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Viet Kieu

From dgm405@coombs.anu.edu.au Wed Mar 28 15:17:24 2001
Date: Tue, 27 Mar 2001 11:10:18 +1000
From: David Marr <dgm405@coombs.anu.edu.au>
Reply-To: vsg@u.washington.edu
To: Vietnam Studies Group <vsg@u.washington.edu>
Subject: Viet Kieu

Trawling through accumulated email after returning from a trip to Vietnam, I came across the early January VSG exchange about the meaning of `Viet Kieu', etc.

In early January, we discovered that Hanoi had declared that VK must be given the same price as homelanders for a number of weeks before and after Tet. Not only that, but foreign spouses and foreign-born children were to be treated the same way.

Naturally I set out to test this second dispensation at Vietnam Airlines in particular. The first time I was told that wedding certificates were required for foreign spouses and birth certificates for children. The second time, however, a very understanding clerk spent 45 minutes working her way up the chain of command to get us the homelander price (a saving of about 50%), based on shared surnames in passports. At the royal tombs in Hue I also succeeded in being treated like a homelander (90%saving!).

Sadly, the Tet dispensation is now gone. On previous trips I noticed some VK successfully passing themselves off as homelanders at the tombs, whereas others either could not or did not wish to. Of course, the ticket clerk could always ask to see their chung minh thu, but some VK had kept their old ones and produced them on occasion.

I wonder how many other countries in the world possess different official prices for outsiders and insiders?
David Marr

From msefaj@nus.edu.sg Wed Mar 28 15:17:59 2001
Date: Tue, 27 Mar 2001 10:08:47 +0800
From: Adam Fforde <msefaj@nus.edu.sg>
Reply-To: vsg@u.washington.edu
To: Vietnam Studies Group <vsg@u.washington.edu>
Subject: RE: Viet Kieu

"I wonder how many other countries in the world possess different official prices for outsiders and insiders?
David Marr"

In Singapore, foreigners on contracts (and thus visas) of less than two years' duration do not enjoy a 20% discount on hospital charges given to those on longer contracts (and so visas). In the UK, in principle,
non-residents pay a full fee for NHS services; residents do not. I have paid the first but not the second.

These examples are of course utterly different and could not be justified by reference to tax payments.

Adam Fforde

Dr. Adam Fforde, Senior Fellow
Rm AS3 06-14, Southeast Asian Studies Programme
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, NUS
SINGAPORE 119260

Tel: (65) 874 6865
Fax: (65) 774 8750
email: msefaj@nus.edu.sg


From weitzel@undp.org.vn Wed Mar 28 15:21:08 2001
Date: Tue, 27 Mar 2001 08:34:14 +0700
From: Vern Weitzel <weitzel@undp.org.vn>
Reply-To: vsg@u.washington.edu
To: Vietnam Studies Group <vsg@u.washington.edu>
Subject: Re: Viet Kieu

Son got me local price for airfare for the Quang Ngai trip. Also for airport bus, though she had to shout at
some people to get it. Son advises that we (mainly you, Dien and me I guess) get together some wording for the letter to acknowledge the tree at Son My. How should we do this?
Cheers, Vern

David Marr wrote:
>
> Trawling through accumulated email after returning from a trip to Vietnam,
> I came across the early January VSG exchange about the meaning of `Viet
> Kieu', etc.
>
> In early January, we discovered that Hanoi had declared that VK must be
> given the same price as homelanders for a number of weeks before and after
> Tet. Not only that, but foreign spouses and foreign-born children were to
> be treated the same way.
>
> Naturally I set out to test this second dispensation at Vietnam Airlines in
> particular. The first time I was told that wedding certificates were
> required for foreign spouses and birth certificates for children. The
> second time, however, a very understanding clerk spent 45 minutes working
> her way up the chain of command to get us the homelander price (a saving of
> about 50%), based on shared surnames in passports.
> At the royal tombs in Hue I also succeeded in being treated like a
> homelander (90%saving!).
>
> Sadly, the Tet dispensation is now gone. On previous trips I noticed some
> VK successfully passing themselves off as homelanders at the tombs, whereas
> others either could not or did not wish to. Of course, the ticket clerk
> could always ask to see their chung minh thu, but some VK had kept their
> old ones and produced them on occasion.
>
> I wonder how many other countries in the world possess different official
> prices for outsiders and insiders?
> David Marr


From emiller@fas.harvard.edu Wed Mar 28 15:21:24 2001
Date: Tue, 27 Mar 2001 07:09:47 -0500
From: Ed Miller <emiller@fas.harvard.edu>
Reply-To: vsg@u.washington.edu
To: Vietnam Studies Group <vsg@u.washington.edu>
Subject: RE: Viet Kieu


>I wonder how many other countries in the world possess different official
>prices for outsiders and insiders?
>David Marr

It has been fairly routine in China for a while to have a three-tier set of prices at tourist sites and elsewhere: lowest price for locals, an intermediate price for overseas Chinese, and the highest for non-Chinese. I have a dim memory from the mid-90s of one case where the intermediate price was restricted to those "overseas Chinese" who were residents of Hong Kong and Macau (so Chinese from Taiwan, US and elsewhere had to pay the highest prices) but I can't recall where I saw this...

Ed Miller


From jhannah@u.washington.edu Wed Mar 28 15:22:06 2001
Date: Tue, 27 Mar 2001 09:04:20 -0800 (PST)
From: joseph j hannah <jhannah@u.washington.edu>
Reply-To: vsg@u.washington.edu
To: Vietnam Studies Group <vsg@u.washington.edu>
Subject: RE: Viet Kieu


Desides the issue of tax-based justification, I find the bureaucratic definitions of "outsiders" very interesting: immigration and visa-related in Singapore and UK, bloodlines/location of residence in the Vietnam and China cases. Clearly different sets of "identities" being created or reinforced.

Joe Hannah


From leaf@interchange.ubc.ca Wed Mar 28 15:22:26 2001
Date: Tue, 27 Mar 2001 09:38:18 -0800
From: michael leaf <leaf@interchange.ubc.ca>
Reply-To: vsg@u.washington.edu
To: Vietnam Studies Group <vsg@u.washington.edu>
Subject: Re: Viet Kieu

This is an interesting observation, and perhaps correct in principle but not necessarily so clear cut in practice. As a visiting scholar at a Chinese university in 1995, I was given documentation in order to obtain "local" prices. As the actual use of these letters required negotiation at every instance, the outcomes were a bit arbitrary. Quite often, I was able to obtain the local price while my "hua qiao" wife was not, ostensibly because her family name was not included in the letters. The strange irony on a number of occasions was that our "mixed" children (with my last name) would get the preferential local price along with me, while my wife, the only "true" Chinese among us, would be required to pay the full foreign price. But I don't think this represents policy so much confusion over its application.

Michael Leaf
University of British Columbia
Vancouver, Canada


From hphinney@u.washington.edu Wed Mar 28 15:22:41 2001
Date: Tue, 27 Mar 2001 09:35:28 -0800
From: Harriet M. Phinney <hphinney@u.washington.edu>
Reply-To: vsg@u.washington.edu
To: Vietnam Studies Group <vsg@u.washington.edu>
Subject: Re: Viet Kieu

VSG members,
- This is a tangent to the Viet Kieu discussion, but Joe's response has prompted me to finally query the rest of you..
Related to the distinction between insiders and outsiders in regard to bloodlines, I am wondering if anyone has come across the use of the term "khac mau thang long" which I translate as "foreign blood smells fishy". I came across this phrase (again and again) when I was doing my research in 1996 on older single women choosing to get pregant out of wedlock. The phrase was mentioned in response to my questioning the common assumption that all women would rather have a child of their own rather than adopt a child (I am writing on the social construction of the desire for a biological child). The phrase was also used to talk about the difficulties of marrying someone who already had children - in particular difficulties with step-mothers or reasons why a woman would not want to marry a widower with children.
I am curious if anyone has come across the term "khac mau thang long" in any other contexts. 'Khac" does translates as "different", but when I was in VN a Vietnamese teacher I was working with translated it as 'foreign" and distinguished it from "different" in this phrase and I have another reference to it being translated as "foreign". I am wondering if the phrase, in addition to refering to non-family (blood) members, might have been or is used to draw distinctions between larger entities of people - such as an attempt to construct a difference between Vietnamese and "others" in the process of nation buiding. This is perhaps a wild guess.

Helpful comments, reactions?
Thanks so much,
Harriet


From dieuhien@u.washington.edu Wed Mar 28 15:22:59 2001
Date: Tue, 27 Mar 2001 12:27:26 -0800 (PST)
From: D. Hoang <dieuhien@u.washington.edu>
Reply-To: vsg@u.washington.edu
To: Vietnam Studies Group <vsg@u.washington.edu>
Subject: RE: Viet Kieu

Our American public universities and colleges have separate tuition fees for residents and non-residents. American students from out-of-state can pay the preferrential resident fees after one year of residing in that
state. This is not an option for foreign students.

The American airline industry is completely privatized, but it is not so for Vietnam Airline, or even Pacific Airline, if it still exists! So, the fact that the Vietnamese government subsidizes airfares for its citizens does not seem to be such an odd practice after all.

Also, I often complain bitterly about the different official pricing systems in Vietnam myself, being charged the much higher price, but, to put things in perspectives, back when I only had an Associate Degree and
was living and working in Vietnam, the international agencies for whom I worked paid me much more money holding similar positions as a "local" Vietnamese who may be a medical doctor, or a professor at a university
holding a Ph.D. Of course, I would have starved if paid the "local" rate, and charged the foreign rate for housing, etc.

Would things ever be black and white and clear cut?

Best,
Hien


From hhtai@fas.harvard.edu Wed Mar 28 15:23:10 2001
Date: Tue, 27 Mar 2001 15:46:07 -0500
From: Hue Tam H. Tai <hhtai@fas.harvard.edu>
Reply-To: vsg@u.washington.edu
To: Vietnam Studies Group <vsg@u.washington.edu>
Subject: RE: Viet Kieu

I agree with Hien on this issue. Viet Kieu working on projects in Vietnam are paid at a higher rate than locals, so it should not be surprising that they are charged more than locals as well. For many, though, it is a matter of identity rather than money. Many Viet Kieu are distressed to be treated as not-quite-Vietnamese through this tiered pricing system. For many, the first trip home is the first time they confront their ambiguous
status after years of not feeling quite fully part of the new communities in which they live.

Hue-Tam Ho Tai


From nina@easynet.fr Wed Mar 28 15:23:20 2001
Date: Tue, 27 Mar 2001 23:39:33 +0200
From: Nina McPherson <nina@easynet.fr>
Reply-To: vsg@u.washington.edu
To: Vietnam Studies Group <vsg@u.washington.edu>
Subject: RE: Viet Kieu

To VSG list members:

For those following the viet khieu discussion : a wonderful, satirical story on the whole subject is NHA NAM by overseas Vietnamese author Tran Vu, which I translated for the short story collection, THE DRAGON HUNT (Hyperion, 1999). The narrator, a young overseas Nha Namese who closely resembles the author, returns home to Nha Nam, a country that closely resembles Vietnam. He is given a characteristically brutal explanation of tiered pricing by a certain famous writer "Th."

Nina McPherson


From TNguye12@exchange.calstatela.edu Wed Mar 28 15:23:32 2001
Date: Tue, 27 Mar 2001 16:11:00 -0800
From: "Nguyen-Vo, Thu-Huong" <TNguye12@exchange.calstatela.edu>
Reply-To: vsg@u.washington.edu
To: Vietnam Studies Group <vsg@u.washington.edu>
Subject: RE: Viet Kieu


Hi Harriet Phinney,

I think the phrase you're refering to is "kha'c ma'u tanh lo`ng." As I understand it, it does not refer to foreign blood as much as actual kinship/bloodlines. I have not heard it used in the context of nation building vis-a-vis a construction of the Other.

best,
Thu-huong


From O.SALEMINK@FORDFOUND.ORG Wed Mar 28 15:23:48 2001
Date: Wed, 28 Mar 2001 00:42:59 -0800
From: Oscar Salemink <O.SALEMINK@FORDFOUND.ORG>
Reply-To: vsg@u.washington.edu
To: Vietnam Studies Group <vsg@u.washington.edu>
Subject: RE: Viet Kieu

Approximately one year ago there was a news item about a decree to abolish dual pricing in Vietnam. I have not seen that decree but when testing it for things like paying electricity or garbage collection fees my
interlocutors said that they also had "heard about" the decree but had not received specific instructions. Others told me that the implementation would be gradual.... but to my knowledge, nothing has changes so far.

I know that some of my VN friends don't like to have to pay "foreign prices" when visiting countries like China.

Oscar Salemink


From O.SALEMINK@FORDFOUND.ORG Sat Mar 31 14:02:29 2001
Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2001 00:08:31 -0800
From: Oscar Salemink <O.SALEMINK@FORDFOUND.ORG>
Reply-To: vsg@u.washington.edu
To: Vietnam Studies Group <vsg@u.washington.edu>
Subject: RE: Viet Kieu

Apologies for the belated response. Just came back from an exciting AAS (great papers & panels!!!) to 250 unread messages.

I don't think dual pricing is good practice. Dual pricing will continue to justify the practice of different salaries. It will make VN less attractive for investment and for tourism purposes. Dual pricing serves to reinforce an image of foreigners as -- always, inevitably, undeservedly? -- rich.

Ironically, I know international volunteers (both Viet Kieu and non-Viet) who come to work in Vietnam for basically local salaries, and it is quite strange that they are forced to pay five times more than - for instance -
the rapidly growing group of rich Vietnamese.

Oscar Salemink


From oklahoma@netnam.org.vn Sat Mar 31 14:02:49 2001
Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2001 16:38:02 +0700
From: oklahoma@netnam.org.vn
Reply-To: vsg@u.washington.edu
To: Vietnam Studies Group <vsg@u.washington.edu>
Subject: RE: Viet Kieu

Dear Oscar,

I think this discussion will led to no where. I agree with Hien that things are not always black and white and clear cut...Off course dual pricing is not a good practice, but people practice it anywhere, not only in Vietnam. I found out that I was not eligible for a 50% discount on tickets to museums between Paris and Rome. I have been charged 50% more than local people in Cairo when I tried to ride a bus to the
pyramids...the list can be long...

It is not a good practice, but what we have done to prevent it? How about writing letters to newspapers, PACCOM, MOF...to raise the issue? How about starting to pay our local employees at the same rate that we
receive? It is fruitless just to say it was not good and it harmed Vietnam...

On the other note, while it was true that it was ironic when international volunteers had to pay five times more than ordinary Vietnamese, I did not know any international volunteer who works in Vietnam for basically local salary (let say 50US$ or 700,000VND). It least their living allowance is much higher than US$50.

Is it fair that I am paid four times less than an American who serves in the same position as I do? We can go as far as questioning ourselves if it is fair when our dinner can feed a whole family in two week in rural
areas...

Nguyen Thanh Son


From mkaradjis@hn.vnn.vn Sat Mar 31 14:03:03 2001
Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2001 22:44:42 -0800
From: Micheal Karadjis <mkaradjis@hn.vnn.vn>
Reply-To: vsg@u.washington.edu
To: Vietnam Studies Group <vsg@u.washington.edu>
Subject: Re: Viet Kieu

Absolutely right. As a western teacher in VN, my salary is so much higher than any Viet teacher we employ that it makes a mockery of the discussion. Then we have highly experienced Viet accountants and registrars who get $300, which is a huge wage by Viet standards but a fraction of what any westerner would get in these jobs, and meanwhile the receptionist only gets about $100, still pretty high, but not like the western tewacher all on over $1000 per month, and then considering so many westerners are here on salries many times that amount, especially if they work for the World Bank, the UN etc (often even with rent paid and tax taken care of) - I mean really, how is it possible that I can talk to expats that "bargain" with se om drivers
about whether they should pay 50c or 70c - it makes me want to throw up. How about the international "dual price" of labour - is that good policy? How about the reparations promised back in 1973 - why shouldn't Vietnam get a little extra given lack of any reparations and having to pay the debts of the Saigon regime? Surely the list can go on and on if we want to talk about double standards.

Michael Karadjis


From wturley@siu.edu Sat Mar 31 14:03:38 2001
Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2001 10:36:41 -0600
From: William S. Turley <wturley@siu.edu>
Reply-To: vsg@u.washington.edu
To: Vietnam Studies Group <vsg@u.washington.edu>
Subject: RE: Viet Kieu

Both Oscar and Son (see below), and everyone else for that matter, are correct on this subject. But a point that seems to have been missed, and which distinguishes VN (and other post-colonial countries, as Son suggests) from other cases cited, is that "dual pricing" can be informal and cultural determined as well as official and set by law. Anyone who lived/worked/travelled in southern Vietnam before 1975 will know that "dual pricing" can occur independently of policy because it is entrenched in the culture. In Saigon in the 60s, Vietnamese shopkeepers, street corner hawkers, market stallkeepers, and landlords all took for granted that
foreigners should pay more for everything (never mind what country they were from or what they earned). What struck me at the time was that what I perceived as gouging the "gouger" considered a morally ordered transaction. Questioning this moral order usually revealed that the "gouger" thought lthe whole world worked his way: "Don't rich people in the US pay more than poor people? No? Something is wrong with a country where they don't." The response might have suggested a levelling ethic at work had the practice not completely conflated "rich" with foreigner and "poor" with Vietnamese. It never did any good to point out that there were rich Vietnamese (vastly richer than I) and poor Americans. The only thing that mattered, to
go back to someone's earlier note, was whether you were an insider our an outsider.

I have no idea when or how "culturally constructed dual pricing" took root in Vietnam. If colonial rule and subsequent American behavior were not the cause, I assume they helped to entrench it. But because
this concept is embedded in the culture, I surmise that even policymakers of reformist bent have trouble grasping its negative consequences and that reducing or eliminating the practice will not occur soon or easily.

Cheers,
Bill Turley


From hhtai@fas.harvard.edu Sat Mar 31 14:04:00 2001
Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2001 23:27:34 -0500
From: hue-tam ho tai <hhtai@fas.harvard.edu>
Reply-To: vsg@u.washington.edu
To: Vietnam Studies Group <vsg@u.washington.edu>
Subject: Re: Viet Kieu

Although I blanch at the discrepancy between what a Viet Kieu and a local Vietnamese may be earning for essentially the same qualifications and job, I was taken to task by local friends when I failed to drive down the price of pedicabs or mopeds. They argued that it was people like myself who drove prices up for everybody, and who incited sellers of goods and services to cater to foreigners rather than locals, amking them feel unwanted in their own country; I, of course, had been, like Michael, feeling guilty about haggling over the 50c that was being asked for a moped ride.

As for dual pricing in the South, I had a taste of ad hoc pricing in Chicago last week when trying to find a hotel room in the middle of the AAS plus a trade fair. Prices seemed to change by the minute!

Hue-Tam Ho Tai


From wturley@siu.edu Sat Mar 31 14:04:33 2001
Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2001 11:30:07 -0600
From: William S. Turley <wturley@siu.edu>
Reply-To: vsg@u.washington.edu
To: Vietnam Studies Group <vsg@u.washington.edu>
Subject: Re: Viet Kieu


I had precisely the same experience as Hue-Tam reports (below) on, I assume, a more recent visit than my stay in Saigon 34 years ago. It certainly was no mystery why Vietnamese, be they well-heeled or not, were left standing on the curb as taxis and cyclos zeroed in on foreigners. Plus ça change....

Bill Turley

>I was taken to task by local friends when I failed to drive down the price
>of pedicabs or mopeds. They argued that it was people like myself who
>drove prices up for everybody, and who incited sellers of goods and
>services to cater to foreigners rather than locals, amking them feel
>unwanted in their own country; I, of course, had been, like Michael,
>feeling guilty about haggling over the 50c that was being asked for a moped
>ride.
--
William S. Turley
Department of Political Science
Southern Illinois University
Carbondale, Illinois, USA 62901-4501
phone: (618) 453-3182
fax: (618) 453-3163

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