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Country information: Vietnam



331.689 square kilometres


86,97 million (July 2009)

Capital city

Hanoi (6,23 million inhabitants 2009)

Official language

Vietnamese (other languages: English, French, Chinese and Khmer)

Gross national product per capita

US $ 2.800 (2008)

Population growth

0,98 % (2009)

Life expectancy

71,6 years (2009)

Infant mortality

22,9 per 1 000 live births (2009)

Rate of illiteracy

9,5 % (2007)




Vietnam is only in the first stages of developing a tourist industry. According to UNWTO in 2005, approximately 3 million guests, most of them individual tourists, visited the country. A new law on the cultural heritage is intended to favour this sort of tourism.


Commercial sexual exploitation of children in tourism

With the transition from a planned to a market economy and the economic opening, cases of prostitution and trafficking in humans have increased. It is not clear how far this is linked with tourism. It has been noted that in some cases offers have been made to procure women for foreign investors as incentives to conclude deals. With the reorientation to a market economy, many women working in former state-owned companies have become unemployed. Since they are often poorly trained they have few ways of earning a living, and many have turned to prostitution as a way of securing the survival of their families.

There are estimated to be at least 70 000 prostitutes in Vietnam, 20 000 of these are children. The number is even larger if the increasing practice of selling children abroad into prostitution is taken into account. Traffickers in humans from neighbouring countries take advantage of the desperate financial situation in which the Vietnamese people find themselves. They lure children and young women with promises of good jobs in Cambodia or China - of the 15 000 prostitutes in Cambodia's capital city Phnom Penh, one-third are from Vietnam. Cases are becoming increasingly common of families falling for the promises of traffickers and selling their children. But this is less because of a lack of scruples and more due to ignorance and poverty.


The countries of Southeast Asia have a very high number of victims of child prostitution. According to UNICEF approximately one million children are forced to prostitution.


Vietnam ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on February 28, 1990, and has undertaken to protect children against all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse, including the abduction of children into prostitution in other countries. Since 1996, raids have regularly be made on pleasure establishments such as bars and discotheques, with strict regulations imposed on their operation. According to newspaper reports, high-ranking military personnel and party functionaries have contributed to the increasing cases of prostitution.


HIV / Aids

With the spread of prostitution, there are also fears of an increase in the frequency of HIV and AIDS. According to estimates by UNAIDS and the World Health Organization there were some 290,000 people in Vietnam who were infected with HIV in 2007, including 76.000 women. How many children were infected, could not be estimated. In the same year, 20.000 Vietnamese died following HIV infection.  


In common with many other Asian countries, there is a widespread belief in Vietnam that sexual intercourse with a virgin has a rejuvenating and revitalising effect. As a result, more and more children are being forced into prostitution. This development is also linked to the common misconception that children have less risk of infection from HIV. Of course, this is not the case. Indeed, particularly when children have a weakened immune system as a result of poverty, the risk of infection is high, all the more so since forced sexual intercourse with adults not only leads to mental harm, but also serious physical injury.


Local Contacts


Terre des hommes Germany, Co-ordination Vietnam

Mr. Nguyen Te The

38, Tu Xuong Street, District 3

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Phone +84-8-9 325 492

Fax +84 8-8 222 157




Save the Children UK - Vietnam Office

c/o La Thanh Hotel

218 Doi Can

Ba Dinh District

Hanoi, Viet Nam

Phone: +84 4 832 5319

Fax: +84 4 832 5073



Save the Children Sweden - South East Asia Regional Office

6 Ton That Thiep Street, Ba Dinh

District, Hanoi Viet Nam

Phone: +84 4 823 2393

Fax: +84 4 823 2394



Main contact person(s): Le Thi Minh Thi (



State and society

According to its constitution of April 1992, Vietnam is a socialist republic. Head of state is the State President. Executive power is represented by a Council of Ministers under the Prime Minister. A National Assembly elects both the state president and the ministers. The state party is the Communist Party of Vietnam.

Vietnam has been reunited since 1976. Although the standard of living has improved, In 1995 half the population were below the poverty level. There are still considerable differences between standards of living in the towns and cities, and the 80 per cent of the population living in the countryside. But even for the urban population the incomes are not sufficient to feed a family.

A quarter of a century after the end of the Vietnam War, the population is still suffering from the consequences of deforestation. Children are frequently born with physical and mental handicaps.

More than 85 per cent of the population are Vietnamese, who are traditionally Buddhist. They mostly live in the lowlands. There are also ethnic minorities living in the highlands, such as the Miao, Moung, mountain tribes (Montagnards), and in the south Cham, Khmer and Chinese. 



Work began on the reconstruction of the industrial infrastructure in 1975. Today the country exports rice, rubber, coffee, and tea. Other important sources of foreign currency are textiles and handicrafts. After the collapse of the planned economy, Vietnam has moved step by step to a market economy. The reforms in the course of "Doi Moi" - the policy of opening - stimulated trade, manufacturing and farming. Meanwhile the reform process has ground to a halt.