Vietnamese people in the Czech Republic
Vietnamese people in the Czech Republic, including residents and citizens, the third largest ethnic minority overall (after Slovaks and Ukrainians), numbering more than 83,000 people according to 2011 census.
Actress Ha Thanh Špetlíková
0.6–0.8% of the Czech population
|Regions with significant populations|
|Prague, Cheb, Varnsdorf|
|Mahayana Buddhism, Roman Catholicism, Protestantism|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Vietnamese people in Europe|
It is the third largest Vietnamese diaspora in Europe, and one of the most populous Vietnamese diasporas of the world.
According to the 2001 census, there were 17,462 ethnic Vietnamese in the Czech Republic. The Vietnamese population has grown very rapidly since then, with the Czech Statistics Office estimating that there were 61,012 Vietnamese residing in the Czech Republic in October 2009. Nguyen, the most common Vietnamese surname, is now the 9th most common surname in the entire country.
Vietnamese immigrants began settling in Czechoslovakia during the Communist period, when they were invited as guest workers by the Czechoslovak government. Migration was encouraged by the Vietnamese authorities, with the intention that the migrants would return with skills and training.
Following the collapse of Communism in Czechoslovakia, many Vietnamese people decided to remain in the country rather than return home. This first generation of immigrants has traditionally made a living as vendors in street markets or stalls. In recent years, however, a significant number have moved towards establishing their own businesses and integrating more broadly into society, similar to the experience of other overseas Vietnamese in Western countries. However, the small business sector remains the key economic domain of first-generation Vietnamese people in the Czech Republic.
Vietnamese immigration continued during the 1990s and 2000s, with Vietnam being one of the countries targeted by the Czech Republic's skilled migration programme.
The largest group of Vietnamese people (numbering over 10,000 in 2011) lives in Prague, and 2% of the population of Karlovy Vary Region have Vietnamese citizenship, with the border town of Cheb being a main centre for Vietnamese people. Also the northernmost part of Bohemia – around the town of Varnsdorf – has a significant Vietnamese population.
In the Czech Republic, national minorities are afforded classic national minority rights, including government funding for the protection of their language and culture. In recent years, the Vietnamese community has sought recognition as a national minority. In 2004, however, the Government Council for National Minorities, the advisory body of the Czech Government on the issues of national minorities, concluded that the Vietnamese do not constitute a "national minority", as this term only applies to indigenous minorities who have inhabited the Czech territory for a long period of time. Eventually in 2013, a representative of the Vietnamese was accepted as a member of the Government Council for National Minorities, which in the absence of precise legal criteria, has been understood as an official recognition of the Vietnamese ethnic minority as a national minority by both authorities and the public. In Prague, which has the largest community of Vietnamese, a Vietnamese representative had been a member of the city's National Minority Council and Vietnamese had been included in Prague's policy for national minorities before this happened at the national level.
In some regions, such as Northern Bohemia, Vietnamese lead the statistics of crimes committed by foreigners, being second only to Slovaks. In drug-related crimes, Vietnamese are the most common foreigner group. Also, 60% of Czech Police drug crime detectives, that generally suffer from lack of personnel, are focused on the Vietnamese drug crime, leaving them short when it comes to investigation of other ethnic criminal groups, such as Turkish gangs specialized in heroin.
Vietnamese criminal gangs in the Czech Republic usually have a three-level structure. The kingpin is usually a well-established man, who came to the country as a student in 1980s. The second level consists of his close friends from studies or family members, while the third level comprises "soldiers", who are often in the country illegally and are fully dependent on the criminal organization.
Criminal activities of Vietnamese gangs in the country consist mainly of tax evasion, infringement of intellectual property rights, smuggling and frauds, but include also racketeering, robbery and murders.
While traditionally specializing in counterfeit goods, during the 2000s Vietnamese people dominated the production and sale of illegal drugs, especially marijuana, methamphetamine and heroin, in many regions of the Czech Republic.
Dramatic rise in methamphetamine use in the neighboring Bavaria and Saxony led in 2013 to German pressure for change of Czech drug laws, under which for example possession of up two grams of methamphetamine or up to fifteen grams of marijuana are not a criminal offense. According to the German authorities, the high legal threshold allows easy purchase for German drug users. However, Czech addiction experts refused lowering of the threshold, saying, that this would merely lead to criminalization of addicts and would not solve the issue. Instead, Czech authorities intensified international cooperation and investigation.
In April 2013, the Czech Republic and Vietnam announced a new bilateral treaty, under which policemen from Vietnam were to join Czech teams fighting Vietnamese drug mafia, while convicted Vietnamese were to be repatriated to the home country and serve their sentences there.
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- (in Czech) Klub Hanoi - association promoting Vietnamese-Czech relations
- A glimpse at Prague's secretive Vietnamese community
- 2004 article on Prague's Vietnamese community