US embassy cable - 00HOCHIMINHCITY838

AMERASIANS SHOW SIGNS OF ASSIMILATION INTO VIETNAMESE SOCIETY

Identifier: 00HOCHIMINHCITY838
Wikileaks: View 00HOCHIMINHCITY838 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Consulate Ho Chi Minh City
Created: 2000-05-17 08:56:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Tags: PREF PGOV SOCI CA VM PCUL
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

170856Z May 00

2000HOCHI00838 - UNCLASSIFIED
 
 
 
                           UNCLASSIFIED     PTQ5647

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ACTION EAP-00   

INFO  LOG-00   NP-00    AID-00   CIAE-00  DODE-00  SRPP-00  DS-00    
      ED-01    FBIE-00  UTED-00  VC-01    HHS-01   H-01     SSA-01   
      TEDE-00  INR-00   IO-00    L-00     AC-01    NSAE-00  NSCE-00  
      OMB-01   OPIC-01  PA-00    PM-00    PRS-00   ACE-00   P-00     
      SP-00    TRSE-00  USIE-00  FMP-00   R-00     PMB-00   DSCC-00  
      PRM-01   DRL-02   G-00     NFAT-00  SAS-00     /011W
                  ------------------57D37C  170857Z /38    
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 2952
INFO AMEMBASSY HANOI 
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 HO CHI MINH CITY 000838 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR PRM, EAP/BCLTV 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PREF, PGOV, SOCI, CA, VM, PCUL 
SUBJECT: AMERASIANS SHOW SIGNS OF ASSIMILATION INTO VIETNAMESE SOCIETY 
 
 
1.  SUMMARY: IN THE YEARS FOLLOWING THE VIETNAM WAR, 
VIETNAMESE SOCIETY SHUNNED AMERASIANS AND CONSIGNED MANY 
OF THEM TO LIVE ON THE STREETS IN ABJECT POVERTY. OVER THE 
PAST TWENTY-FIVE YEARS, HOWEVER, THEIR SITUATION SEEMS TO 
HAVE IMPROVED. RECENT INFORMATION SUGGESTS THAT MOST 
VIETNAMESE NOW TREAT AMERASIANS NO DIFFERENTLY THAN OTHER 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 02        HO CHI  00838  01 OF 03  170856Z 
VIETNAMESE. END SUMMARY. 
 
"CON LAI MY" 
------------ 
 
2.  AMERASIANS IN VIETNAM ARE KNOWN AS "CON LAI MY," WHICH 
ROUGHLY TRANSLATES TO "MIXED-BLOOD AMERICAN."  IN THE WAKE 
OF THE AMERICAN WITHDRAWAL FROM VIETNAM, AMERASIANS AND 
THEIR MOTHERS BECAME THE TARGET OF POLITICAL, ECONOMIC, 
AND SOCIAL DISCRIMINATION.  MANY VIETNAMESE OSTRACIZED 
THEM FROM THEIR FAMILIES AND COMMUNITIES.  IN ADDITION, 
THE GOVERNMENT FORCIBLY RELOCATED MANY OF THEM, ALONG WITH 
THEIR MOTHERS, TO "NEW ECONOMIC ZONES" WHERE THEY LIVED 
UNDER CONDITIONS OF SEVERE HARDSHIP.  THE GOVERNMENT ALSO 
DENIED MANY AMERASIANS ACCESS TO IDENTITY PAPERS AND OTHER 
DOCUMENTS CRITICAL FOR INTEGRATION INTO CIVIL SOCIETY. 
 
3.  THE U.S. CONGRESS RECOGNIZED THE DIRE PLIGHT OF 
AMERASIANS WHEN IT PASSED THE AMERASIAN HOMECOMING ACT IN 
1987.  AS REPORTED IN THE ACT'S LEGISLATIVE HISTORY, MANY 
"AMERASIAN CHILDREN ARE REPORTEDLY INELIGIBLE FOR RATION 
CARDS AND OFTEN BEG IN THE STREETS, PEDDLE BLACK MARKET 
WARES, OR PROSTITUTE THEMSELVES."  THE HISTORY ALSO NOTES 
THAT "THE MOTHERS OF AMERASIAN CHILDREN IN VIETNAM ARE NOT 
ELIGIBLE FOR GOVERNMENT JOBS OR EMPLOYMENT IN GOVERNMENT 
ENTERPRISES AND MANY ARE ESTRANGED FROM THEIR FAMILIES AND 
ARE DESTITUTE."  THE ACT ALLOWS AMERASIANS (DEFINED AS "AN 
ALIEN WHO WAS BORN IN VIETNAM AFTER JANUARY 1, 1962 AND 
BEFORE JANUARY 1, 1976 AND WHO WAS FATHERED BY A CITIZEN 
OF THE UNITED STATES") AND THEIR CLOSE FAMILY MEMBERS TO 
ENTER THE UNITED STATES AS IMMIGRANTS AND RECEIVE REFUGEE 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 03        HO CHI  00838  01 OF 03  170856Z 
BENEFITS. 
 
4.  TODAY, AN UNKNOWN NUMBER OF AMERASIANS STILL LIVE IN 
VIETNAM.  APPROXIMATELY TWENTY AMERASIANS EACH WEEK APPLY 
TO THE REFUGEE RESETTLEMENT SECTION FOR ADMISSION TO THE 
UNITED STATES THROUGH THE AMERASIAN PROGRAM.  TO BETTER 
UNDERSTAND THE LIVES OF AMERASIANS TODAY, POST'S DEPUTY 
RESETTLEMENT SECTION CHIEF (REFOFF) EXAMINED THE 
APPLICATION FORMS OF RECENTLY-APPROVED AMERASIANS, 
SOLICITED INFORMATION THROUGH SURVEYS, AND INTERVIEWED 
PENDING AND PROSPECTIVE APPLICANTS. 
 
AMERASIANS APPROVED BETWEEN JANUARY AND MARCH 2000 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
 
5.  THE AVERAGE AGE OF THE SIXTY-ONE AMERASIANS APPROVED 
FOR ADMISSION TO THE UNITED STATES FROM JANUARY THROUGH 
MARCH 2000 WAS TWENTY-NINE.  FORTY-ONE WERE MARRIED, ONE 
WAS DIVORCED, ONE WAS SEPARATED AND THE REMAINING EIGHTEEN 
WERE SINGLE.  THIRTY-FOUR OF THE SIXTY-ONE AMERASIANS HAD 
AT LEAST ONE CHILD.  NEARLY ALL APPLIED AS MEMBERS OF 
FAMILY GROUPS.  INDEED, ONLY FOUR INTENDED TO GO TO THE 
UNITED STATES ALONE. 
 
6. THE INTERVIEWED AMERASIANS REPORTED A NINETY-SEVEN 
PERCENT EMPLOYMENT RATE.  THEY ARE EMPLOYED AS FOLLOWS: 
 
                    LABORER             13 
                    FARMER                    7 
                    TAILOR               7 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 04        HO CHI  00838  01 OF 03  170856Z 
                    VENDOR               7 
                    HOUSEWIFE            5 
                    BLACKSMITH                     4 
                    DRIVER               3 
                    CARPENTER            2 
                    MECHANIC             2 
                    FISHERMAN            1 
                    BAKER                1 
                    LOTTERY              1 
                    CYCLO DRIVER         1 
                    HAIR DRESSER         1 
                    LOGGER               1 
                    BRICKLAYER                     1 
                    PHOTOGRAPHER         1 
 
ONLY TWO AMERASIANS REPORTED THAT THEY WERE UNEMPLOYED. 
 
MOST AMERASIANS REPORT EQUAL TREATMENT 
-------------------------------------- 
 
7.  THIRTY-SIX OF THE SIXTY-ONE AMERASIANS SURVEYED 
REPORTED THAT, IN THE PAST TEN YEARS, THEY HAD BEEN 
TREATED NO DIFFERENTLY THAN OTHER VIETNAMESE. PHUONG THAO, 
FOR EXAMPLE, IS AN AMERASIAN WHO LIVES IN HO CHI MINH CITY 
WITH HER HUSBAND AND DAUGHTER.  SHE HAS NOT YET APPLIED 
FOR THE AMERASIAN PROGRAM.  ALTHOUGH HER MOTHER URGED HER 
TO APPLY FOR AN AMERASIAN VISA IN THE EARLY 1990S, PHUONG 
THAO CHOSE TO STAY IN VIETNAM BECAUSE SHE DID NOT WANT TO 
LEAVE HER EXTENDED FAMILY AND FRIENDS.  SHE NOW MAKES A 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 02        HO CHI  00838  02 OF 03  170857Z 
LIVING AS A SINGER. 
 
8.  IN AN EXTENDED INTERVIEW WITH REFOFF, PHUONG THAO 
RECALLED THAT WHEN SHE WAS YOUNG, OTHER CHILDREN TAUNTED 
HER BECAUSE HER FATHER WAS AMERICAN.  FURTHER, THE 
COMMUNIST YOUTH ORGANIZATION, DOAN THANH VIEN, DID NOT 
ALLOW PHUONG THAO TO JOIN.  PHUONG THAO BELIEVES THAT THIS 
EXCLUSION DISADVANTAGED HER WHEN APPLYING FOR SCHOOLS AND 
EMPLOYMENT. 
 
9. FOR PHUONG THAO, THE NAME-CALLING AND DISCRIMINATION 
ARE ONLY BAD MEMORIES FROM THE PAST.  NOW, SHE SAYS, THE 
ETHNIC VIETNAMESE TREAT HER JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE. NOT 
EVEN THE COMMUNIST PARTY IS OFF LIMITS TO HER.  IF SHE 
WANTED TO JOIN, SHE SAID, SHE COULD.  SOCIALLY, SHE IS 
TREATED AS IF SHE WERE FULLY VIETNAMESE.  FOR EXAMPLE, 
WHEN PHUONG THAO MARRIED IN 1993, HER HUSBAND'S ETHNIC 
VIETNAMESE PARENTS EASILY ACCEPTED HER INTO THE FAMILY. 
 
10.  PHUONG THAO AND HER HUSBAND ARE NOW CONSIDERING 
APPLYING FOR ADMISSION TO THE UNITED STATES THROUGH THE 
AMERASIAN PROGRAM.  THEIR INTENTION IS TO STUDY AND 
PERFORM MUSIC IN THE UNITED STATES FOR ABOUT ONE YEAR AND 
THEN RETURN TO VIETNAM.  SHE AND HER COMPOSER HUSBAND WANT 
TO SHOW THROUGH THEIR SONGS THAT THERE EXIST AMERASIANS 
"WITH AMBITION AND GOOD JOBS, THAT WE'RE THE SAME AS 
OTHERS." 
 
11.  HONG, ANOTHER AMERASIAN, SHARED MANY OF PHUONG THAO'S 
EXPERIENCES.  REFOFF VISITED HONG AT HER HOME NEAR QUI 
NHON CITY. BY THE TIME REFOFF FOUND HONG'S HOUSE LOCATED 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 03        HO CHI  00838  02 OF 03  170857Z 
AT THE EDGE OF A COMMUNITY ON THE FAR SIDE OF QUI NHON 
BAY, A GROUP OF APPROXIMATELY SEVENTY-FIVE PERSONS HAD 
FORMED AROUND HONG'S SMALL CEMENT DWELLING.  VILLAGERS 
CROWDED THE DOOR AND PRESSED AGAINST THE WINDOW'S IRON 
GRILLWORK TO LISTEN AS REFOFF INTERVIEWED HONG IN THE 
FRONT ROOM OF THE HOUSE.  HONG EXPLAINED THAT HER AMERICAN 
FATHER ABANDONED HER MOTHER WHO THEN ABANDONED HONG TO A 
FOSTER FAMILY IN QUI NHON.  SHE HAS NEVER MET OR HEARD 
FROM HER FATHER.  SHE MET HER MOTHER ONCE IN 1986 WHEN SHE 
RESURFACED TO CONVINCE HONG TO TAKE HER TO THE UNITED 
STATES.  HONG REFUSED TO GO, CHOOSING INSTEAD TO REMAIN 
WITH HER FOSTER FAMILY. 
 
12. IN 1995, HONG FINALLY DECIDED TO APPLY FOR THE 
AMERASIAN PROGRAM.  HOWEVER, THE ORDERLY DEPARTURE PROGRAM 
(ODP) REJECTED HER APPLICATION.  ACCORDING TO THE CASE 
FILE, THE ODP OFFICER DID NOT BELIEVE THAT HONG HAD A 
CREDIBLE AMERASIAN APPEARANCE.  [COMMENT:  REFOFF IS 
CONVINCED THAT HONG IS AMERASIAN.  NOT ONLY DOES HER 
ENTIRE COMMUNITY CONSIDER HER TO BE AMERASIAN, BUT BOTH 
SHE AND HER SON HAVE DISTINCTLY CAUCASIAN FACIAL FEATURES. 
ACCORDINGLY, REFOFF ENCOURAGED HONG TO REAPPLY FOR THE 
AMERASIAN PROGRAM.  END COMMENT.] 
 
13.  HONG SAID THAT HER LIFE HAS BEEN DIFFICULT, BUT SHE 
DOES NOT NECESSARILY ATTRIBUTE HER DIFFICULTIES TO HER 
AMERASIAN HERITAGE.  AS A CHILD, SHE WAS CALLED NAMES SUCH 
AS "CON LAI."  SHE SAID THAT IT SOMETIMES MADE HER SAD TO 
BE REMINDED OF HER LOST PARENTS.  CURRENTLY, HONG INSISTS 
THAT SHE IS TREATED FAIRLY AND WITHOUT REGARD TO BEING 
AMERASIAN.  SHE OWNS A SMALL BOAT AND FERRIES PEOPLE 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 04        HO CHI  00838  02 OF 03  170857Z 
ACROSS QUI NHON BAY.  HER HUSBAND IS A FISHERMAN.  SHE 
SAID THAT HER LIFE IS HARD, BUT NO HARDER THAN ANYONE 
ELSE'S. 
 
14.  TOWARD THE END OF THE INTERVIEW, LIGHT FLOODED THE 
SMALL ROOM AS THE VILLAGERS SUDDENLY PULLED AWAY FROM THE 
WINDOWS AND DISPERSED. A POLICE OFFICER AND A PLAIN- 
CLOTHED GENTLEMAN -- LATER IDENTIFIED AS THE COMMUNIST 
PARTY BLOCK WARDEN -- MARCHED INTO THE SMALL ROOM.  THE 
MEN DEMANDED THAT REFOFF IDENTIFY HIMSELF AND PRODUCE A 
LETTER OF INVITATION.  HAVING NO LETTER, REFOFF EXPLAINED 
THE PURPOSE OF THE VISIT AND INVITED THE TWO OFFICIALS TO 
JOIN IN THE DISCUSSION.  THOUGH AT FIRST RETICENT, BOTH 
THE OFFICER AND THE WARDEN ECHOED WHAT HONG HAD ALREADY 
TOLD REFOFF.  THEY CONFIRMED THAT HONG, THE ONLY AMERASIAN 
IN THE TOWN, IS TREATED BY THE GOVERNMENT AND HER 
NEIGHBORS JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE. 
 
SOME CONTINUING INSTANCES OF MISTREATMENT 
----------------------------------------- 
 
15.  OF THOSE AMERASIANS WHO REPORTED DIFFERING TREATMENT, 
THE MOST COMMON COMPLAINT WAS NAME-CALLING.  FOURTEEN OF 
THE AMERASIANS REPORTED BEING CALLED "CON LAI" OR "MY 
LAI," VIETNAMESE FOR MIXED AMERICAN, OR "MY DEN," 
VIETNAMESE FOR BLACK AMERICAN.  THE AMERASIANS REACTED 
DIFFERENTLY TO THE NAME-CALLING.  SOME, LIKE HONG, 
REPORTED FEELINGS OF SHAME OR EMBARRASMENT. OTHERS 
PERCEIVED "CON LAI" AS A TERM OF ENDEARMENT. 
 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 02        HO CHI  00838  03 OF 03  170857Z 
16.  THE NEXT MOST COMMON CONCERN OF THE AMERASIANS WAS 
JOB DISCRIMINATION, WHICH WAS REPORTED BY TEN SURVEY 
RESPONDENTS.  OF THESE, A FEW SAID THAT THEY WERE NOT 
HIRED FOR AT LEAST ONE JOB BECAUSE OF THE COLOR OF THEIR 
SKIN.  SOME REASONED THAT THEY HAD DIFFICULTY FINDING WORK 
BECAUSE THEY HAD LIMITED EDUCATIONS.  ONE, A THIRTY-TWO- 
YEAR-OLD LABORER FROM BIEN HOA, SAID THAT EMPLOYERS IN HIS 
AREA KNOW AND ACCEPT HIM, BUT WILL NOT HIRE HIM 
PERMANENTLY BECAUSE THEY ASSUME THAT ONE DAY HE WILL 
DECIDE TO LEAVE FOR THE UNITED STATES. 
 
17.  A FEW SURVEY RESONDENTS REPORTED PROBLEMS.  THREE 
COMPLAINED OF "LACK OF RESPECT," TWO CITED CONTINUING 
EFFECTS OF POOR EDUCATION, ONE CLAIMED TO BE THE VICTIM OF 
ARBITRARY ARREST AND ONE SAID SHE COULD NOT JOIN SOCIAL 
ORGANIZATIONS. 
 
COMMENT 
------- 
18.  THE INFORMATION REPORTED ABOVE, THOUGH BASED ON A 
LIMITED SAMPLE OF AMERASIANS, SUGGESTS THAT THE FORTUNES 
OF AMERASIANS MAY BE CHANGING FOR THE BETTER.  WHEN THE 
AMERASIAN HOMECOMING ACT WAS PASSED THIRTEEN YEARS AGO, 
AMERASIANS WERE THE VICTIMS OF OFFICIAL DISCRIMINATION AND 
WERE COMPELLED TO "BEG IN THE STREETS, PEDDLE BLACK MARKET 
WARES, OR PROSTITUTE THEMSELVES." BASED ON INFORMATION 
COLLECTED BY REFOFF, THIS PORTRAYAL MAY NOW BE FAR FROM 
THE TRUTH. 
 
19.  IN FACT, REFOFF DID NOT FIND A SINGLE AMERASIAN THAT 
WAS BEGGING IN THE STREETS, PEDDLING BLACK MARKET WARES, 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 03        HO CHI  00838  03 OF 03  170857Z 
OR PROSTITUTING HIM OR HERSELF.  NEARLY ALL THE AMERASIANS 
IN THE SUBJECT GROUP WERE MEMBERS OF LONG-STANDING FAMILY 
UNITS AND EMPLOYED IN LEGITIMATE JOBS OR PROFESSIONS. 
 
20.  AT THE TIME THE ACT WAS PASSED, AMERASIANS ALSO 
REPORTEDLY SUFFERED DISCRIMINATION IN THE DISTRIBUTION OF 
RATION CARDS AND IN GOVERNMENT EMPLOYMENT.  THESE ISSUES 
ARE NO LONGER RELEVANT.  THE VIETNAMESE GOVERNMENT NO 
LONGER DISTRIBUTES RATION CARDS, AND GOVERNMENT EMPLOYMENT 
IS NO LONGER NECESSARY TO MAKE A LIVING IN VIETNAM. 
FURTHER, THERE IS NO EVIDENCE THAT THE VIETNAMESE 
GOVERNMENT CURRENTLY ENGAGES IN EMPLOYMENT DISCRIMINATION 
AGAINST AMERASIANS. 
 
21.  THE INFORMATION REPORTED ABOVE SUGGESTS THAT 
AMERASIANS, NOW ALL ADULTS BETWEEN THE AGES OF 24 AND 38, 
HAVE GENERALLY ENJOYED A POSITIVE SHIFT IN SOCIAL STATUS 
SINCE THE END OF THE VIETNAM WAR. THERE IS EVIDENCE THAT 
SOME AMERASIANS CONTINUE TO EXPERIENCE MISTREATMENT.  SOME 
MISTREATMENT IS, NO DOUBT, DUE IN PART TO A CULTURAL 
AVERSION TO MIXED-BLOOD CHILDREN, COMMON IN MANY PARTS OF 
ASIA.  IT IS ALSO LIKELY THAT MANY AMERASIANS EXPERIENCE 
EMPLOYMENT DIFFICULTIES BECAUSE THEY LACKED EDUCATIONAL 
OPPORTUNITIES AS CHILDREN.  MOST AMERASIANS IN REFOFF'S 
SAMPLE, HOWEVER, APPEAR TO LEAD LIVES INDISTINGUISHABLE 
FROM OTHER VIETNAMESE. 
 
RAY 
 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
 


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