Vietnam prepares rules limiting news publication on social media accounts

The Vietnamese government is planning to introduce new regulations controlling social media users’ news content to strengthen information sources of content and distribution within Vietnam.

Although the precise details of the regulation have not been officially finalized, the rules are expected to be made public by the end of 2022. This will affect the dissemination of information on social media platform such as Facebook and Youtube, both of which account for more than 90% of Vietnam’s social media usage. This builds on the government’s qualification guidelines, introduced in July 2022, which sought to distinguish between real and fake news. These are expected to be assimilated into the new regulation at the end of the year.

Twitter Inc, Meta Platforms Inc, Alphabet Inc’s Google, and Youtube have not responded to any comments on the increased regulations. TikTok released a statement assuring users that any content violation will be based on its guidelines and the enforced laws, but did not respond to Vietnam’s rules directly. These new rules may be viewed as the government’s plan to fix misconceptions of users who thought that some social media accounts are official news agencies.

The new regulations will allow the Vietnamese government to limit the information flow within the country, identifying the source of materials and limiting who is able to post on behalf of news sources, enabling the government to control what the Vietnamese see and what can be disemminated through social media platforms.

Thai Prime Minister resumes duties after court lifts suspension

On 30 September, The Thai Constitutional Court decided that Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha has not exceeded his eight-years term limit, allowing him to resume his duties from 3 October.

The petition that was filed by the opposition party in August to review the Prime Minister’s term limit had been voted by the court with 6–3 voting in favor of Prayuth. The decision was based on the fact that the Prime Minister officially started his term in April 2017 after the new Thai constitution came into force, not in 2014 during the military coup. This means Prayuth can serve until 2025 if he wins the general election next year.   

After the ruling, Prayuth took to social media expressing his respect, support, and pledge to work harder for the people of Thailand in the future. Some believed the court decision produced the best long term outcome as it avoids instability in the country. However, others gathered for demonstrations arguing that, despite the ruling, Prayuth used all means to retain power despite promises not to.

Following the controversy, Prime Minister Prayuth resumed his duties. These events, however, will undoubtedly have an impact on next year’s election.

Mask mandate in Southeast Asia

Wearing masks has been one of the means to slow down the spread of COVID-19. In Southeast Asia, policies mandating wearing protective masks varies differently, in particular relating to when mandates are lifted.

In Brunei, the decision to lift mandatory outdoor masks was lifted in April due to the population’s high vaccination rate while wearing masks is still required for outdoor events and public buildings. For the same reason, the Cambodian Prime Minister also lifted the mandatory mask requirement for public space in late April. However, it is still a vital obligation to wear a mask indoors, especially in crowded places or buildings.

Indonesia’s President Widodo dropped the outdoor mask mandate in May excluding elders, patients, and indoor activities. Those who showed a negative pre-departure COVID-19 test result will be exempted from wearing a protective mask as well. Laos is, however, still uncertain as to when to drop their outdoor mask requirement, despite the full reopening of borders in May to save its tourist industry. Myanmar, in addition, is still currently imposing strict regulations, from fines to jail sentences, on wearing a protective face mask outdoors or in public spaces as social gathering are still prohibited in the country.

Reports have shown that lifting the mask requirement in other countries has not increased the COVID-19 infection rates, but some states remain hesitant to lift mandates. the Philippines lifted its requirement for outdoor masks in September with the indoor mask mandate to be lifted at the end of the year as more of population receiving their booster shots. Singapore and Malaysia moved even further, lifting their indoor mask mandate in late August and early September. However, public transport and healthcare facilities are excluded from the new regulation where masks remain mandatory. Furthermore, wearing masks is still compulsory for those who are ill and for COVID-19 patients. Owners of each premise can choose whether wearing masks are required in their facility.   

Thailand had lifted both indoor and outdoor mask mandates since June as the improvement of the COVID-19 situation in the country has improved allowing both social and economic activities to resume. In Vietnam, the government has listed public areas where masks are no longer mandatory such as markets, theaters, parks, stadiums, and restaurants. Wearing masks is still required for patients with respiratory issues and in transactional venues such as cultural, tourist, and traditional markets, and other trading centers.  

Concerns continue in countries such as the Philippines and Singapore over dropping mask mandates believing that continuous health protection and preventing illness by wearing masks is a primary policy consideration. In Vietnam, dropping the mask mandate was believed to be the right decision to move back to the pre-COVID-19 era. While Cambodia has dropped their mask mandate, they are rolling out the fifth COVID-19 vaccine dose to maintain the population’s immunity.

These policy changes indicate the region’s attempt to navigate the post-COVID-19 era. Although the mask mandate is being dropped throuhgout the region, governments in the region will continue to observe infection rates to manage any potential change in the future.


Sovinda Po is a Research Assistant at the Griffith Asia Institute.