VOA Connect: Telling America’s Story

The Internet is chock-full of ironies.  Tragically,  Celia Barquin Arozamena, an international student from Puente San Miguel, Spain, was brutally raped and murdered earlier this week in the US heartland.  Sadly, that, too, is part of America’s Story.  Click on the image to read this VOA report.  

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Peace, MAA

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Shifting focus: Vietnamese students & overseas study destinations

pie blog

There is never a dull moment in the dynamic Southeast Asian country of Viet Nam, including among its overseas-bound students. While overall interest in study in the US remains strong, there is also ample evidence of a shift to other countries, including Canada.

Follow this link to read my latest PIE blog post

Peace, MAA

“More Demons Unleashed After Fulbright University Vietnam Official Drops Rhetorical Bombshells”

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This 17 August 2018 CounterPunch article is the third in a trilogy.  Here are the first and second articles.  This should be my last word about this sad story.  

Pardon the nasty military metaphor but it’s not nearly as nasty as some of the quotes from “one of the most influential figures in the US-Viet Nam relationship you’ve never heard of” in a January 2018 interview.  

Here’s an excerpt:  

The Victims

As I mentioned to an FUV official who was involved in Kerrey’s appointment in a previous incarnation, what I’ve discovered in all of this is how invisible the victims of that massacre at the hands of Bob Kerrey and his unit are, both the dead and the living, not to mention the millions of whom Thomas Vallely spoke in a couple of throwaway sentences.

That is my main motivation in writing and speaking out about this, not “sticking it” to any individual or institution.  The tendency of most people involved with this issue to completely ignore the victims is both heartless and morally reprehensible.

The last of the Buddha’s Five Remembrances about impermanence is relevant here (translation by Thích Nhất Hạnh):  “My actions are my only true belongings.  I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground on which I stand.”  The ground upon which Thomas Vallely once stood dissolved into quicksand the moment those chilling words about civilian deaths in the Mekong Delta and Thạnh Phong spilled out of his mouth.

Peace, MAA

Fake News About Viet Nam

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Photo: AFP/Kao Nguyen

The above photo was taken at a 10 June 2018 demonstration in HCMC against a bill to create three new special economic zones (SEZs) in Quang Ninh and Khanh Hoa provinces, as well as on Phu Quoc Island.  (There are already 18 SEZs.)  As a result of considerable feedback from the public, including in the form of protests, the government has said it would adjust the 99-year term.  At issue is the fear of Chinese encroachment on Vietnamese sovereignty, since many of the investors would presumably be Chinese.  (China is Viet Nam’s leading trading partner.)  

Below is my response to a thread on the Viet Nam Studies Group (VSG) listserv about reputable sources of information about Viet Nam.  One colleague, DB, suggested Asia Times (AT), among others.  


Asia Times?  Really?  I guess it depends on which articles you read.  The one below, written by “Khai Nguyen” (KN) and posted on VSG a while ago, is an op-ed masquerading as news (Southeast Asia – Politics).  KN is obviously toeing the VK (Việt Kiều) or overseas Vietnamese/US-centric party line and thereby engaging in the kind of wishful thinking that’s prevalent in overseas Vietnamese refugee communities.  (Think Quận Cam/Orange County, CA, USA)  By the way, does anyone know who KN is?  I’d like to drop him a line.  Or maybe it’s a nom de guerre (?).    

A democratic revolution has just begun in Vietnam  (8 July 2018, Asia Times)

Massive but orderly protests across the country hint at the beginning of the end of Communist Party rule

My favorite comments, both spot-on, are:  

What a stupid story. Just more wishful thinking by Vietnam haters living in the US.  – Bao D Nguyen.  

This is clearly sponsored fake news. -Badri Subedi

If history is any guide, the suggestion in this comment is also a distinct possibility:  

Another colour protest organized and funded by CIA and the NED. CIA and the NED failed in their attempt to organise similar protest in Hong Kong and Thailand. Now, they are trying Vietnam. They will fail again. – Michael Chan

Below is the excerpt GN shared with the list.  Absolute BS, pardon my salty language.  Source?  Likely KN’s overactive imagination.  Statistics pulled out of thin air.  Whatever it takes to enhance his false narrative.  

The government now spends about 82.1% of the national budget to pay salaries to government officials, military, police, 205 public security generals and five million Party members. The remaining 17.9% is earmarked for development investments

If you don’t know very much about Viet Nam or you hate its government, you might be inclined to believe this 1700-word rant.  That was certainly the case with Chieu T. Nguyen, a Vietnamese-American who lives in Texas, and therefore sees his ancestral homeland through three red-striped glasses.  As if on cue, here’s what he wrote in the comments section:  “This is an amazingly accurate, good report.”  How many of you agree with this assertion?  I thought so.  

One of my favorite statements is KN’s conclusion:  Many Vietnamese now believe that a long-awaited true revolution has just begun.  Based on what, exactly, a dream the author had?  How many?  Which Vietnamese?  The author’s refugee buddies (or relatives) in the diaspora who still fly the flag of a client state that was vanquished and tossed into the trash bin of history with the liberation of Saigon on 30 April 1975?  The millions of Vietnamese who are among the most optimistic people in the world, economically and otherwise, according to annual surveys?  The notion that “a long-awaited true revolution has just begun” is so much pie in the sky.  This article has “OUTSIDER” stamped all over it.  

[KN’s essay is not unlike this article, posted by a VSGer a while back to a cyberchorus of groans and snickering.]  

Here’s part of what I wrote to AT about this poorly written and argued tirade:  Shame on Asia Times for publishing this tripe.  Conclusion:  take many of AT’s articles with a grain of salt.  That includes some of David Hutt’s work, e.g., Reactionary ‘red flags’ tilt Vietnam to the Alt-right.  


After reading my post, DB responded thus:  Agree — a story credited to “Khai Nguyen” recently appears to be a Việt Tân propaganda swallowed wholesale by Asia Times.  (Việt Tân, also known as the Vietnam Reform Revolutionary Party, is a network of members inside Vietnam and around the world, that aims to establish democracy and reform Vietnam through peaceful and political means.  It is classified as a terrorist organization by the Vietnamese government.)

Peace, MAA

“(US) American Ex-Pats Explain Why They Quit the USA”

The work/life balance sucks, there are too many guns, and thanks to a certain someone now in charge, things are likely to get worse.

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Image by Lia Kantrowitz for VICE

This oldie but goodie from 2017 is the tip of the iceberg.  One could write a book about this topic.  There are many other US Americans living outside of the US who did not “quit the USA” but simply chose to live elsewhere for personal and professional reasons.  Most are objective about what the US has to offer, its strengths and its positives, but also realize that it is not the “greatest nation on Earth.”  They see the US is not “an exceptional city on a hill, but as a mortal among other nations,” in the words of Anatol Lieven (2004).  Those who believe that it is either or both are either US nationalists and/or don’t travel overseas very often, if at all.  

Jim Rogers, a US billionaire who lives with his family in Singapore, had this to say about his home country a few years ago in an article in which he sang the praises of…  Singapore:  “I can tell you that when you fly into a New York airport, you are flying into a third world airport.” — Jim Rogers.  (If you’ve ever been to Changi Airport in Singapore, you know exactly what he’s talking about – in spades.)  In a 2015 Wall Street Journal article entitled Expat Investor Jim Rogers on Why He Loves Singapore And Doesn’t Miss the U.S. Rogers also referred to “third world” taxis driving on “third world” roads.   

Peace, MAA

Lessons From the UT Tyler Scandal

The scandal concerning students from Nepal should prompt a long-overdue conversation about institutional priorities surrounding international students in higher education, write Laura A. Kaub and James Linville.

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Photo courtesy of IHE

A number of questions came to mind after reading this 16 July 2018 Inside Higher Ed article written by well-intentioned colleagues.  Below are the questions and my responses.  

What is the precise definition of  “high achieving, low income” (HALI) students?  This would be helpful in thinking about the type of student the authors are discussing in Nepal, the African countries that their organization serves, and elsewhere.  

Do the authors know how many of the 60 Nepali students offered scholarships by UT Tyler fall into this category?  Young people are one of Nepal’s major exports in the form of adopted children and students.  Needless to say, many from the latter category are drawn from that country’s upper classes.

How do institutions verify need?  Even if you trust, for whatever reason, you must always verify.  I know of a number of cases in which children from families of considerable means gamed the system and received need-based need.  I know one US colleague who wanted to give all Vietnamese applicants need-based aid, as if all Vietnamese students are poor.  Moral of the story:  even rich people want need-based aid.  It’s up to those who run the system to close any existing loopholes and not open any new ones.  

Instead of loans, why not guarantee on-campus jobs for these students?  Who would make the loans?  What would the interest rate be?  How would you guarantee repayment, e.g., withhold the diploma until the outstanding balance is paid?  What are the visa implications of these loans?  

Finally, the notion that scholarships are (or should be) taxed is absurd but something that is beyond the control of the authors.  

Peace, MAA