Vietnamese Americans Fight Human Trafficking
FALLS CHURCH, Virginia–Six Vietnamese American area organizations, banding together against global sex trade, recently raised a total of $10,000 for two advocacy organizations in Asia that are helping Vietnamese victims of human trafficking.
The gala fundraising dinner took place at Lucky Three Restaurant here on Nov. 11. It drew about 500 people and dignitaries.
“Human trafficking, a modern-day form of slavery, presents an enormous problem, specially in Vietnam where teenagers, and even children, are being sold every day to neighboring countries and exported to other parts of the world,” said Jackie Bong-Wright.
Ms. Bong-Wright, president and CEO of the Vietnamese American Voters Association (VAVA) added, “The event grossed close to $20,000 and we are splitting the net profit of $10,000 equally between two non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Taiwan and Cambodia.”
The NGOs have been providing treatment, shelter, crisis counseling and health and legal services to Vietnamese women and children victimized by sex trade exploiters in Southeast Asia.
Ms. Anhthu Lu, member of the NCVA Executive Board of Directors, and Ms. Le Ngọc, Tear Jade, Executive Director of the Vietnamese Public Radio (VPR) and also representing the Vietnamese Public Television (VPTV), were the scheduled presenters of the checks to the two NGO representatives.
Among the guests were newly-reelected State Delegate Adam Ebbin and State Delegate Bob Hull. Both officials will introduce a resolution on human trafficking at the Virginia General Assembly.
Event organizers also awarded three outstanding Americans for their role in the global fight against human trafficking. The three-hour evening program also included cultural performances and a video presentation of “Children on Fire,” a segment from NBC’s Dateline that showed the rescue of Vietnamese girls in Cambodia.
Aside from VAVA, VPR, and VPTV, the National Congress of Vietnamese Americans (NCVA), Vietnamese American Women’s Association (VAWA) and Vietnamese American Television (VATV) co-sponsored the successful fundraiser.
Contributions also came from out-of-town. Doan Lien Phung, president of Fund for the Encouragement of Self-Reliance in Las Vegas, gave $1,000. Dr. Thái Vãn Khị from Florida donated $400.The NCVA gave $1,000.
According to web resource Human Trafficking.org, human trafficking “refers to transportation of persons for forced labor, sexual exploitation or other illicit activities.”
Its website reports over 1 million people are trafficked yearly all over the world, with some experts saying it could be double that, given the clandestine nature of this crime. Human trafficking “has become a global business that generates huge profits for traffickers and organized criminal groups.”
Among other things, keynote speaker Dr. Nguyen Van Hanh said human trafficking is a modern-day slavery “that is both a domestic problem in America and also an international issue.” Dr. Hahn is the executive director of the Office of Refugee Settlement at the Department of Health and Human Services. He was appointed by President Bush in 2001. He oversees a budget of about $450 million a year.
He said Southeast Asia is “one of the key areas of human trafficking.“ He praised Ms. Bong-Wright for her leadership in the fight against human trafficking. DHHS works with the State Department and the Department of Justice in identifying victims and perpetrators.
In an interview, he said, “Our office provides large funding and conducts Rescue and Restore campaigns in coalition with some 720 organizations across the nation.”
He said there are some 16,000 human trafficking victims in the U.S. “Over a three-year period, our office has certified and assisted 840 victims since the passage of the Trafficking and Protection Act of 2000,” he told Asian Fortune. “We work with law enforcement agencies, social services and health care agencies, and also Faith Based Organizations (FBOs), and we also conduct public awareness campaigns.”
The awardees were: Sharon Cohn, vice president of the International Justice Mission; Deputy Assistant Secretary Kelly Ryan, Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration; and Ambassador John Miller, executive director of the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. Miller was a former U.S. congressman from Washington State.
Dr. Charles Nguyen, the first Vietnamese to be elected Dean of the School of Engineering at Catholic University, presented the award to Ms. Cohn. Ms. Cohn and Ted Haddock, with the support of a Cambodian ministry official, led an undercover operation that rescued 37 Vietnamese children.
Ms. Cohn caused the cases to be brought to trial, and eight perpetrators were convicted and sentenced from 5 to 20 years in jail. She directs IJM operations around the world, including Latin American, Africa and Asia. She was honored by President Bush as a difference-maker.
VATV Executive Director Vỏ Thành Nhân presented the award to Ms. Ryan. During a trip to Vietnam in November last year, Ms. Ryan launched the reintegration program for victims of trafficking. The program is carried out by the International Organization for Migration (IOM). IOM provides returning victims and women at high risk of being trafficked with training for jobs in the hotel and restaurant industry.
NCVA President Hung Nguyen presented the award to Ambassador Miller. Miller coordinates various agencies to write an annual report on Human Trafficking that involves 150 countries. In 2003, the State Department designated Vietnam a “Tier-2” government, a source, transit and destination country for forced labor and sexual exploitation.
In her opening remarks, Ms. Wright said the presence of so many Vietnamese Americans that night “sends a powerful message, and that is, we want the government of Vietnam to do everything within its power to stop this vicious practice.” She also announced plans to organize a conference in the area on human trafficking in Vietnam “that will produce concrete strategies for attacking the problem.”
In the early 1970s, she was already active in defending the rights of women and children in Vietnam. She helped street children find shelter and decent jobs in Saigon. In the U.S., she established the Indochinese Refugee Social Services to resettle boat refugees in the 1980s. She founded the VAVA in the 90s.
Gwen Ha Thanh Truc and Ngoc Coulter co-emceed the program, which was interspersed with cultural performances. The SEA Troupe, founded by Cindy Huyen Phan and her associates, presented a skit showing the courage of Vietnamese women symbolized by the Trung sisters. The Trung sisters defeated the Chinese on the battlefield in 39 A.D. and governed Vietnam for several years. Huyen Phan and Hoang Anh and their associates were the performers.
Former Ms. Virginia Senior America (1992) Rommie Behrens, Ann Renninger, Jackie Spurlock, Marilyn Jarvis and Ms. Bong-Wright performed as the Snapper Tappers with Ralph Kuethe as the Music Man. A fashion show featured Vietnamese costumes. Singers at the Ballroom dancing that capped the evening were Phuong Vi, dinh Hung, Bao Vi, Kieu Nga nd Hoang Anh.