H.E. Thai Xuan Dung

“Hard-working Vietnamese people integrate ever more successfully”

H.E. Thai Xuan Dung, Ambassador of Vietnam

Text: Martina Hošková and M. Zisso; Photo: Archive

According to official estimates, there are now around 96,000 Vietnamese people living in the Czech Republic. Mr. Thai Xuan Dung, Ambassador of Vietnam, describes the community as “industrious, tolerant, hard-working, dynamic, creative, and extraordinarily studious”, and, based on my experience as a Czech person, I fully agree with him. In this interview, Mr. Dung offers an insight into his positive feelings about our country, the local Vietnamese community’s support for people in need, the development of the tourism industry in Vietnam, and the bilateral trade opportunities for businesses of both countries.

How long have you been in the Czech Republic? Can you please share some of your impressions?

I am a diplomat with over 35 years of experience working at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I was appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in the Czech Republic in July 2020. The first impression I noticed is that Prague is an ancient, beautiful capital, filled with so many spectacular monuments and stunning architecture like Prague Castle, Old Town Square, and Charles Bridge. Besides Prague, I also visited some other cities in the Czech Republic such as Karlovy Vary, Brno, and Ostrava. The more I learn in terms of history, architecture, culture, and cuisine, the more I am amazed by the cultural and historical landscapes and friendly people here. After spending over two years in the Czech Republic, it goes without saying that it is one of the safest and most beautiful countries I ever had the chance to live in. Czech people are modest, pleasant, friendly… and also very enthusiastic when it comes to festivals. In summary, the Czech Republic is a country worth living in and has many aspects to explore.

There is a big Vietnamese community in our country. How do you evaluate their situation here?

I can say that the Vietnamese community in the Czech Republic is one of solidarity and responsibility, complying with local laws, gradually overcoming language barriers and thus integrating more deeply, widely, and sustainably.

In 2013, the Vietnamese community in the Czech Republic was recognized by the Czech government as an ethnic minority in the Czech Republic. The community ́s willingness to share local difficulties and contribute to Czech society is highly appreciated by common Czechs as well as the local authorities, and the Vietnamese are being recognized as a community that brings many benefits to the Czech Republic. Most of the Vietnamese here have jobs and stable incomes, their children are well educated, and many have been very successful in the business environment.

Can you give some concrete examples of how the Vietnamese in the Czech Republic benefit our society?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, from the very beginning, the Vietnamese community across the Czech Republic has shown solidarity and actively supported the local authorities and people as a response to the pandemic.

Let me mention things like donating face masks, medical supplies, cash, and providing free meals and drinks for the pandemic prevention and control forces. Another example is donating essential consumer goods and cash to the people of Southern Moravia, who suffered serious damage from a tornado at the end of June 2021.

Since the war in Ukraine broke out in February of this year, which led to the humanitarian crisis with millions of refugees from Ukraine escaping to Europe, the Vietnamese community has promptly implemented several activities to support the refugees, both Vietnamese and Ukrainian. A committee has been established by the Embassy of Vietnam and the Association of the Vietnamese people in the Czech Republic to help evacuate Vietnamese fleeing war zones in Ukraine. The committee has regularly updated the latest regulations and instructions set out by the governments of Czechia, Ukraine’s neighboring countries, and the EU on the entry of those from Ukraine. Announcements have been published by the committee on the official website of the Vietnamese Embassy and on social media in order to help them better understand local rules.

The committee has raised nearly 20,000 EUR, which was spent on food, medicine, and other necessities for those fleeing to Poland and Romania. Additionally, it has collected donations of food, drinking water, blankets, clothes, and medicine from local people for the needy people from Ukraine. Many expats have voluntarily driven the Ukrainian Vietnamese from the borders with Ukraine to temporary shelters in Czechia, while others have given accommodation and food.

Vietnam is gaining more and more attention from the Czech people as a holiday destination. How do you promote your country?

Firstly, I would like to appreciate the fact that Czech people choose Vietnam as one of their holiday destinations. Recently, Vietnam‘s tourism industry has been putting all of its efforts into restoring its operations after a long struggle of being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Vietnam is one of the six countries that achieved the highest COVID-19 vaccination coverage rates in the world.

Back in time, 20 years ago, Vietnam was not a popular destination for tourists. The situation has changed significantly in recent years. At the moment, besides the big known cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, other provinces have also gradually renovated their landscapes, infrastructures, and customer services to become a favorite holiday destination for tourists from across the globe.

The campaign “Live fully in Vietnam” was created to help promote Vietnam’s outstanding values of culture, heritage, and landscapes, as well as the premium services of Vietnam tourism, offering international visitors a full experience in Vietnam. Besides, we also focus on implementing digital technology to improve the efficiency of our promotion activities and ensure safe tourism. In particular, we will continue promoting tourism in Vietnam via digital platforms such as websites and social networks. In addition to online activities, in 2022, Vietnam’s tourism industry will organize and participate in international industry events and fairs to reconnect with international tourist markets and target key markets in Europe, such as the Czech Republic. At the same time, programs will be deployed to promote Vietnam‘s tourism on major international media channels such as CNN and CNBC. We are ready to welcome the wave of tourism recovery and all Czech friends in Vietnam now, in 2022.

What is the status of Czechia-Vietnam relations?

The Czech Republic and Vietnam enjoy a traditional and long-lasting relationship, established over the past 70 years, that is constantly being consolidated and developed in all fields. The Czech Republic is one of Vietnam’s priority partners in Central Eastern Europe. The two sides have maintained regular exchanges through hundreds of delegations at all levels, and a variety of other means. Our countries have maintained regular meetings of the Intergovernmental Committee on Economic Cooperation to implement economic cooperation activities since 2006. The most recent one was successfully held in Prague on 29-30 June 2022, with the signing of a protocol of the 7th meeting. Those exchanges and meetings have contributed to further promoting political and diplomatic relations, expanding economic trade and investment relations, and also promoting cooperation in the field of security, defense, education-training, and encouraging discussions on international and regional issues of mutual concern. Figures presented at the seventh meeting show that bilateral trade between Czechia and Vietnam has reached the record value of 2.0 billion USD in 2021, a major increase of 37.9% in comparison to 2020. The Czech Republic currently has 41 investment projects in Vietnam, with a total registered capital of more than $92 million, ranking 49 among 139 countries and territories investing in Vietnam, focusing on the fields of real estate, beer, electrical equipment, building materials, etc. Recently, Czech businesses have been very interested in the Vietnamese market in the fields of traffic and its supporting industries, production of automobiles and spare parts, electric railway cars, beer and wine, cyber security, defense industry, etc. In addition, Vietnamese businessmen in the Czech Republic are also quite successful, and make a significant contribution to promoting trade and investment cooperation between our countries, thereby promoting economic relations between Vietnam and the European Union.

I assume the cooperation with the EU as a whole and the Czech Republic as a member country go hand in hand, am I right?

Sure, the implementation of the EVFTA (EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement) has brought many benefits to Vietnamese-EU businesses and people, including the Czech Republic. The EVFTA and EVIPA (Investment Protection Agreement), approved by the Czech parliament, are of strategic importance to economic, trade, and investment cooperation, not only between Vietnam and the EU but also between Vietnam and the Czech Republic. The agreements will help Czech and EU businesses access the market of nearly 100 million people – a young market with 65% of people under 35 years of age, very dynamic, creative, and knowledgeable. Besides, Vietnam will be the door for Czech enterprises to access ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and East Asian markets in the near future.

We can see that the mutual relations of our countries are friendly and on the right track. What else can we wish for?

You are right. Since the establishment of diplomatic relations on 2 February 1950, the relations between Vietnam and the Czech Republic have been cultivated by generations of leaders and people of the two countries, and have continuously flourished, becoming traditional friendship and multi-faceted cooperation relations. Although I am more than 10,000 kilometers away from Vietnam now, I still feel close and cozy like at home because we have such a strong and close relationship. Now, I am very proud to call the Czech Republic my second homeland.

And for that friendship and strong foundation, may I wish the traditional friendship and multi-faceted cooperation between Vietnam and the Czech Republic to continue to strengthen, develop, and achieve greater heights; and also prosperity and happiness for the citizens of both countries.

How to holiday in Vietnam

Frequently visited and highly recommended by international tourists are, for example, these locations:

Ha Long Bay – for its emerald waters and more than 1,600 limestone towers and islands topped by rainforests. Halong Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most popular tourist destinations in Vietnam. The place is ranked fifth among the ten most beautiful places around the world in 2022, according to Canadian travel site The Travel.

Quang Binh – for its natural caves and mountainous interior, with Son Doong Cave – the world’s largest natural cave settled deep within the remote and well-preserved jungles of central Vietnam’s Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site. The New York Times listed Son Doong Cave as the 8th among 52 must-go destinations in 2014. In 2019, the cave ranked 3rd in the 11 amazing attractions by the leading tourism magazine Telegraph.

Hue – for its royal mausoleums, imperial citadel, and iconic pagodas, Sapa – for its towering peaks, steep rice terraces, and picturesque villages, Nha Trang – for its picturesque beaches, which offer a backdrop of towering rock cliffs and are stunningly beautiful, Mekong Delta – for its vast rice fields and innumerable waterways, Phu Quoc – for its white powder beaches, turquoise waters, palm tree forests, mountains, and waterfalls,

On top of that, the Vietnamese cuisine is distinctive, with a unique fusion of ingredients, and it is very affordable and easy to buy. Tourists can choose from a wide variety of food like Phở – a delicious Vietnamese noodle soup cooked in chicken, beef, or even vegetarian broth, Bánh Cuốn – a scrumptious roll made from rice flour with a hearty filling of pork, mushrooms and shrimp, topped with some crunchy onions, Bún Chả – a combination of sliced pork, vermicelli noodles, fresh garden herbs, and fish sauce, Bún Bò – a symphony of textures prepared with vermicelli noodles, peanuts, bean sprouts, fried shallots, and chilli peppers.