Vietnam leader orders police chiefs censured over sex trade rise

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A man solicits sex customers in front of a guest house in Do Son beach town, Hai Phong

Vietnam's Deputy Prime Minister on Monday ordered three district police chiefs in Ho Chi Minh City, the northern city of Hai Phong and Nam Dinh Province to be censured for their loose control over prostitution in their localities.

Nguyen Xuan Phuc, who is also chairman of the National Committee for Fighting AIDS, Drug Operations and Prostitution, said during a meeting that HCMC's Binh Thanh District, together with the coastal district of Do Son in Hai Phong, and Quat Lam beach town in Nam Dinh's Giao Thuy District represent hot spots of Vietnam's sex industry.

He said while prostitution in those areas has grown into a "public annoyance," official reports never singled them out.

"Reports keep being too general. Aren't even the police aware of such big and wide open operations?" he asked.

He ordered local authorities to make prostitution a focus in their agenda, and to designate specific assignments for highly affected areas.

Nguyen Manh Hung, vice chairman of the Committee for Social Issues, also blasted the vague reports.

"We have only one statement every year, every time: "˜Prostitution continues to develop complicatedly.' Issuing the statement has become a tradition."

Pham Ngoc Dung, deputy head of the prostitution prevention desk at the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs, drew serious criticism after saying at a meeting on June 13 that no sex trade activities had been detected recently in Do Son and Quat Lam.

Local officials said they have never made such reports while local residents said they have almost memorized the routine of sex workers in the area.

Officials at the Monday conference also referred to recent media reports as showing that prostitution recently evolved into a luxury service; that sex workers are no longer just those desperate for income, but also include models who target high-income customers or students who want better-paying part-time jobs.

Many of the sex workers are men, while some operations are designed especially for foreigners issues that current laws fail to address.

Under Vietnamese law, sex workers are fined VND300,000 (US$14) for their first offence, and VND5 million for subsequent offences.

But many have stayed with the job which, according to a labor ministry report released March last year, earns females an average of VND10.6 million ($505) a month and VND6.55 million ($312) for male prostitutes.

Vietnam's per capita income was $1,555 in 2012.

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