Sunday, 20 April 2014

Drug deals mar recognition of Czech Vietnamese minority

29 March 2013

Prague, March 28 (CTK) - Czech Vietnamese seek an official recognition as an ethnic minority, including a seat in the Government Council for Ethnic Minorities, but they may not succeed due to their reputation as a drug mafia, daily Pravo writes Thursday.

Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg (TOP 09), who heads the government council, is going to propose that Czech Vietnamese and Czech Belarussians be recognised as minorities and that their representatives be invited to join the council, Pravo writes.

"The numbers of Vietnamese and Belarussians in the Czech Republic are high enough for them to be represented in the council. I'll propose their admission," Schwarzenberg told the daily.

Interior Minister Jan Kubice (unaffiliated) has reservations about the recognition of the Vietnamese.

"I admit that the Vietnamese community is strong enough to deserve it. However, we are tackling quite a massive problem of drugs produced by organised crime [coming] from Vietnam. This is what I consider a serious obstacle," Kubice said, adding that he has nothing against decent Vietnamese.

Vietnamese drug mafias operate illegal large hemp farms in the Czech Republic and they also produce pervitine (metamphetamine) which they smuggle to Germany, Pravo writes.

Schwarzenberg, nevertheless, says it is impossible to ignore the fact that the Vietnamese are a strong community deserving a stronger participation in the state.

The law gives the right to officially recognised minorities to ask for bilingual local inscriptions under certain conditions, the daily writes.

Such minorities also have the right to use their mother language in contact with authorities and courts.

The state is obliged to support the language and culture of officially recognised minorities, Pravo writes.

Marcel Winter, honorary chairman of the Czech-Vietnamese Society, says Czech Vietnamese's long-lasting aims have been the introduction of non-compulsory Vietnamese language at schools and a chance of dual citizenship for the kids born to Vietnamese parents in the Czech Republic, Pravo continues.

Over 800 Vietnamese children are born in the Czech Republic every year. In some towns, for example in the Karlovy Vary region, west Bohemia, Vietnamese pupils prevail in school classes, Winter told the daily.

David Sejch, lower house's foreign committee deputy chairman for the senior ruling Civic Democrats (ODS), said Vietnamese membership of the Government Council for Ethnic Minorities may be discussed but he would be cautious as to Vietnamese being granted some other rights.

The recognition of the Vietnamese minority would break the hitherto practice of the Czech state recognising only minorities that have been "historically present" in the country for centuries such as the Slovak, German, Romany and Polish ones, Sejch said.

A total of 12 ethnic minorities have been officially recognised by the Czech state for now, Pravo says.

Jeronym Tejc, shadow interior minister for the senior opposition Social Democrats (CSSD), said he would prefer projects to boost foreigners' integration in the Czech society.

"Instead of creating minorities, we should persuade as many people as possible and create the best possible conditions for them to accept Czech culture and Czech language for theirs," Tejc is quoted as saying.

Czech Vietnamese have asked the government for official recognition several times, last time in November 2012.

The Vietnamese are the country's third largest ethnic community, after Slovaks and Ukrainians.

About 58,000 Vietnamese stayed legally in the 10.5-million Czech Republic last year, 39,000 with permanent residence and the rest with temporary residence permits, Pravo writes.

A total of 482 Vietnamese were granted Czech citizenship in 2001-2010.

As far as Belarussians are concerned, about 4000 of them live in the Czech Republic, according to available information, Pravo writes.

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