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Vice activities by some Vietnamese in Singapore that are not representative of residents here: Embassy Officer

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SINGAPORE: Vice activities carried out by some individuals here are not representative of the Vietnamese population in Singapore, a Vietnamese embassy official said.

About 15,000 Vietnamese live here in Singapore.

Many of them work in the food and beverage industry, such as restaurants and hawker centers, or are here to study, said the embassy’s deputy mission chief Le Cong Dung.

“Those (who work at KTVs) are a very small number… not all Vietnamese come to Singapore for KTV jobs,” he said.

“It’s just bad luck that this Vietnamese woman got infected… and that it created a public image that the Vietnamese community does (KTV jobs),” he said.

“But I can assure you that the Vietnamese are one of the easiest people here. We (usually) work with street vendors… that’s one of the main areas that Vietnamese with work permits do here,” he said.

Dung responded to reports of discrimination against Vietnamese in Singapore after the index case of the KTV lounges cluster – a Vietnamese short-visit pass holder – tested positive for COVID-19 on July 11.

As of Wednesday (July 21), the cluster has been linked to 215 cases.

It has also been linked to the cluster at Jurong Fishery Port, with infections that are genetically different from the virus variant seen in other local clusters, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said Monday.

READ: KTV and Jurong Fishery Port COVID-19 clusters are ‘linked’: Ong Ye Kung

Although the Vietnamese woman was the first case discovered in the cluster, Kenneth Mak, director of medical services at the Ministry of Health (MOH), clarified last Friday that this does not mean she was the source of the infection.

Since the woman has been in Singapore for a while, it’s “highly” likely that the cluster seeding started as a result of an initial community dispersal, he said at the time.

The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) and the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) confirmed on Friday that the woman entered Singapore via the familial ties lane in February.

She was sponsored by a Singaporean citizen who indicated on her application form that he was her boyfriend.

READ: Timeline: From KTV lounges switching to F&B stores, to a spike in local COVID-19 cases

“We have integrated into the community in Singaporean society for the long term (so) we see ourselves as Singaporeans, as long-term residents… we don’t associate with the people who come to Singapore in the short-term way,” said chairman of the Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce (VietCham) David Nguyen.

“And I think most people here, (including) Singaporeans… understand that this kind of activity or short-term visitors who come to Singapore are mainly organized by Singaporeans themselves, (like) the owner of bars, clubs,” he told CNA.

“It has nothing to do with the Vietnamese residents staying here, integrated into the community and living a peaceful life in Singapore,” said Dr. Nguyen.

VietCham works closely with its members to ensure they adhere to the country’s laws and policies, including safe controls for COVID-19, he added.

While the embassy has not received any complaints from residents, Dung acknowledged that there may be cases that went unreported because those involved did not want to draw attention to themselves.

“We Vietnamese tend to hold back when something like this happens and (hope) that time will make everything easier,” Dung told CNA.

“It’s really sad that something like this happened,” he said.

“I hope that (people living in) Singapore will have a better picture of the Vietnamese community here.”

COVID-19 VIRUS DOES NOT DISTINGUISH BETWEEN NATIONALITIES: SUN XUELING

Member of Parliament Sun Xueling (PAP-Punggol West) shared in a Facebook post on Saturday that a resident had written to her expressing concern for the Vietnamese community.

In her email to Ms Sun, who is also the State Minister for Education and Social and Family Development, the resident said Vietnamese women have faced verbal abuse and hate speech after the discovery of the index case related to the KTV cluster.

In her post, Ms Sun urged the public to be more critical and compassionate, so as not to hurt those who are “innocent”.

Speaking to CNA on Wednesday, Ms Sun said the resident noted that these Vietnamese women who are “mothers, wives, frontline workers” face verbal abuse when purchasing essential items in public.

The resident shared an example of a woman being asked to get out of a taxi, as well as a six-year-old child who witnessed his mother, a Vietnamese, be spoken to “unkindly,” she added.

There are several families with children in her ward who have Vietnamese relatives, Ms Sun said.

“I see them in the neighborhood when I go on house calls, on the playgrounds, in the supermarkets. I have helped several such families in the past when they had problems with housing or financial aid. That may have prompted the resident to contact me,” she added.

“I have replied to her that I will bring the matter she has raised and encourage respect and courtesy. We should not taunt an entire community with a single brush for the wrongdoing of some.”

The coronavirus “does not distinguish” between nationalities and professions, Ms Sun emphasized.

“We are in this together and we must be responsible together. We are only as strong as the weakest link, so we need the collective efforts of everyone to stay safe.”

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