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Cablegate: Amerasians Show Signs of Assimilation Into Vietnamese Society

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

PAGE 01 HO CHI 00838 01 OF 03 170856Z
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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