Friday, January 04, 2008

Vietnam security jobs a tough business

Security guards just can’t get no respect
11:57' 03/01/2008 (GMT+7)

VietNamNet Bridge – Hanoi at 2am. The city is sleeping. The streets are quiet and few people are out.

But many buildings and construction sites still have a single shining light and several uniformed watchmen walking around.

Nguyen Van Hy, from Nam Dinh Province, now works as a guard for a bank on Hanoi’s Thai Ha Street. He has nearly 20 years experiences as a watchman.

His parents died when he was 10, so Hy followed his older sister to earn a living in the capital city. After seven years as a street kid, living on odd jobs such as shining shoes, a friend introduced him to work as a guard for a restaurant.

"But being a guard for a restaurant is not so simple," he says. "Not only guarding, we had to know how to serve customers so they would feel pleased with the service of the restaurant."

Hy recalls that he was sacked more than once because his lack of courtesy annoyed some choosy customers.

"Though my life was hard, I still had to pursue this job."

Recognising that Hy was an honest man with experiences, a bank manager employed him as a guard. But Hy says he feels that, even though he has worked hard, everyone still considers him a guard who was once a street kid.

One of his colleagues, Phi Van Giang, says most guards are not properly respected by other people.

"Before working here, I worked as a ticket taker at Hang Day Stadium. One day, a young man without a ticket tried to jostle to get in. When I pushed him back, he spit in my face and insulted me. But I had to refrain myself," says Giang.

A guard at the Ministry of Trade and Industry head office, Nguyen The Than, says not everyone is cut out for this work.

"Around the clock, we have to keep our eyes and ears open. A little carelessness may result in a theft, and months of our salaries might not compensate for the stolen property," Than says.

Than says he had to pay such compensation once, and many of his colleagues have faced the same situation.

"Most stealing is by drug addicts," he says. "We have to keep watch and face drug addicts, so the job is dangerous, especially to guards in construction sites. Many times, the thieves threaten to stab us with syringes."

Do Van Tinh patrols a construction site near Ngoc Khanh Lake.

"Not so many thieves visit places being cleared," he says. "But at construction sites, where flats are being completed and expensive home fixtures are being installed, we always face thieves."

Tinh says thieves at a bridge construction site killed a guard from Thai Binh Province last year, then threw his body into the river.

"After that, we had to have dozens of guards on every night shift, and everyone has to be vigilant."

Vietnam now has dozens of companies that supply guard services. Security services first appeared in the late 1990s, beginning with the Thang Long Security Service Co which protected Hong Kong singer Li Ming while touring Vietnam.

In 2001, the Prime Minister issued Decree No 14 on security services, which the Ministry of Pubic Security implemented by issuing a circular. But both regulations only cover the conditions for establishing this form of company and do not regulate specific standards for employees or training. There is no official training programme or certification which recognises standards for a guard. Most security companies maintain their own in-house training programmes, which include training in the law and foreign languages, as well as martial arts, fire prevention and first aid.

Tinh says many people consider guards uneducated, causing them to receive discriminatory treatment and disrespectful attitudes. But the job is both risky and necessary to protect lives and property. Most guards only want to be treated politely, Tinh says, while earning a living.