Fight brewing over consulate plans

November 11, 2008 5:03:06 PM PST
There's a small battle growing among Houston's Vietnamese community. It concerns plans to open a Vietnamese consulate here in Houston. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

Houston is home to one of the largest Vietnamese communities in the country, yet the area is not served by a consulate. And there are some who want it to stay that way.

In Houston's bustling Asia town, there are flags from another era -- the yellow and red Vietnamese flag flown over the country before the communist takeover more than 30 years ago. It is clear indication of how many in the community feel about the possibility that a Vietnamese consulate could open up shop in Houston.

"We escaped the communists and we don't want to see their policy here in the United States," said Kim Nguyen, who opposes the consulate.

The opinions are not one-sided at one of the many Vietnamese restaurants in the area. Some, especially second generation Vietnamese, see a local consulate as an added convenience offering faster visa approval and making overseas travel easier.

"I don't view it as a big deal" said Casey Pham, who supports the consulate. "Whatever is in the past, just let it go and do something better for the future."

But among community activists, the view is clearly against any normalizing of relationsship with the communist government. Hundreds protested when Vietnam's prime minister visited in June. And just this week, Congressman Al Green wrote a letter to the U.S. State Department, demanding that a consulate does not open in Houston.

"I truly believe that inhumanity in any country is a threat to humanity in every country and Vietnam has not made the progress we hoped it would make," he said.

And if one does open, local activists say the protests we saw in this past summer are just the beginning.

"A lot of people, especially the elders, they will have demonstrations day in and day out," said Al Hoang with the Vietnamese Community in Houston and Vicinity. "And it will cost a lot a lot of money for the city and also for the state and the federal to hire security."

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