BackStories » Vietnam » After Claims of Sexual Misconduct, Rocker Pham Anh Khoa Removed From UN Campaign, Concert, TV Contest

After the sexual assault allegation at Tuoi Tre gave rise to an emerging #metoo movement in Vietnam, more women are coming forward with stories of their own.

The most recent sexual harassment allegations that have surfaced revolve around Pham Anh Khoa, a Vietnamese rock singer. In the TV singing contest Troi Sinh Mot Cap (It Takes 2), Khoa was serving as a vocal mentor to Pham Lich, a Vietnamese professional dancer. On April 27, in a Facebook post, Lich accused the rock singer of making inappropriate sexual advances and taking advantage of her during rehearsals.

According to Lich, during the course of the competition, it was hard for her to schedule rehearsals with Khoa as he was only free at night during unearthly hours. He also insisted that she come over to his house to practice, which was always empty whenever she arrived. She later released several screen captures of inappropriate text messages she's received from Khoa through Facebook as evidence of her claims.

The dancer also shared that there were times when she went to his house and he was dressed in nothing but a bath towel. During practice, the rock singer would touch her, saying, "In my mind, I've touched and explored all of your body." Lich later communicated to Khoa that his behaviors made her feel uncomfortable, yet he didn't stop. 

Khoa took the matter to his own personal Facebook page, claiming Lich was trying to take advantage of his reputation and threatened to sue her. His action prompted another woman – dancer Le Hoang Nga My – to come forward. My said that Khoa allegedly did similar things to her as well. Specifically, he occasionally invited her over to his house or to a hotel at midnight. Several screen captures of Khoa's text messages were provided as evidence.

On May 11, an anonymous woman known by the initials M.P. shared an incident when Khoa sexually harassed her four years ago.

"He pushed me and my face was pressed against the wall. He locked my hands with his hand. He was too strong and I was weak. I could not move. He pressed his body against mine, kissed my neck and shoulder," M.P. told Zing.

She added that the incident led to one year of depression and poor health. She had to use medication as a result.

"I lost sleep because the incident haunted me even in my dreams. The hardest part is that I couldn't tell anybody, because I'm not sure anyone would believe it. I felt like it's a sin I need to hide. I was wearing a mask to prove everybody that I was okay," she explained.

After M.P. came forward, the Center for Studies and Applied Sciences in Gender, Family, Women and Adolescents (CSAGA) – a Hanoi-based non-profit research institute on gender, family, women and youths – published a video in which Pham Anh Khoa was interviewed to explain his case. Khoa made an apology for his behavior yet denied that they can be categorized as sexual harassment. He justified his actions with the now-infamous quote: "In show business, slapping each other's butt as a way of greeting is common practice."

The contentious comment brought even more criticism against him and against CSAGA, for giving him a platform. Netizens also slammed the NGO for giving voice to Khoa instead of his victims, who are actually the subject of the organization's protection.

On May 15, many organizations working with the singer decided to sever ties with him. The singer is no longer an ambassador for a United Nations Population Fund (UNPF)'s campaign to end violence against women and children. Rock 'n' Share – a music charity concert series in which Khoa is a regular participant – removed him from the set list for their most recent show. The organizer for the TV contest Troi Sinh Mot Cap announced not long ago that it will wipe his appearances from future episodes. On the same day, Khoa called a press conference to issue a public apology.

The recent emergence of the #metoo movement in Vietnam has encouraged more stories of sexual harassment and assault to surface in public discourses. Recently, the announcement to decrease the sentence of 78-year-old child molester, Nguyen Khac Thuy, from three-years imprisonment to an 18-month probation, has caused public outrage as the punishment is deemed too light and unfair to the victim.

[Photo via SaoStar]

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