A 28-month-old Vietnamese baby who has not been taught even the alphabets is reading newspapers and books.

Dong Ngoc Han discovered last February that her son Pham Duc Thuan, born October 2003, could read when he began reading a signboard while walking along the road one day.

News of the strange child, who lives with his farmer-parents in Thuan An commune in the Mekong Delta’s Vinh Long province, spread bringing curious neighbors and xe om (taxi motorbike) drivers to gawk at him.

A Thanh Nien reporter visited the family this month and saw the baby reading a newspaper.

The child could correctly and fluently read a Vietnamese-language newspaper though his pronunciation sounded like a foreigner’s.

“My son is eager to read words he sees on television, newspapers, and books but he does not understand their meaning,” his mother said.

He is otherwise normal and, like all children, is fond of playing with others.

Other similar cases

But baby Thuan is not a unique case. Local media reported about three other babies in the country who could also read at an early age without having been taught.

They are Nguyen Hung Son, born February 2002, of Long Binh hamlet, Tra Vinh city; Nguyen Dong Quoc, born September 2002, of Tan Uyen district of Binh Duong province; and Nguyen Anh Tu, born April 2003, of Pleiku city in Gia Lai province in the central highland.

All of them began to read when they were around 30 months old.

Reported by Nhu Lich – Translated by Minh Phat

  Posted on Sun, May. 07, 2006

By Nerissa Pacio
Mercury News
There is one piece of advice Chloe Dao would give to aspiring Asian-American artists: “Don’t listen to your parents.”

That is, after all, how the 34-year-old Vietnamese-American refugee became a successful fashion designer, entrepreneur and winner of last season’s “Project Runway,” the Bravo channel’s popular reality series that takes place in New York’s fashion world.

“Don’t get me wrong,” says Dao, whose traditional parents urged her from a young age to become a doctor, despite her call to fashion, “I love my mom and dad. But you have to follow your dreams. You have to live for what you want to do.”

Dao, who lives in Houston, was in San Jose recently making an appearance at the Museum of Quilts and Textiles’ opening of its latest exhibit, “Ao Dai: A Modern Design Coming of Age.”

Wearing a layered green chiffon cocktail dress and open-toed platforms that boosted her 4-foot-11-inch frame to just over 5 feet, Dao toured the gallery of traditional Vietnamese garments with her mother, Hue Thuc Luong.

A crowd of about 50 people, mostly from the local Vietnamese arts community, eagerly greeted Dao, who later took center stage for a Q&A about her stint on reality TV and her flourishing career. Many of the guests, dressed in colorful ao dais, snacked on fresh spring rolls and took photos of the guest of honor.

“I’m the superstar of the Vietnamese community right now, the golden child, and it’s very cool,” says Dao of her newfound role model status. “When I talk to young people, I tell them I’m living proof that this is what it’s about in America. There are so many career opportunities here — you should let your passion lead you. My mom jokes around saying, `You literally defied my wishes, and now look — you’re popular!’ ”

Dao not only followed her dreams, but she’s also living them with her win on “Project Runway.”

The victory gave her $100,000 in seed money toward her own clothing line, an apprenticeship with the design team at Banana Republic, a spread in Elle magazine and a $24,000 Saturn Sky Roadster. It has also presented a flurry of national media attention and increased traffic into Lot 8, the Houston boutique that carries her designs, co-owned by her sister and business partner, Sydney Dao.

“Things haven’t drastically changed, but they’re not exactly the same,” Dao says. “People recognize me now. I have to brush my hair when I go out of the house.”

The cult show, which is now casting its third season, is a behind-the-scenes look into the fashion industry. It follows a group of aspiring designers in various creative challenges. In each episode, a panel of industry insiders — including designer Michael Kors, supermodel Heidi Klum and Elle magazine fashion director Nina Garcia — deems who did the best job and eliminates the weakest contestant.

Dao’s memorable designs and professionalism kept her in the running week to week, Garcia says. “She was very consistent with her work. It was always impeccable and always delivered. I don’t remember one episode where she didn’t make a good impression.”

The show has attracted a loyal following because “it’s about genuine talent,” Kors says. “It’s not about eating bugs.”

It also mimics the fickle and harsh reality of the fashion business, he adds.

“It’s really about each challenge. You could be floating along doing well, but if you do something that’s just not right — then it’s goodbye.”

Since the series ended for the season, Dao has been hard at work creating an online sales business for her boutique, negotiating a pending deal for a line of special-edition jeans with a yet-to-be-named premium denim company, and making rounds on the press circuit.

She has appeared on the “Today” show with Katie Couric and has been featured in Women’s Wear Daily, People, Forbes and Lucky magazines, among others. Still, Dao has made it a point to stay true to her roots.

The weekend after her appearance in San Jose, she spoke at a conference on women in leadership at the Vietnamese American National Gala in San Francisco.

“Vietnamese people aren’t afraid of hard work,” Dao says. “It’s how we have succeeded in this country. Ultimately, it’s why our parents came.”

Born in Laos, Dao, her parents and seven sisters fled the war-torn country and spent time in a Thai family prison before moving to Dallas in 1979 with sponsorship from an uncle. A year later, the family settled in Houston, where her parents owned dry cleaning, food service and tailoring businesses. Seeing her parents’ example instilled a solid work ethic and an entrepreneurial spirit in her, she says.

So far, Dao’s drive has paid off. What began as an after-school hobby of making jewelry, Barbie outfits and her own prom dress evolved into a full-fledged fashion design career.

She opened her boutique, named after the eight Dao sisters, in 2000 and is already planning for an expansion. She’s also working on more of her own designs, which she’ll sell in Lot 8.

But even after racking up accomplishments — from a degree in pattern-making from the Fashion Institute of Technology to an eight-year run working at fashion houses in New York to her “Project Runway” win — Dao says she still has a ways to go.

Everything is next,” Dao says. “I’m working on my next collection. I’m dying to do a sportswear collection. Eventually I could do menswear. You’ll definitely see me in fashion for a long, long time.”

Contact Nerissa Pacio at npacio@mercurynews.com or (408) 920-5827.

By JASON BISSELL/For the Lincoln Journal Star
Sunday, May 07, 2006 – 10:11:40 am CDT
“I’ll take a Big Mac with some fries,” says a customer in the McDonald’s drive-through. Inside the restaurant, a 19-year-old Vietnamese employee turns and uses hand gestures to signal to her co-workers.

Her English is improving, but not quite there yet. She can’t pronounce some words, so instead she points to the menu.

That’s how Anne Dinh was introduced to American business.

Today, the 34-year-old Dinh spends her days at the U.S. Bank at 13th and L streets. Nine years ago, she started as a banker and moved to sales before becoming a service manager. In 2001, she became the branch manager.

She manages a staff of 14, which includes tellers, bankers and managers. She emphasizes customer service to her staff and exemplifies it in her daily dealings with those who walk through the bank’s doors. And while she speaks English fluently now, her native language allows her and the bank to reach out to Vietnamese customers.

But for Anne Dinh, professional success represents more than just a job title — it symbolizes an important milestone on a very long journey.

In 1989, a 19-year-old Dinh, her parents, youngest brother and youngest sister left their home in Vietnam and flew to Switzerland where two of her other sisters lived. They stayed for 2 ½ months before the five of them moved to the United States.

The plane ride to America took 24 hours and the food, Dinh recalls, did not taste good.

“I couldn’t eat at all,” she said. “The food was different … but now I can eat anything.”

They came to Omaha to reunite with two older brothers, who left Vietnam shortly before they did.

No one in the family spoke English fluently and none had jobs arranged for their arrival. They found a home in a small Vietnamese neighborhood in Omaha. Her mother took a job at a

Chinese restaurant while her father found a job with a business that produced computer disks.

To learn English, Dinh attended Benson High for a couple of years. Although she was the oldest student in the school, nobody knew, she says, because of her small stature and youthful appearance. She spoke choppy English, which made school and work difficult. Although she learned English grammar at school in Vietnam, the lessons didn’t prepare her to use the language in every day life.

After graduating from high school, she enrolled at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, where she majored in finance and business. She worked hard to overcome cultural and communication challenges because getting the opportunity for a higher education had always been a dream.

“If I lived in Vietnam I didn’t know what I could be,” she said. “If I dreamed to be a banker there, I don’t know if I was capable or allowed to be. In the United States I can do whatever I put my mind to.”

Dinh moved to Lincoln in 1997, to join U.S. Bank. Coi Dinh, her husband of eight years, also works with the bank as a mortgage loan officer.

Family photos surround her desk at work. She has two sons, Dillon, 6, and Derek, almost 2, with whom she spends a lot of time, she said.

It’s a luxury her parents didn’t have.

“In Vietnam, parents don’t have time for kids because they struggle with living,” she said. “They have to be working constantly to bring shelter and food to their kids. It’s totally different here.”

She said the relationship between her and her parents is much closer now, because life in the U.S. affords them more time together.

Her ethnicity has attracted Vietnamese customers and staff to the bank. Along with Dinh, two tellers also speak Vietnamese. The staff also includes Latino and African-American employees.

“U.S. Bank is very committed to other cultures,” said Dinh, who serves on the board of the Asian Community and Cultural Center.

Employee Araceli Castro said she looks up to Dinh because of the way she treats her clients.

“I’m a banker because of the training she has given me,” she said. “The way she treats her employees, as a boss, but also as friends, makes it easier for us to learn about her.”

Dinh’s top job responsibility is to maximize the branch’s profits. But if the job causes her stress, she doesn’t show it. Her smiling face greets customers as they walk into the bank. She walks briskly, with a purpose, but doesn’t forget who she’s helping.

Her optimism and outgoing personality don’t go unnoticed at work. Teller Stephanie Romero said Dinh relates well with her staff.

“I really like how she doesn’t necessarily treat you as a boss,” Romero said. “She works well with you. She doesn’t have that separation between boss and employee. It’s more of a team here. She creates that team spirit.”

Her connections with the Vietnamese community, her sales capability and her customer service skills are why she has succeeded professionally, said Lynn Larson, U.S. Bank’s district sales manager.

“She was promoted because of her integrity and for always doing the right thing for the customer,” Larson said. “She is a self-motivated individual who believes in doing the right thing for the company.”

It’s been 15 years since she came to Nebraska and used hand signals to make it through those early days at McDonalds. Now just a tinge of an accent can be heard in her voice when she speaks English, but her friendliness and appreciation for others translates to any language.

“My parents always made sure we were good people, had a good heart, and cared for others,” Dinh said. “We came from a country where there is little opportunity. When I came to the United States there are so many things I look at and appreciate more.”

Jason Bissell graduated in December from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a degree in journalism and will soon start as sports editor for the Papillion Times. He wrote this story for a feature writing class at the College of Journalism and Mass Communications. He can be reached at jasonb_1222@hotmail.com.


Two Vietnamese girls sold by a people trafficking gang to brothels in Malaysia returned home Saturday, the Ministry of Public Security reported.

The two, aged 19, are from the Mekong Delta province of Hau Giang and were lured into traveling to Malaysia to get married but ended up in brothels instead.

They had to serve five to six customers a day and were ill-treated by the pimps.

Before being repatriated the two were in Malaysian police custody for four months following a crackdown on the sex trade and illegal immigration.

Vietnamese police recently sent investigators to Malaysia to collect evidence against an international human trafficking gang busted last month in Ho Chi Minh City.

Source: Sai Gon Giai Phong – Translated

  C B C . C A   N e w s   –   F u l l   S t o r y :

Last Updated Mon, 08 May 2006 20:56:27 EDT

CBC News

Seventeen years after he fled Vietnam, a resident of a Philippine refugee camp was finally reunited Sunday with his brother in Vancouver.

Lam Nguyen was one of eight people who arrived in British Columbia on the weekend to join their relatives as a result of changes to Canada’s immigration rules.

“I feel emotional and happy,” said  Lam Nguyen. “I couldn’t ever imagine one day I could see my brother again.”

Nguyen, 39, left Vietnam by boat in 1989, and ended up in the Philippines.

When he was denied legal entry into that country, Nguyen found himself in a legal limbo that would last almost two decades. Instead of immigrating to Canada, as his brother Dien had, Nguyen lived in a refugee camp, where he eventually married a Philippine-born woman and had a daughter.

Meanwhile, Dien Nguyen, now 45, was given refugee status and eventually relocated to Canada, settling in Surrey, B.C.

He tried to sponsor his brother as a new Canadian but was unsuccessful: For one thing, Lam didn’t have UN refugee status. For another, he was too old under Canadian family reunification rules.

Those rules were changed last year, in part due to lobbying from a group called SOS Viet Phi.

“We were able to talk to the minister,” said group spokesman Max Vo. “We were able to get through to his department and let them understand these people were indeed in need of Canada’s protection.

“Before, there was never an organized group to come up and bring the issue in front of the Canadian government.”

Lam Nguyen says he’s thankful for all those who helped him join his family.

He says he hopes about 140 other stateless Vietnamese who were in the same position as he was will be able to someday enjoy the same kind of welcome in Canada.

About 145,000 Vietnamese people came to Canada in the years after the Communists took over the country in 1975.

Copyright ©2006 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation – All Rights Reserved

NEW ORLEANS, May 8 (UPI) — Hundreds of Vietnamese-American families in New Orleans fear their neighborhood is about to be hit by Hurricane Katrina again — this time by its debris.

Some 7.2 million tons of hurricane debris needs to be dumped but the Chef Menteur landfill can only accept 2.6 million tons.

More than a thousand Vietnamese-American families live less than two miles from the edge of a new landfill, opened on April 26, and representatives told The New York Times they fear dumping the debris there will threaten their existence.

Environmental groups are also angry, accusing local and federal officials of ignoring regulations, comparing it to the aftermath of Hurricane Betsy in 1965, after which one dump became a Superfund site.

The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality and the Army Corps of Engineers are both working on the cleanup that Joel Waltzer, a lawyer representing landfill opponents, says includes “cleaning solutions, pesticides, fertilizers, bleach.”

Photographer Le Hong Linh stands first in the Photographic Society of America (PSA)’s list in black and white photos with 52 international prizes in 129 accepts.

This was from a PSA Journal issued in May, 2006.

This is the first time since 1975 a Vietnamese ranks first in the list. In top 25 world photographers in black and white genre of PAS, another Vietnamese photographer, Dao Tien Dat stands 14th with 49 accepts.

Since the beginning of the year, Le Hong Linh has won 18 international prizes at four contests held in the US, India and Spain.  His latest prize has been won at the 73rd Wilmington International Photo Contest in the US which attracted 2,728 entries of 432 artists from 33 countries. All his four photos sent to the contest were awarded prizes, including one gold medal for ‘Time No 7’, one silver medal for ‘Mother and Child’, and two certificates of honour for ‘Summer Day’ and ‘Wave’. In addition, Hong Linh also won another two certificates of honour in colour photo.

From 2002- 2004, photographer Le Hong Linh had been ranked continuously among top ten of PAS with year-on-year increased points.