Vietnamese culture and praxis tend to privilege mediation over frontal litigation.
This means that having a legal entity in Vietnam or at least someone representing the creditor on the ground would make an enormous difference, at least where there is room for negotiations.
Business culture and legal aspects thereafter in Vietnam are at the same time extremely flexible and extremely formal, almost to the point of pedantry.
Having, not just for evidentiary purposes, but also for substantial ones, a properly drafted, clear, written agreement, validly signed and stamped on behalf of both parties by persons who are registered in the commercial or companies register with signatory power for such party is fundamental.
Ideally, such written agreement should contain clear indications on the calculation of the debt (consideration, calculation of interests and damages etc.), as well a properly drafted clause on governing law and jurisdiction.
Any other written evidence that documents business relationships can be useful.
It is also important to note that, for the sake of avoiding the triggering of prescription or simply of formalistic excuses by the debtor, payment reminders and warning letters by the creditor prior to the appointment of the latter’s lawyer should be sent by the creditor’s legal representative to the debtor’s legal representative.
Evidently, in order to reduce or even eliminate the risk of non-payment, the creditor can (try to) insist on advance payments, require the debtor to provide collaterals or guarantees, insist on joint and several liability, provide for payment by a letter of credit etc..
Furthermore it may be helpful to perform a simple credit check, although company databases in Vietnam are not as accurate as in other Countries. However, very basic searches, such as on where the counterparty is based (in a residential area? In a deprived village?), or on its reputation within its industry, or even if it is listed on the local stock exchange or has an international management, could save the creditor from an ill-fated business.
Finally, should all other procedures fail, it is advisable to resort to arbitration (naturally a proper arbitration clause should be drafted beforehand in the written contract), as Vietnam is a signatory to the New York Convention on the recognition of foreign arbitral awards. Vietnam is furthermore home to various international arbitration centres, such as the eponymous Vietnam International Arbitration Centre, where foreign arbitrators render their services.
In case no arbitration clause is (validly) included in the contract, internal norms on governing jurisdiction will apply and it will be essential to determine whether Vietnamese courts have jurisdiction over the case.