com
Ho Chi Minh City, despite its economic dynamism and significant contribution to Vietnam's GDP, is facing a paradoxical paralysis in its public sector, particularly in the development of infrastructure and services. This issue persists even amidst an aggressive anti-corruption campaign that has further slowed bureaucracy. The city's future challenge is to determine the extent to which private capital-led growth can be sustained with the current state of inadequate infrastructure.

Vincom Up For Sale

10 Mar 2023  |  vietnamweekly.substack.com
Vingroup plans to divest a significant portion of its stake in Vincom Retail, reducing its ownership from 41.5% to 18.4% through a complex transaction involving SDI Trading Development and Investment JSC and Sado. The deal, valued at $1.6 billion, is expected to be completed by the end of September. Meanwhile, Hanoi's air quality issues are gaining attention, with government plans to install new monitoring stations and discussions on restricting vehicles to improve air quality. In diplomatic news, Vietnam expressed concern over China's actions in the South China Sea, emphasizing adherence to international agreements.

Dozens of Tigers Rescued in Major Illegal Wildlife Busts

04 Aug 2021  |  www.vice.com
In Vietnam, at least 24 tigers, including seven cubs, were rescued from illegal wildlife traders in Nghe An province, a known hub for the exotic wildlife trade in Southeast Asia. Save Vietnam’s Wildlife (SVW), a domestic conservation group, collaborated with local police in the operation. The adult tigers were saved from illegal breeders, while the cubs were found in a van after an attempted escape by two men. Four pangolins were also recovered. The tigers are receiving care, with a national park assisting with the cubs and local zoos temporarily housing the adults. Tigers are considered functionally extinct in Vietnam due to poaching and habitat loss, but their body parts are still in demand for traditional medicine and decorative items. SVW's founder, Nguyen Van Thai, and WWF-Vietnam's Benjamin Rawson praised the rescues but emphasized the need for more action against illegal trade and better facilities for tiger care.

Covid Vaccine Trial Successes Lifted Hopes Globally. Here's Why Vietnam Barely Blinked.

18 Nov 2020  |  www.vice.com
Vietnam's response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been notably successful, with life in Ho Chi Minh City appearing normal despite the global crisis. The country has recorded low case and death numbers, with no community transmission detected in nearly three months. Vietnam's strategy has focused on strict border controls and quarantine measures rather than a desperate need for a vaccine. Domestic vaccine development is underway, and the government has expressed interest in purchasing Russia's vaccine. Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam emphasized the continuation of the current containment strategy. Vietnam's economy is projected to grow by up to 3 percent this year, although the tourism sector has suffered significantly. Discussions on vaccine strategy are ongoing with global health organizations.

For Vietnam, Biden win could mean end of USTR currency and trade inquiries

10 Nov 2020  |  South China Morning Post
The article discusses the potential impact of Joe Biden's presidential win on US-Vietnam relations, particularly concerning the USTR's currency and trade investigations. Analysts criticize the Trump administration's handling of national security policy, which has strained diplomatic relations. Vietnamese officials deny allegations of currency manipulation, while experts highlight the economic benefits Vietnam has gained from the US-China trade war. The article also delves into Vietnam's illegal timber trade and its implications for regional relations. The USTR investigation's future under Biden remains uncertain, with immediate focus likely on the coronavirus pandemic.

How People Smugglers Adapted After 39 Vietnamese Migrants Were Found Dead in a Truck

23 Oct 2020  |  www.vice.com
One year after the discovery of 39 Vietnamese migrants dead in a truck in Essex, England, the demand for migration remains high despite the tragedy. Four men are on trial in the UK for their involvement, while in Vietnam, four people received jail sentences for organizing illegal emigration. The cost of smuggling has increased, with crossing the English Channel now costing up to $30,000. Smuggling networks continue to advertise in Vietnam, exploiting real labor recruitment initiatives and promising high salaries and benefits. Experts suggest that law enforcement needs to establish a task force to address the broader issues of contraband and illegal migration, as current efforts only result in the arrest of low-level participants.

VinFast: will Vietnam’s new locally made car take off?

18 Aug 2019  |  South China Morning Post
VinFast, owned by Vingroup, aims to become Vietnam's national car brand with the launch of its luxury models Lux A2.0 and Lux SA2.0. Despite a flashy debut and robust sales claims, the company faces skepticism from local consumers who question the brand's quality and reliability. VinFast's strategy focuses on producing high-quality, elegant vehicles that meet international standards. The company has received 10,000 purchase orders, but consumer trust remains a significant hurdle.

Vietnam’s Communist Party chief set to become president

13 Jun 2019  |  Al Jazeera
Nguyen Phu Trong, the general secretary of Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party, is expected to become the country's next president, a position left vacant after the death of Tran Dai Quang. This move would make Trong the first person since Ho Chi Minh to hold both the general secretary and president roles simultaneously. Trong's potential dual role is seen as a power consolidation, especially during his ongoing anti-corruption campaign. Comparisons have been drawn to China's Xi Jinping, though Vietnam's political system is described as more consensus-based. The decision may be temporary, with the next National Congress in 2021 set to determine future leadership. The government's crackdown on dissent and the ban on independent political parties and unions highlight Vietnam's intolerance towards opposition, as noted by Human Rights Watch.

Cat Ba’s Mangroves and Wildlife: Balancing Conservation and Development

13 Jun 2019  |  news.mongabay.com
The article discusses the environmental challenges and conservation efforts in Cat Ba, Vietnam, particularly focusing on the mangrove forests and wildlife. Nguyen Thi Kim Cuc from Vietnam National University highlights the improved condition of mangroves compared to two decades ago, yet acknowledges the reduction in area and biodiversity. Christoph Zöckler of the Manfred Hermsen Stiftung notes the small size of Cat Ba's mangroves due to climatic conditions. The article also touches on the threats to wildlife, such as hunting, which has significantly impacted bird populations and the endangered Cat Ba langurs. The reporter, Michael Tatarski, reflects on the balance between development and conservation on the island, with insights from conservationists like Neahga Leonard, who stress the importance of sustainable development. The article concludes with a note on the potential impact of upcoming developments like the Sun Group resort on the island's future.

After hastily arranging the meeting between the U.S. and North Korean leaders, Vietnam got what it wanted.

28 Feb 2019  |  The Atlantic
Vietnam, hosting the U.S.-North Korea summit on short notice, transformed Hanoi to accommodate the event, despite the Lunar New Year holiday. The city was cleaned, decorated with flags, and security was heightened. Kim Jong Un's arrival by train and car presented logistical challenges. The summit's media coverage was tightly controlled by Vietnam's state-run press, with journalists restricted to an International Media Center and instructed to report positively. Despite limited policy outcomes, Vietnam achieved its desired international image, with its Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc seen alongside President Trump, each waving the other's national flag.

Current threats and future hopes for the greater Mekong’s mangroves

30 Jan 2019  |  news.mongabay.com
The article discusses the critical state of mangrove forests in the Greater Mekong region of Southeast Asia, which includes Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Myanmar. Mangroves, which play a vital ecological role, have been reduced from 320,000 square kilometers 50 years ago to 150,000 square kilometers today due to land use changes, agricultural development, and illegal logging. The article highlights the importance of mangroves in supporting local livelihoods, protecting against coastal storms, and storing carbon. It also covers efforts to protect and recover these forests, such as the establishment of UNESCO Biosphere Reserves, the creation of sustainable charcoal value chains, and the development of artificial mangroves. Despite these efforts, the region's rapid economic growth and the need for fuelwood pose ongoing threats to mangrove conservation.

American to Stand Trial in Vietnam on Charges of 'Disturbing Public Order'

19 Jul 2018  |  www.theguardian.com
William Anh Nguyen, a 32-year-old from Houston, is set to stand trial in Vietnam for 'disturbing public order' after being arrested during protests in Ho Chi Minh City on June 10. The protests were against a proposed law feared to favor Chinese control over Vietnamese land. Nguyen was en route to Singapore for his master's degree. He has been charged and could face up to seven years in prison if convicted of inciting violence. The US consulate is in contact with Nguyen's family and will attend the trial. Despite warming US-Vietnam relations, highlighted by recent visits from US officials, there has been no public comment on Nguyen's detention from the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo. Nguyen's family and supporters hope for his release, while experts express concern over the potential harshness of his sentence.

Trump speaks on the final day of the APEC CEO Summit

10 Nov 2017  |  POLITICO
President Donald Trump, speaking at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Vietnam, criticized unfair trade practices and promised a U.S. crackdown on economic abuses. Without directly blaming countries like China, he highlighted issues such as intellectual property theft and state-sponsored cyberattacks, advocating for fair and reciprocal trade. Trump emphasized bilateral over multilateral trade agreements, distancing himself from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) which he withdrew from early in his presidency. Concurrently, other nations' leaders and ministers discussed the TPP-11, a revised version of the TPP, with mixed signals about reaching an agreement. Trump's speech is part of his 12-day Asia tour, with further visits planned to the Philippines after Vietnam.

Vietnam’s tale of two metros, one built by the Japanese and the other by the Chinese

23 Jul 2017  |  South China Morning Post
Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are developing their first metro lines with significant differences in progress and public perception. Hanoi's Line 2A, backed by Chinese companies, has faced numerous safety issues and public criticism, while Ho Chi Minh City's Line 1, supported by Japanese entities, has a better safety record despite delays and cost overruns. Experts highlight the challenges of building new metro systems in Vietnam, including institutional inexperience and the need for improved accessibility. The contrasting outcomes reflect differing levels of trust in Chinese and Japanese technology.
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