Dead and Vietnamese: Pad Thai anyone?

The Vietnamese War left a sad legacy in the number of children born to Vietnamese mothers and GI soldiers. These children are commonly despised by those of full Vietnamese blood. They are commonly called Bui-Doi, or ‘dust of life’. According to Wikipedia

“Amerasians are predominantly seen as off-spring of GI fathers and prostitute mothers. Life was frequently difficult for such Amerasians; they existed as pariahs in Vietnamese society. Often, they would be persecuted by the communist government and sometimes even sold into prostitution as children. Under the Amerasian Homecoming Act of 1988, a Vietnamese Amerasian could obtain a U.S. visa on the basis of appearance alone. Amerasians gained the attention of con artists who claimed to be their relatives in the hope of obtaining visas.  About 23,000 Amerasians immigrated to the U.S. under this act.

In the United States, bui doi, or the term “dust of life”, again referred to the criminal class, where the youths included newly transplanted Vietnamese and Amerasians.  The misuse of the word bui doi also migrated to the United States and was appropriated by the mainstream.”

So we see that being a Bui Doi in the Vietnamese society is not good, neither it would seem is being Vietnamese in the police. I managed to find some statistics for the UK police referring to the ethnic make-up of the police force. We still see quite a lot of prejudice against the ethnic races going into the police coming from both sides. Frm the figures I found for 2012 there were 6,679 people belonging to BME races in the whole of the UK. This figure represents 5% of the total police force. Only 3.7% of the Chief Inspectors were of BME race, and only 5.4% of the Constables were. Overall the ethnic make-up of the BME ethnicities were:

39.1% Asian/Asian British

21.3%  Black/Black British;

28.1% Mixed race

11.5% Chinese or other.

minority officers

Thus even within the BME races, Chinese and Vietnamese are very poorly represented. This is not helpful as the Vietnamese and the Chinese are traditionally a very self-sufficient community that turn their faces inwards against ‘others’, even to the point of trying to

This difficulty is central to the story of the book ‘Caught Dead’ by Andrew Lanh, who of course is of the right ethnic origin to write about this topic. The issues which an ethnic officer faces from both societies when a crime is committed within the Vietnamese community.

I did find this a difficult book to read as I have difficulty in understanding the culture although I can well understand why the society circles the wagons against outsiders. They feel that they have been betrayed too often and are poorly understood within the police forces. But my lack of cultural understanding meant that I missed some of the nuances and made it difficult for me to judge how well the issues were represented here. With the right audience I would give this book 3 stars but I wouldn’t read further myself.


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