Showing posts with label Vietnamese. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Vietnamese. Show all posts

March 8, 2020

Vietnamese Homemade Animated Video in How To Protect Yourself~ Funny!







Hanoi: A home made animated video featuring a catchy vietnamese song
spreading awareness about precautionary measures to fend-off the deadly coronavirus outbreak has taken over the internet with by storm.
Cribbing the tune from pop song Jealous - or Ghen in Vietnamese - by singers Erik and Min, the Ministry of Health released an animated video with lyrics telling its citizens to ''push back the virus Corona, Corona.'' The song is also available on YouTube, titled, ''Trung tam Thanh thieu nien mien Nam - SYC''.  

January 22, 2020

Get To Know How A Vietnamese Boy Became a Slave in a Cannabis Farm







This is a page from BBC
It was a horrifying death for the 39 Vietnamese nationals found in the back of a trailer in an industrial park in Essex, in October last year. The story shone a light on the subterranean world of people smuggling and human trafficking, reports Cat McShane, specifically the thriving route between Vietnam and the UK. 
Ba is slight for 18. His body shrinks into a neat package as he recalls his experiences. We're sitting in a brightly lit kitchen, a Jack Russell dog darting between us under the table. Ba's foster mum fusses in the background, making lunch and occasionally interjecting to clarify or add some detail to his account of his journey here from Vietnam. She wants to make sure his story is understood.
Ba's lived here for nearly a year. He was placed with his foster parents after being found wandering, confused and scared, around a train station in the North of England, with just the clothes he was wearing. "You feel safe now though, don't you?" his foster mum asks, needing affirmation that the mental and physical scars Ba wears will heal with enough care.
His story is one both extraordinary, and typical of the growing number of Vietnamese men and women recognised as being potential victims of trafficking in the UK. For several years, Vietnamese have been one of the top three nationalities featured in modern slavery cases referred to the National Crime Agency, with 702 cases in 2018

Chart showing main nationalities referred to National Referral Mechanism in 2018
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The Salvation Army, which supports all adult victims of modern slavery in the UK, says the number of Vietnamese nationals referred to them over the last five years has more than doubled. It's estimated 18,000 people make the journey from Vietnam to Europe each year
Ba believes it was a Chinese gang that trafficked him to the UK. He was kidnapped off the streets of Ho Chi Minh City, where he was a street child, an orphan who slept in the bend of a sewage pipe. He sold lottery tickets for money, although older men sometimes beat him and grabbed his takings.
2017 Unicef report described Ho Chi Minh City as "a source location, place of transition and destination of child trafficking". And a 2018 report by anti-trafficking charities said numerous trafficked Vietnamese children had reported being abducted while living on the streets.
That's what happened to Ba. "An older man told me that if I came with him, he could help me earn a lot of money. But when I said no, he put a bag over my head. I couldn't believe what was happening," he says. He was then bundled into a small van, bound as well as blindfolded, his shouts stifled.
Somewhere along the way, Ba's captors changed, and now he couldn't understand the language they spoke. When they finally came to a standstill and the bag was removed, Ba found himself in a large, empty, windowless warehouse in China, and was told to wait. "I knew they were preparing to send me somewhere to work," he says.

Vietnamese boy in warehouse

During the months that Ba was held there, a guard regularly beat him. "I don't know why," Ba says with a shrug, "there was no reason." When he was caught trying to escape, his punishment was far worse than kicks and punches - the guard poured scalding water over his chest and arms. 
"It was agony. I was shouting at him to stop but he didn't listen," he says. Ba became unconscious with the pain. "I just lay still for days. I couldn't walk. It was painful for a very long time." 
His foster mum adds that his scarred skin is tight all over his body, and a permanent reminder of what happened to him.

Quotebox: I kept telling myself to keep eating, keep working and two wait for the opportunity to run away

Ba was then moved to the UK in a succession of trucks. He remembers the silence of the final container, where the human cargo hid among boxes. The quiet was broken only by the rustling of cardboard being ripped up, to be used as insulation from the gnawing cold. His long-sleeved top offered little protection.
"I was always scared on the journey, and very tired. I couldn't sleep because I was so worried. I didn't know what was happening to me. I wasn't told anything about where I was going."
In fact, Ba was destined to work as a "gardener" in the UK's illegal cannabis trade - which is valued at around £2.6bn a year. In an abandoned two-storey house surrounded by woodland, he was locked-up and told to look after the plants that grew on every available surface. It was a mundane vigil of switching lights on and off over the plants at set times and watering them every few hours.
But it was also punctuated by violence. When a plant failed, Ba was starved and kicked by a Chinese boss, who would aim for the burns on his chest.
Ba never received any payment for his work, and wasn't told he was earning to pay off his fare to the UK. He was a slave.
"How did I keep going? I kept telling myself to keep eating, keep working and to wait for the opportunity to run away," he says.
He finally escaped by smashing an upstairs window and jumping to the ground. Then he ran for as long as he could.

Boy running on railway line

"I was frightened, depressed and panicking. If I had been caught I would have been beaten even worse," Ba says. But he had to take that risk because his life in the cannabis farm was "unbearable".
With no idea what direction to head in, he followed the path of a train line. He only had a packet of biscuits to eat. "I didn't even know I was in England."
The train line, predictably, led him to a train station - and to what was for him a very happy meeting with British Transport Police. "It had been a long time since anyone had been nice to me," he says. 
Ba has now settled into British life. He recently won a prize at college for his grades, and celebrated his first Christmas. He'd never unwrapped a present before. The translator who met Ba when he was taken into police custody says the transformation is remarkable. She recalls how skinny and scared he was. "Like a rabbit in the headlights," adds his foster dad.
Ba doesn't know whether he'll be allowed to stay in the UK. His last meeting at the Home Office to discuss his application for asylum didn't go well. The official tried to persuade him that if he returned to Vietnam he'd be helped by the authorities, which Ba finds impossible to believe. 
He is sure that if he is sent back, he will be trafficked again. That's a worry shared by Vietnamese trafficking expert Mimi Vu, who says that people who have been trafficked and returned are at serious risk of being re-trafficked, especially if their traffickers claim they owe them money. 
It's the quiet that Ba likes about the tiny hamlet he lives in, filled with old stone cottages and sprawling bungalows. Crowds make him anxious; he's scared he'll see the man who held him captive in the cannabis farm and kicked his injured chest. 

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Chinh's scared too, but not of the people who smuggled him here to the UK. He's scared of the Vietnamese authorities.
These fears are grounded in bitter experience. The 17-year-old was forced to leave Vietnam early in 2019 to escape a 10-year prison sentence for distributing anti-government literature door-to-door. "I didn't think I would come out alive," he says.
There are harsh punishments for people who criticize Vietnam's Communist government. In a report last week, Human Rights Watch said that at least 30 activists and dissidents were sentenced to prison in 2019 "simply for exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of expression, association, and religion". That even includes writing something deemed anti-government on Facebook; Amnesty International says at least 16 people were arrested, detained or convicted in 2019 for this offense.
"[The year] 2019 was a brutal year for basic freedoms in Vietnam," Human Rights Watch's Asia director, Brad Adams, commented. "The Vietnamese government claims that its citizens enjoy the freedom of expression, but this 'freedom' disappears when it is used to call for democracy or to criticize the ruling Communist Party."
Chinh's arrest was due to his family's membership in Vietnam's Hoa Hao Buddhist community. The religion is recognized by the government but there are many groups that don't follow the state-sanctioned branch, and these are monitored and forcefully suppressed by the authorities. It's the same for other unapproved religious groups. Human Rights Watch says followers are detained, interrogated, tortured, forced to renounce their faith and imprisoned "in the national interest".
Chinh lived in Hai Duong, a city in northern Vietnam. His dream, along with millions of other teenage boys and girls, was to be a footballer, and he avidly followed the Portuguese star, Cristiano Ronaldo. But he was also happily working on his mum's household goods stall when he wasn't at school. He was very close to her, and to his grandfather, who lived with them. 

Map of Vietnam and China

In 2018 Chinh attended a demonstration with his grandfather. He recalls his nerves in the morning and the flags of 100 people waving in the wind as they chanted, calling for freedom of religion and the release of political prisoners. After that, Chinh struggles. "I find talking about that day very difficult," he says. Chinh's grandfather was arrested and sent to prison, where he died not long after. "When we visited him, he looked very weak," Chinh says. 
According to Amnesty International, jailed activists are at risk of torture and other ill-treatment. Vietnamese prisons are reported to be unsanitary, with inmates denied adequate access to medical care, clean water, and fresh air. 

Quotebox: My mum's last words were - 'Go over there, find someone to help you, and never come back'

His grandfather's treatment spurred Chinh to continue protesting but in early 2019 he too was arrested, for distributing flyers. He was held in a small, narrow cell for 10 hours and questioned alone. His faith helped to get him through, he says.
"Of course, I was scared. The police would come to the cell and question me about my family and why I had anti-government literature. They shouted at me when I didn't answer. I was very scared they might hit me." In court, he wasn't allowed to defend himself, convicted, and told his sentence would start when he turned 18. His mum then raised the money to pay an agent to smuggle him to the UK.
"My mum's last words were, 'Go over there, find someone to help you, and never come back.'"
At the airport, she handed him over to two agents, who kept his passport. "We got lots of flights and stayed at people's houses until we got to France," Chinh says. He hasn't a clue what countries he passed through, apart from Malaysia and Greece.

vietnamese boy being smuggled into the UK by lorry

In France, one night, he was put into a lorry container. There was only one other man inside, but they didn't speak until they arrived in the UK, terrified of alerting a border official to their presence.
"It was very cold and it was very difficult to breathe because it was a confined, small space," Chinh says. "I was lying on top of boxes piled up high on the lorry, almost to the top, so I only just had enough room to lie down. It was very dark. I just slept. I had nothing with me - no food, no water."
When the lorry finally stopped, Chinh was taken to a Vietnamese family, who fed him and gave him a bed for the night. "I can get you somewhere safe," his host said.
In the morning, Chinh was left outside the local Home Office building with a piece of paper showing his name and date of birth.

Vietnamese boy outside Home Office

He remembers how strange he felt because he couldn't speak English. But he felt safe, he says, "because I was in the UK". The Home Office has recently granted him refugee status, which entitles him to remain in the UK for five years. Then a decision will be taken on whether he can remain indefinitely. 
Chinh was lucky. His mum was able to pay his passage in advance.
When the bodies of 39 Vietnamese nationals were found in Essex last year, it was reported that these were economic migrants from some of the poorest regions in Vietnam, who had taken out loans of up to £30,000 in order to get here. Family houses had been used as security and they would have been obliged to pay off their passage once here, by working illegally in cannabis farms, nail bars and restaurants.
We may never know what the 39 people found in Essex had been promised, but it's likely that some of them would have ended up in slave-like conditions.
Jakub Sobik from Anti Slavery International says that Vietnamese people who have taken out loans to pay for their journey here are more vulnerable to being exploited.
"They start their journey believing they have paid to be smuggled in the search for a better life, but end up being victims of trafficking.
"The extent that they have to hide from the authorities makes it easy for traffickers. It is an offence to be here and they can't risk being deported to Vietnam with huge amounts of money owed over their heads."

Short presentational grey line
BBC Briefing

Some of the data in this article is drawn from BBC Briefing, a mini-series of downloadable in-depth guides to the big issues in the news, with input from academics, researchers and journalists. It is the BBC's response to audiences demanding a better explanation of the facts behind the headlines.

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While males are typically siphoned off into cannabis factories, Vietnamese women are at risk of sexual exploitation. I have read an account given by a boy of 15, who said that while working in a cannabis factory he could hear the screams of women downstairs. He believed they were being sexually abused. 
A young single mum, Amy, was raped on many occasions during her journey to the UK, and again after her arrival until a health worker identified her as a potential victim of trafficking.
She had been excited to leave the family farm with her sister back in 2013, she told the charity that eventually started looking after her in the UK.
Two men had convinced her family to send the girls abroad to earn money. There was no upfront fee, so they would need to work to pay the fare. Amy left her young son with an uncle. 
She was trafficked first to a clothes factory in Russia, where she worked for 10 to 12 hours a day without pay. She slept in a small room with about 10 other people, where she was raped repeatedly by the male workers.
After two years, she and eight others were taken overland to the UK and told that if they worked hard they would be paid. Instead, after waking up alone in the lorry that brought them across the Channel (the traffickers had left her behind for reasons that are unclear) she was sucked into a fresh world of exploitation. She ended up being forced into prostitution in the home of a Vietnamese couple, which doubled as a cannabis farm.
It was only after becoming pregnant, and getting arrested in a raid on the house, that a midwife noticed that something was wrong and referred Amy to the National Crime Agency as an apparent victim of modern slavery. Then the Salvation Army found her a place in a refuge.
Now she's a mum again, focused on doing the best for her baby. 
Chinh is living with a foster family. He is working hard on his English - and even the local Northern slang - and he remains a practicing Buddhist. His 18th birthday, the day he would have been jailed, is fast approaching.
Ba still suffers nightmares and flashbacks to his time in the hands of traffickers. He is waiting nervously for a decision on whether he will be granted asylum. But he recently started counseling, and day by day, under the loving care of his foster mum and dad, he is beginning to feel safer.
The names Ba, Chinh, and Amy are aliases
Illustrations by Emma Russell

June 26, 2017

Singapore Resist While Vietnam is Become One of The Most LGBT Friendly Countries in Asia


 Vietnam Celebrates under the rain





LGBT rights in the global financial capital are murky at best, while Vietnam has been pegged as one of the most LGBT-friendly countries in Asia.

A global metropole, the small, tropical island of Singapore is the hub of crypto-capitalism: a country flanked by towering skyscrapers that boast of "progress" and "advancement," but where fighting for LGBT rights is still a tall order.
While queer marriages are prohibited, changing one’s gender is allowed — underscoring the country’s schizophrenic policies with regards to sexual rights, which palter about progressivism, but leave much to be desired. 

LGBT activists are gearing up for continued challenges after the government tightened rules this year for the upcoming Pride event, limiting the celebration that is already only allowed to take place once a year.
From ambiguity about their legal rights to facing censorship in the media, the terrain of LGBT equality in the global financial capital is nonexistent at worst, and murky at best.
Legal ambiguity and inequality for LGBT Singaporeans
For bisexual lawyer Indulekshmi Rajeswari, the country “does not recognize LGBT rights at all.”
“In fact, sex between mutually consenting men is still criminalized, through the infamous section 377A of the Penal Code,” she told teleSUR.
“There are no anti-discrimination laws in any sphere, including housing, employment, healthcare and so on. LGBT couples and families live in a legal limbo,” she continued.
According to Rajeswari, while queer and trans people pay the same taxes, they are not given the same access to government housing or tax breaks that “married, heterosexual couples take for granted.”
The “vocal but small religious right and the government’s interest in maintaining the status quo”, she explained, explains why LGBT Singaporeans continue to live in a state of legal ambiguity and inequality.
“Same but Different,” the new legal guide
In this arena of muddled rights, comes Rajeswari’s new guide titled, “Same but Different: A Singapore LGBT Legal Guide for Couples & Families.” Set to release July 8, the book will help LGBT Singaporeans navigate their legal rights.
"I knew my friends were asking me because they did not know other LGBT-friendly lawyers," Rajeswari told teleSUR of her inspiration to begin the guide in November 2015.
The crowd-funded project that has a team of 18 volunteers, delves into the "legal ambiguities" surrounding marriage and cohabitation contracts, property, wills and inheritance, medical decisions and children. 
The guidebook, to be published and distributed to LGBT organizations throughout the country, will also be made available for free online, filling a "much-needed resource gap" for social workers and other LGBT advocates alike.
"For example, we could not find any publicly available guidance on what is required to change one's gender legally," pressed Rajeswari.
"This is one of the many examples of the type of legal ambiguities that LGBT people in Singapore face. It is a type of ambiguity that is often hidden or rarely discussed," she said to teleSUR.
Parties versus policies
The guidebook is to come in handy as the community faces ongoing assaults on their rights.
For the past 8 years, LGBT Singaporeans have congregated in Hong Lim Park, “the only venue in Singapore where public protests are allowed," for Pink Dot, the annual Pride rally.
But this year’s event has been mired in controversy — with recent changes to the country’s Public Order Act barring foreigners from attending.
Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam told Parliament last month that the changes were made to prevent foreigners from “advancing political causes in Singapore.”
“As a government, we don’t take a position for or against Pink Dot, but we do take a position against foreign involvement,” he had added. “The point is this is a matter for Singaporeans, Singapore companies, Singapore entities to discuss.” 
For Rajeswari, Pink Dot and other public displays of LGBT pride illuminate only a tiny reality.
“How gay-friendly or trans-friendly Singapore is, depends on who you are and what you want out of life. There are gay parties, there is a relatively vibrant scene and most people are not afraid of being arrested for being gay. If you just want to party and have a good time, Singapore might seem great to you,” she said.
“However, we are not allowed to have Pride parades (except the annual Pink Dot gathering). Freedom of speech and freedom of association is in general very curtailed, so that applies to the LGBT community too. If you want any kind of rights, then Singapore starts looking less attractive,” she added.
Vietnam, one of the most LGBT-friendly places in Asia
In contrast, elsewhere on the continent, Vietnam has emerged as one of the most LGBT-friendly country advancing on a number of fronts in the last decade, leading NBC News to say in January 2015, “On gay rights, Vietnam is now more progressive than America."
That year, its ruling Communist Party of Vietnam removed a ban on same-sex marriage and also allowed those that undergo gender reassignment surgery to register under their preferred gender. At a hearing leading up to the legalization, Deputy Minister of Health Nguyen Viet Tien proposed that same-sex marriage be made legal immediately, "As human beings, homosexuals have the same rights as everyone else to live, eat, love, and be loved," according to the Atlantic.
It was a decade prior to these achievements that Nguyen Hai Yen, searching for community and acceptance in a place still mired by homophobia and transphobia, turned to the internet.
“I became the administrator of a lesbian online forum,” Yen told NBC OUT. “The internet community was a safe space for us to meet, so we met each other and discussed things like dating or coming out.”
The year was 2004, and while there was an emerging network of online forums and websites for lesbians, gay men, gay teens and transgender women that had a large following, they remained separate and disconnected.
“The issue of rights for the broader LGBTQ community was never mentioned,” said Yen.
But things changed in 2008, when the Institute for Studies of Society, Economics and Environment, a civil society organization in Hanoi, invited Yen and other online forum administrators to discuss the idea of building a more focused community.
“iSEE decided it should be the community’s voice that brought up their own issues,” Yen explained. 
March for marriage equality in 2015.
Just a few, short years later, Vietnam is set to celebrate its fifth year of pride celebrations in 36 provinces across the country.
“The first generation of leaders is now in their late 20s or 30s,” iSEE Chairman Le Quang Binh said. “They are (now) building the second generation of leaders … (who) are young, passionate, committed and daring.”
Still, despite the progress, the LGBTQ community still has its fair share of challenges that stem from deep-seated prejudices against them. But the movement fighting that has left even those involved with it for years, stunned. 
“The LGBTQ movement in Vietnam has had this really strange and unprecedented opportunity to grow so fast — it is head spinning,” Nga L.H. Nguyen, who joined the movement four years ago and is now on the organizing board of Viet Pride, told NBC OUT.
LGBT Singapore resists
Back in Singapore, Rajeswari is hopeful, recounting victories elsewhere in the region. Despite the battles, she notes the resilience of her communities.
“We have an LGBT-affirming counseling agency, Oogachaga, who do the very important work of helping LGBT people with their mental health and also work related to safe sex. We have organizations such as Sayoni, a queer women’s group, which does a lot of advocacy and welfare work,” she said. “This is not an exhaustive list, but we do indeed have a vibrant scene with lots of group working on their individual concerns.”
“(Our) community continues to be resilient by creating resources to help empower the community,” she told teleSUR.

January 8, 2015

Vietnam Abolishes Ban on Same Sex Marriage




Photographer: Hoang Dinh Nam/AFP/Getty Images
This picture taken on Aug. 3, 2014 shows some same-sex couples sitting in the compound... Read More
Vietnam taking the lead in gay rights in Southeast Asia by abolishing a ban on same-sex marriage has medical doctor Thuan Nguyen planning a wedding ceremony with his boyfriend of two years. 
“I am ready to have a wedding,” he said. “Many, many young people in love are optimistic about the acceptance of gay weddings.” 
The revised law, while not officially recognizing same-sex marriage, places the communist country at the forefront of countries in Asia becoming more accepting of gay people. The National Assembly’s move is expected to attract more lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender travelers and boost Vietnam’s $9 billion tourismindustry. 
“This makes Vietnam a leader in Asia,” Jamie Gillen, a researcher of culture geography at National University of Singapore, said by phone. “Singapore just reaffirmed its ban on homosexual behaviors. Vietnam is trying to pitch itself as a tolerant and safe country.” 

Abolished Fines 

Vietnam’s new marriage law, which went into effect New Year’s Day, abolished regulations that “prohibit marriage between people of the same sex.” 
Same-sex marriages can now take place, though the government does not recognize them or provide legal protections in cases of disputes. The government abolished fines that were imposed on homosexual weddings in 2013. 
No other country in Southeast Asia has taken as big a step toward accepting same-sex marriage as Vietnam, Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said by phone. 
In Thailand, efforts to address same-sex laws have stalled since the ascent of the military government in May, while Cambodia, Burma and Laos have not put the issue on its legislative agenda, he said. The Philippines is considering laws to ban same-sex marriage. Indonesia and Malaysiahave “entrenched discriminatory views” against homosexuals and in Brunei, “the new penal code sets out that those seeking to be involved in gay marriage could face whippings and long prison sentences,” Robertson said. 

Foreign Visitors 

Vietnam, which looks to boost an economy that has expanded less than 7 percent annually for seven consecutive years, reduced visa requirements for seven Asian and European countries Jan. 1 to make the country more attractive to overseas tourists. Foreign visitors to Vietnam are estimated to have increased to 7.9 million last year from 7.6 million in 2013, according to government data. 
“It is getting out that Vietnam is a more friendly place” toward gay people, John Goss, director of Utopia Asia, a gay resources website based in Bangkok, said by phone. “Gays in Vietnam are certainly becoming more open. It has not ruffled any feathers as it might in some other countries in Southeast Asia. It will have a positive effect on tourism.” 
Vietnam is already seeing an influx of LGBT travelers from abroad, said Nguyen Anh Tuan, owner of Gay Hanoi Tours, which has seen bookings increase by as much as 50 percent in the past year. 
The new law “indicates to everyone that Vietnam is opening up more and welcomes everyone,” he said. “Vietnam is changing very quickly. There are bigger gay communities and gay events.” 

Tourism Impact 

Twenty-nine percent of the LGBT community in the U.S. take at least five leisure trips a year, according to research by San Francisco-based Community Marketing Inc. The community generates $100 billion in tourism business in the U.S. alone and many make overseas trips, according to the company. Forty-eight percent of gay households have annual incomes of at least $75,000, it said in its 2014 tourism survey. 
“Many of them have double incomes,” Goss said. “Gay travel tends to be recession-proof.” 
Vietnam’s lawmakers, who initially considered recognizing same-sex marriage, believed the country wasn’t ready for it, said Luong The Huy, legal officer at the Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment in Hanoi, a Vietnamese non-governmental organization that advocates for minority rights. 
“They say the society in Vietnam needs some time to accept gay and lesbians in general,” he said. The revision in the law signals to the country that “same-sex marriage is not harmful to society,” Huy said. 

Vietnamese Perceptions 

Vietnamese perceptions of gays may also change with the December arrival of U.S. ambassador to Vietnam, Ted Osius, along with his husband, Clayton Bond, and their son, Huy said. 
“He promotes a very good image of a very successful person who is gay,” Huy said. “We could get more support from civil society in Vietnam because the American ambassador is gay.” 
Vietnam’s leaders allow gay organizations to be established and last year permitted a gay pride bicycle ride with rainbow flags in Hanoi, even as the government cracks down on political dissent, Robertson said. More than 150 Vietnamese dissidents are in detention, according to Human Rights Watch
Granting gays more freedoms is a way to blunt a bad human rights record, Joerg Wischermann, a researcher at the German Institute of Global and Area Studies, said in an e-mail. 
Nonetheless, Vietnam’s marriage law revision “is something extraordinary in a region in which many countries have deeply conservative societies,” he said. 
Nguyen, 43, the Hanoi doctor, said gay Vietnamese want to push for the legal rights marriage confers on citizens. When a gay couple ends their relationship, or if one were to die, there is no legal framework for how to split assets, he said. 
“The government doesn’t have problems with equal marriage,” Nguyen said. “It doesn’t have to do with the political system. This is determined by public opinion.” 
To contact the reporters on this story: John Boudreau in Hanoi at jboudreau3@bloomberg.net; Nguyen Dieu Tu Uyen in Hanoi at uyen1@bloomberg.net
To contact the editors responsible for this story: K. Oanh Ha at oha3@bloomberg.net Lars Klemming

December 10, 2013

American Viet-Gay Community Fight Being Marginalized by their Own


Emboldened Orange County gay rights activists demand change
Hieu Nguyen, right, a founding member of the gay rights group Viet Rainbow of Orange County, speaks with Garden Grove Mayor Pro Tem Dina Nguyen during a break in a City Council meeting in September. Hieu's group has emerged as a militant front and a platform for educating immigrants in Little Saigon, a community that rigidly clings to tradition. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times / September 10, 2013)

 

Hieu Nguyen and fellow protesters stood on the sidewalk holding signs and waving an enormous rainbow flag as the traditional Vietnamese parade passed them by.
Barred from the Lunar New Year's event — and largely ignored in their own community — members of the fledgling gay rights group decided it was time to stop playing nice.
They took training sessions with established LGBT groups, sought out legal strategy from veteran gay rights defenders Lambda Legal and attended workshops.
Now emboldened activists are flexing their muscles and demanding change in Little Saigon, a sprawling immigrant community that has dragged its feet on coming to terms with basic gay rights issues.
"This is not the Rosa Parks era," said Nguyen, a Garden Grove social worker. "I'm not sitting at the back of the bus anymore."
The newly formed Viet Rainbow has emerged as a militant front and a platform for educating immigrants in a community that rigidly clings to tradition.
There is a chapter for parents. There is a scholarship for LGBT students. And there is a resolve to march in the upcoming annual Tet parade.
When organizers of the colorful celebration, which winds along the main boulevard in Little Saigon, put Viet Rainbow on notice that LGBT individuals would also be barred from the Feb. 2, 2014, parade, supporters warned that their exclusion this time would come at a price.
Peter Renn, an attorney at Lambda Legal, which has spent decades fighting for LGBT causes, said banning the group could be a financial bloodletting for organizers once gay rights leaders put pressure on sponsors.
"This issue isn't going to go away. Organizers will be called out. They will hear the demands — there's no way to avoid it," Renn said.
"This blatant act of discrimination will not be left unchallenged," added Wilson Cruz, spokesman for the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. "If Tet parade leaders want to truly celebrate this day, they must do so by acknowledging and celebrating with the entire community."
Still, it may be an uphill struggle.
Some leaders in Little Saigon, which stretches across central Orange County and is the largest Vietnamese American community in the nation, suggested that some immigrants are not ready to welcome LGBT men and women, especially when they openly show affection.
"I counseled them. I told them that when they carry banners, when they position gay rights as human rights … that this issue is too new for the community," said Hung P. Nguyen, a member of the South Vietnamese Marines Veteran Charities Assn., which cosponsored the 2013 parade.
"Don't impose," he said. "The reaction of the community will be to strike back."
At the core of the impasse, some cultural experts said, was a set of customs drawn from Confucianism, including the belief that a person should sacrifice his life, if necessary, to uphold his traditional views on morality.
Parade organizers were furious last winter when members of the then-fledgling Partnership of Viet LGBT Organizations took them to court in an effort to force their way into the event. The rights group lost, but organizers said they were left to pay thousands in legal bills.
"We respect their choice, but this is not our tradition," Ha Son Tran, vice president of the Vietnamese American Federation of Southern California, said before the start of the 2013 parade. Gay rights, he added, are "not like freedom of speech."
Tracy Nguyen doesn't see it that way. She joined Viet Rainbow because her son is gay and she wanted to stand with him.
"I tell them: 'Consider us your parents. We care about how you feel.' I am very protective of them because I've seen that demeaning look they get from community elders," she said. "No one should be viewed that way."
After being forced from the 2013 parade, gay rights organizers in Little Saigon dug in by forming Viet Rainbow of Orange County and training with the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance. The group is applying for nonprofit status and has been coached on how to recruit members and raise money.
"With the Viet groups, we're still not there yet," said Cathy Lam, a Vietnamese American Nongovernmental Organization Network staffer who advised Viet Rainbow members. "We're still dealing with adults who say, 'If I hang out with you guys, would I eventually become gay?'
"Many people in the community think it's a disease," Lam said. "They don't know the role biology plays in our lives."
Hieu Nguyen, the Viet Rainbow leader, said his team was focusing on advocacy and pushing for inclusion in cultural and community events.
"We can have our own parade, but that's not the point," he said.
"The point is coming together as a community. We're not less than — we're part of this community. And for a long time, we were silent. But not anymore.”

By Anh Do

 



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