March 17, 2003
bust virgin-trafficking ring
HANOI (Deutsche Presse-Agentur) - Police in southern Vietnam have arrested three
women and one man charged with running a prostitution ring that specialized in
offering virgins and sending sex workers to Taiwan, a police official said
The bust stemmed from a March 12 raid on a hotel in Ho Chi Minh City, which
found four prostitutes with four clients, said the policeman, who declined to be
The four sex workers led police to arrest Tran Huu Mai, Nguyen Thi Hong,
Nguyen Thi Nam and Tran Ngoc Duc on charges of organizing prostitution, the
Nam toured the rural provinces surrounding Ho Chi Minh City, and promised to
find Taiwanese husbands for the young women she recruited, the policeman said.
Mai and Hong kept the women in two apartments in the southern city and
organized clients. Duc worked at a hotel and organized the liaisons between the
women and customers, policeman said.
When the girls that Nam recruited were brought to the southern business capital,
they were forced to work as prostitutes to pay for their passage to Taiwan, the
investigative police officer said.
The madams charged clients about 32 dollars per night. If the girls were
virgins, the madams prostituted the young women for about 500 dollars per night,
the policeman said.
The sex-workers had to pay the madams 50 per cent of their earnings, the
Customers included foreigners and wealthy Vietnamese, and dozens of women had
already been trafficked to Taiwan by the gang, the policeman said.
When the sex workers saved up enough for the airfare they were taken to
Taiwan on tourist visas and forced to work as prostitutes there, the policeman
When their visa expired after six months, the brothel owners told police to
arrest and expel them from the island in order to avoid paying the women, the
One of the prostitutes arrested on March 12 was deported from Taiwan and
arrived in Ho Chi Minh City on March 8, without a cent, the policeman said.
She was forced to come back to the ring and ask for work, said the policeman.
Under Vietnamese law, if convicted, the defendants will face between five and
20 years in prison.
Flag Clash: Flying in
the Face of Unity
To some, the push by Vietnamese Americans to use the symbol of their former
regime raises a cultural issue: lack of assimilation.
By Scott Martelle
Angeles Times) - Gary Greer wolfs down a sandwich outside his Garden Grove
barber shop as he contemplates the intricacies of national sovereignty,
diplomatic relations and the loaded question of which Vietnamese flag -- that of
the victorious north or the vanquished south -- should fly at official city
Neither, he decides.
"I don't know why they have to fly their flag," said Greer, 66. "It's the
same thing with the signs they put on Brookhurst [Street]: 'Welcome to Little
Saigon.' It's not 'Little Saigon.' It's Garden Grove."
Here on Garden Grove's commercial Main Street, a block-long strip that is more
memory than urban core, a debate over which Vietnamese flag to fly has stirred
For Vietnamese emigres who flooded into the area in the years after the
Communist victory in 1975, the flag of South Vietnam represents a lost past.
But for many longtime -- and mostly white -- Garden Grove residents, the flag
represents something else: the growth of an insular group of new neighbors slow
to assimilate into American culture.
It is the friction between two groups clinging to separate pasts even as they
lurch toward an uncertain future.
Once a mostly white farm town, Garden Grove has undergone a profound change,
part of the urbanization of Orange County's older communities.
In the 1990s, Garden Grove's population shifted from white majority to ethnic
plurality, with whites, Latinos and Asians each accounting for about one-third
of the city's 165,000 residents. A critical part of that shift was the number of
Vietnamese residents, which more than doubled in the 1990s to about 35,000, or
21% of the city's population.
There are now more Vietnamese Americans in Garden Grove than in neighboring
Westminster, home to the Little Saigon business district and the de facto
cultural heart of the Vietnamese American society.
"Our community is now rated as one of the most [ethnically] diverse in
California ... and we all get along," said Chamber of Commerce President Connie
Unlike immigrants from Mexico -- another sizable ethnic group in Garden Grove --
the Vietnamese fled as political refugees, and many still hope to return and
overthrow the Communist government. They are more exiles than immigrants, and
have a powerful attachment to symbols of the land they left.
"We are a political community, not an economic community," said Van Tran, a
Vietnamese American member of the Garden Grove City Council.
Partly in recognition of the growing Vietnamese presence -- and the political
power of the flag of the former South Vietnam -- the City Council last week
voted unanimously to fly the yellow banner at official functions, snubbing the
red flag of the current regime. Westminster adopted a similar resolution last
month, part of a campaign the Vietnamese government denounced as "insolent."
The Garden Grove council also urged the school board and county and state
legislators to take similar action. Assemblyman Ken Maddox (R-Garden Grove) was
already working on a measure that could be submitted soon, but local school
officials brushed the issue aside.
"The board handles educational issues, not political issues that are out of our
hands," said Garden Grove schools spokesman Alan Trudell.
Some longtime residents such as Greer, the barber, question why the issue came
"I don't see any other flags flying here," he said, gesturing down the street
where light poles hold American flags above baskets of pink geraniums. "There
are no German flags, no French flags. The Mexicans are here as much as the
Vietnamese, and you don't see any Mexican flags. I just don't understand that."
Down the street in the Rainbow Room, a dark-paneled bar that's been in the same
spot and under the same ownership since 1954, the talk on a recent afternoon was
mostly about baseball and spring training.
At one end of the bar, Tom and Debbie McConnell nursed midday beers and talked
about changes in the city in which they grew up. Strawberry fields and orange
groves that no longer exist. Houses packed into what once were open spaces. And
the reverse: a vast parking lot behind the bar, once a neighborhood.
"A lot of people are moving out," Debbie McConnell, 44, said as she listed
relatives and friends who no longer call Garden Grove home. They helped form an
exodus that dropped Garden Grove's white population by 19,000 during the 1990s,
while a similar number of Vietnamese Americans moved in.
"It's been changing for a long time," Tom McConnell, 45, said as he poked a lime
wedge into his Mexican beer.
Debbie McConnell doesn't like to think of the changes in ethnic terms, but it's
hard not to, she said. What might seem like a strong sense of solidarity in the
Vietnamese community can be seen from the outside as willful isolation. "They
are kind of taking over," she said.
Across the street, Joanne Miura, 49, and Roy Robbins, 47, talked in his
used-book store about the delicate task of weighing the desires of one ethnic
community against the needs of a multi-ethnic city.
"I can see why they have such feelings for [the flag], because it represents
something to them that's just a horrible memory," Robbins said. "But whether
local government should get involved, I don't know about that."
Miura, whose grandparents emigrated from Japan, grew up in Garden Grove when she
was one of only a handful of Asian students in high school. She remembers being
uneasy speaking Japanese in public. And she can remember no local debates over
flying the Japanese flag. The situation never came up.
Miura saw last week's Garden Grove council meeting on local television and "was
amazed at how animated" the speakers were. She fears the emotions signal a long
wait before the divides between Garden Grove's ethnic communities are bridged.
"I can see them wanting to hang on to their old country, but it separates them
from the rest of the community," Miura said. "It's nice to hang on to what was,
but there's also a time to let go."
envoys meet Vietnam's top dissident Buddhist
HANOI (Agence France Presse) - The head of a banned Buddhist church in
Vietnam has met foreign envoys for the first time in 20 years, the International
Buddhist Information Bureau (IBIB) said Monday.
Two diplomats from the European Commission met Thich Huyen Quang, 86, on
Wednesday in his room in a Hanoi hospital where he has undergone surgery to
remove a feared cancerous tumour, the IBIB said in a statement.
The meeting was confirmed to AFP by a European source. A diplomat from the US
embassy also met Quang, head of the banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV),
the statement said (without giving details of topics discussed during the
"The discussions were frequently interrupted by nurses, doctors and several
people not wearing name tags who asked the diplomats to leave the hospital,
ostensibly so they could attend to venerable Tich Huyen Quang," it said.
"Finally, a doctor cut short the visits and asked the diplomats to leave."
The Vietnamese authorities refused Friday to allow AFP to visit the monk, who
has been under house arrest in the remote central province of Quang Ngai since
After the visits eight European diplomats met Thich Tue Sy, another member of
the UBCV, the IBIB said.
The meeting focused on attempts by authorities to "change Buddhism into an
instrument of the communist party," it said.
Thich Tue Sy expressed concern about "the suppression of Buddhism in North
Vietnam from 1945-1975 and the continuation of these policies in the south after
The EBUV has been banned in Vietnam since 1981, when the sole Buddhist
organisation allowed in the country, the Buddhist Church of Vietnam, was
The church's number two, Thich Quang Do, 74, was sentenced to two years of
house arrest in June 2001 mainly for having launched an appeal for democracy in