In reply to the Vietnamese gentleman who had a problem going to New Zealand:
Before you criticize other countries, you should look at your own backyard.
I am an Australian who has been living and traveling around South East Asia for the last twelve years, four of them in Vietnam.
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I have found that going through Vietnams Customs is a sad affair almost each and every time. Anyone in a uniform in this country thinks he/she is big time and treats others as inferior. Anyone to do with officialdom in this country has no respect for the common people... even Vietnamese.
Take Hanoi. Everyone walking along the footpath on going past the Army Office, are told to move off and walk on the road!
In Saigon, people are not allowed to sit on the steps of building of People's Committee.
Sadly, in this country, it's not bigotry. It is worse. It is discrimination.
Let's go back to some other developed countries. I do not think the Vietnamese people can understand the enormity of the problem of (illegal) immigrants trying to get into these countries to live the 'good' life.
Do you really think there are hundreds trying to get into Vietnam each year?
Do you understand that Vietnam is one of the most nationalistic countries in the world? Do you understand all the problems the Vietnamese mafia has given Australia ever since the end of the war?
Many countries accepted Vietnamese and looked after them, but a foreigner can only buy property here if he marries a Vietnamese and even then he will still have a lot of problems.
I have extreme difficulty to even rent a house even though I do not ask the government to support me. No, I bring 1,000 dollars into this country each month.
Do you understand all the different ways people try to scam themselves into these countries, as well as trying to bring in guns and drugs?
Perhaps you should see the documentary, "Once upon a time in Cabramatta."
Finally I will bet that when the Customs person started asking you questions, you took umbrage just like most Vietnamese, when I try to ask even simple questions. Like, if Vietnam is so good, why do you people rubbish it and why is your society so impolite? And please do not call Vietnam a developing country.
I really think it is a case of the pot calling the kettle black.
By Ian Billington *
* The writer is an Australian expat who lives in Ho Chi Minh City. The opinions expressed are his own.
THE POT, THE KETTLE AND THEIR WHITENESS
A poster of the documentary, "˜Once upon a time in Cabramatta,' which shows how the Vietnamese community in a suburb "˜overcame the odds and found their place in multicultural Australia.' FILE PHOTO
To IAN BILLINGTON
If you are a regular reader of Vietweek, you would know that this newspaper does report regularly on various problems foreigners face here the problems with officialdom, whether it is the attitude of immigration or police officials, the problems with corruption and so on.
So there is ample evidence that "we are looking at our own backyard."
I know that you have directed your letter at the gentleman who had a problem with the way he was treated by a New Zealand immigration official after going through what he says was an unusually rigorous whetting process for getting a visitor's visa, but I am neither responding on his behalf, nor defending any form of inequality in Vietnam.
That said, let us apply this "own backyard" perspective to some of the things that you mention in your letter.
How does not allowing anyone, irrespective of race, nationality or sex, to sit on the steps of a building or walk on the footpath bordering an Army Office, become a form of discrimination worse than bigotry? (You actually say that discrimination is worse than bigotry. What this means is not very clear to me).
You say the Vietnamese people do not "understand the enormity of the problem of (illegal) immigrants trying to get into these countries to live the 'good' life."
Are you in Vietnam to live the "bad" life?
You do not wear a uniform, I take it, and therefore, do not consider yourself or your country superior in anyway, unlike the Vietnamese officials you condemn so strongly.
But then you ask: Do you really think there are hundreds trying to get into Vietnam each year?
This sounds like a question loaded with discrimination or, at the very least, a superiority complex.
For your information, I am one of the thousands, not hundreds, of expatriates who choose to be here to live the good life. And, I suspect, you are one of them too.
I am also sure it would have been far more easy for you to visit and stay in this country than for people from Vietnam to visit Australia and other so-called developed countries.
(For the record, I have nothing against countries being developed, but like you, unfair discrimination, including racism, does irk me, wherever it appears and whatever form it takes.)
On to your next question.
You ask: Do you understand that Vietnam is one of the most nationalistic countries in the world?
Given the nation's centuries-old history of having to fight off the Chinese, French and Americans illegally and immorally invading and occupying their land, I would say that we can be a bit more understanding about Vietnam being nationalistic.
And as long as we have nation-states, national armies, national governments, national teams, national flags, national anthems et al, all around us, I do not see being nationalistic as something unusual.
You go on to ask: Do you understand all the problems the Vietnamese mafia has given Australia ever since the end of the war?
It sounds as though you are defending, by default, rude and possibly racist officials in countries like Australia and New Zealand, by saying the fact that there is a Vietnamese mafia creating problems Down Under makes such behavior understandable.
Let us see. No one can defend any mafia, but can one defend nations that go to war for no reason? Or was there a very legitimate reason for Australia's participation in the Vietnam War that killed millions of its citizens?
So there is this context of wanton, state-sanctioned murder to, as you put it, many countries accepting Vietnamese people and looking after them. Killing a few million and then looking after how many?
And then, Ian, it appears that you want a man who has, by his account, had a tough time at the receiving end of discriminatory treatment, to understand that this is okay, because of "all the different ways people try to scam themselves into these countries, as well as trying to bring in guns and drugs."
Ian, have you been discriminated against in any other country because of your own country's criminal past (not to mention its criminal present, given its backing for illegal wars of aggression against several countries in the Middle East)?
You mention the documentary about Cabramatta. Surely you know that the acceptance of Vietnamese refugees is said to have marked an end to the long-standing "White Australia" policy, and that there was no infrastructure or program in place to receive and help non-whites adjust to a new country, creating a lot of the problems that ensued and have, thankfully and hopefully, been overcome.
And you, who do not act superior like Vietnamese officials, can "bet that when the Customs person started asking you questions, you took umbrage just like most Vietnamese."
You just know it, don't you? You do not have to check with the person who says he was unfairly treated. He must have had it coming, because you know the Vietnamese people so well.
And yes, why is the society "so impolite?" Why can't it be more polite like... Australia? Here's what James Anaya, the UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Rights, said in a report a few years ago, after studying the Northern Territory Emergency Response introduced by that polite, well-mannered man, John Howard. I am citing The Telegraph newspaper.
"[The intervention] undermines the right of indigenous peoples to control their own destinies, their right to self-determination," he said. "There is entrenched racism in Australia.
"These measures overtly discriminate against Aboriginal peoples, infringe their right of self-determination and stigmatize already stigmatized communities."
I will let the matter rest here without going into your "please do not call Vietnam a developing country" remark.
I hope you now have some understanding of the hesitation about publishing your letter last week.
You can "really feel that it is a case of the pot calling the kettle black," but could it be that, in this instance, both the pot and the kettle are in the hands of a"¦ white man?
By Hari Chathrattil **
** The writer is a foreign copy editor who works for Vietweek. The opinions expressed are his own.
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