When table talk turns to sex

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 15 September, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 15 September, 1996, 12:00am

IT'S 8 am and Ms Binh has just started working the breakfast tables of a respectable state-run restaurant on the shores of Nha Trang, an increasingly important resort town in southern Vietnam.

'Good morning, I am a prostitute, can I be of service,' she asks as she goes from table to table.

An elderly French couple appear to choke on their baguettes and hurriedly call for the bill.

Her approach is also a little too much for a pair of English public schoolboys, who blush and suddenly concentrate on their prawn omelettes.

'There is good money for me in tourism, but I try to keep out of everyone's way . . . I don't want any trouble,' says Ms Binh, 42. 'I only a provide a massage service.' More than six months after a crackdown on 'social evils', a sex industry openly flourishes in what has long been considered Vietnam's vice capital.

A major local mafia racket has been broken and beach-front gambling wiped out but local officials and Western diplomats are worried that more needs to be done.

Fears are growing that Nha Trang, home to ancient Cham temples and Vietnam's main coral reefs, is starting to attract too many of the wrong type of tourist - drug addicts and foreign paedophiles among them.

'We are fighting like everyone else against social evils,' says Nguyen Van Thanh, spokesman for Khang Hoa province's tourist service.

'We are battling against drugs and AIDS, and when it comes to tourism, we must fight the negative forces.

'We still must do more to make a good environment for guests . . . a secure, orderly and cultural environment where they can enjoy beauty, not the things of low value.'