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Sunday Morning News

California's Little Saigon is Thriving Vietnamese Community

Aired April 30, 2000 - 8:08 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Turning now from those who once fought in Vietnam to the people who once called it home, there are thousands of Vietnamese now living in the United States. Many of them are in California and they've established their own Little Saigon.

Jennifer Auther reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JENNIFER AUTHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is a hub of exile politics. It's a center for Vietnamese-American entertainment, both music and film. This is Little Saigon in Orange County, California. There are a dozen Vietnamese language news outlets here, radio, television and newspapers.

TONY LAM, WESTMINSTER CITY COUNCIL: They're a mixed bag of people. There is some negative aspects but also there's a lot of success stories.

AUTHER: Negative images played nationwide last year when shopkeeper Tron Van Trun (ph) hung up a communist flag and a poster of Ho Chi Minh. It sparked almost two months of protests and resulted in more than 50 arrests. Tron Van Trun, a boat refugee, lost the business but still lives here.

Tony Lam is among the many success stories. Twenty-five years after being ferried out of what was then Saigon's last available airport, Tan Son Nuht (ph), today Lam is a three term city councilman in Westminster, California.

LAM: Very sad that I had to be uprooted from where I was born and raised.

AUTHER: Lam is the first Vietnamese-American elected official in the U.S. He and his wife also own and operate one of Little Saigon's 4,000 businesses. Like other first generation refugees, Lam and his family migrated from California's Camp Pendleton to the nearby cities of Westminster and Garden Grove.

(on camera): In 25 years, this section of Orange County, California has grown from a patch of strawberry fields, salvage yards and empty store fronts to the largest Vietnamese community outside of Vietnam. (voice-over): About 250,000 of the 1.4 million Vietnamese refugees in the U.S. live in Little Saigon. This community also is on the cutting edge. Eight years ago, Henry Famen (ph) opened the first investment banking and brokerage firm founded by Vietnamese refugees.

HENRY FAMEN, LITTLE SAIGON RESIDENT: Now a lot of people, even older people, you know, got involved in the market in a very, very substantial way.

AUTHER: Investing in a capitalist economy embraced as their own.

Jennifer Auther, CNN, Westminster, California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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