A democratic revolution has just begun in Vietnam
Massive but orderly protests across the country hint at the beginning of the end of Communist Party rule
July 8, 2018 11:11 AM (UTC+8)
On June 7, a group of about 300 ordinary Vietnamese in Phan Ri Cua City of Binh Thuan province formed the first rally against a draft law on special economic zones (SEZ). They had trouble before with an ongoing Chinese thermal power plant investment project in their own province and were opposed to more such Chinese investments.
Two days later, tens of thousands of workers at Pouyuen footwear company in Tan Tao Industrial Park, Ho Chi Minh City, went on strike against the SEZ draft law.
The following day, on June 10, many demonstrations sprung up in other cities throughout the country, including the capital of Hanoi, Nghe An, Da Nang, Khanh Hoa, Dac Lac, Binh Duong, Dong Nai, My Tho, Vinh Long, Kien Giang, and Ho Chi Minh City.
According to the controversial draft law, land in the zones may be leased by foreign investors for up to 99 years. The protesters feared that SEZs will be dominated and controlled by Chinese investors as self-governing zones, ceding sovereignty to Vietnam’s giant northern neighbor.
Many carried anti-China posters, including ones that said “No leasing land to China even for one day,” and “Leasing land to China is selling the country to the Vietnamese people’s enemies,” and “China get out of Vietnam.” Several protesters carried American flags and anti-communist slogans such as “Down with communists” and “Down with traitors.”
Vietnamese protesters shout slogans against proposed SEZ law during a demonstration in Ho Chi Minh City, June 10, 2018. Photo: AFP/Kao Nguyen
The demonstrators not only protested the SEZ draft law, but also a cybersecurity law that will require technology companies to store their users’ data in Vietnam, to hand the data over to Vietnamese authorities on request and to censor any contentious content.
According to Reporters Without Borders, the law is similar to a repressive Chinese law that took effect a year ago. The law was passed by Vietnam’s National Assembly on June 12 without any changes and will take effect on January 1, 2019. Its main objective is to protect the Communist Party of Vietnam, according to Party Secretary General Nguyen Phu Trong.
The demonstration in Ho Chi Minh City was the largest, with tens of thousands participating; like the demonstrations in most other cities, it was generally peaceful. The protest in Binh Thuan province began peacefully but turned violent when police started beating the crowd, arresting protestors and hauling them away.
Protestors turned violent, throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at the police and burning some of their cars, a police station and some local government office buildings.
After the demonstrations ended, police reportedly arrested and brutally beat hundreds of protesters. In some cases, public hospitals required injured protesters to sign a waiver declaring that they were hurt in an accident, otherwise they would refuse them treatment.
Video clips posted on YouTube and pictures circulated on social media showed that many ordinary people from all walks of life participated in the demonstrations: old and young, men and women, workers, peasants, professionals, artists, intellectuals, and even religious leaders. Most of the protesters in Binh Thuan were fishermen and local people.
These protests gained wide and strong support from the masses. Indeed, they were quite different from the demonstrations at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China 29 years ago, where most of the protesters were students and teachers.
Protestors against the proposed SEZ law. Photo: Twitter
This suggests that Vietnam’s communist regime has lost the support of the majority of the country’s 95 million-strong population, except those on the government payroll, including five million Communist Party members.
It is telling that these mostly orderly yet massive demonstrations were organized without any dissident leaders. The reason was quite simple: about 200 of the country’s most prominent activists and democracy advocates are currently in prison. Others were blocked from leaving their homes by plainclothes police, with some of their homes even locked by authorities from the outside.
Still, the SEZ law, cybersecurity law and a fear of China have united people against the Communist Party-led government. A growing number of Vietnamese see government officials and Party leaders as traitors, particularly since they have consistently failed to protect the country’s sovereignty and fishermen from China in the contested South China Sea.
They also believe that the government betrayed the soldiers who fought valiantly against China during the border war in 1979 and the Chinese invasion of Johnson South Reef in 1988 by denying them proper memorial services and removing some wording against China on their tombstones. Both moves are seen as kowtowing to Beijing.
The protestors were enabled in part by the internet, Facebook, YouTube, Messenger and wireless cell phones and cameras, tools that protesters used to communicate with each other about where and when demonstrations should take place. People could even watch demonstrations in real time on video-sharing site YouTube.
Despite its best censorship efforts, the government has failed to block the news from major international news outlets and local social media networks.
Hence the authorities’ efforts to regain control of these channels via the cybersecurity law, even though its provisions run counter to Vietnam’s commitments to the World Trade Organization and the European Union–Vietnam Free Trade Area agreement. Neither requires foreign companies to open offices and data centers in Vietnam.
The protests were widely welcomed by the Vietnamese diaspora, seen in parallel demonstrations by Vietnamese in many countries, including the United States, Canada, Australia, England, Germany, France, Poland, Norway, Finland, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and the Philippines.
The time is arguably ripe for a democratic revolution in Vietnam. Domestically, the Party has broken down into two main fractions—not on ideological differences, but rather their own vested interests. The Party has largely abandoned socialist ideology since adopting a free market system in 1986 under the so-called doi moi reforms. However, until now they still maintain a monopoly on political power.
Vietnam’s political apparatus has outgrown its usefulness, becoming heavier and costlier in the hope that it would protect the Party.
Former Party Secretary General Le Kha Phieu said in an interview before the 12th Central Committee’s sixth plenum in October 2017 that “the political apparatus must be revolutionized. There is no way for a retreat. It has been sluggish, not to mention the personnel. Many people are doing nothing.”
The government now spends about 82.1% of the national budget to pay salaries to government officials, military, police, 205 public security generals and five million Party members. The remaining 17.9% is earmarked for development investments.
With so many people on the government’s payroll, their small share of the budget is not enough to live on. Many must find other ways to make extra money to survive. That’s why corruption is pervasive: because Vietnam is a one-party system without a free press and no separation of power among the executive, legislative and judiciary branches, it has proven impossible to control corruption.
With rising Chinese investments, Vietnam’s communist leaders have grown accustomed to bowing their head to Chinese interventions in their domestic affairs. Indeed, they seem to avoid confrontation with China at all costs, but are still unable to please Beijing. In 1988, for example, Vietnam lost 64 soldiers without a fight in the Johnson South Reef skirmish.
In 2014, China positioned its Hai Yang Shi You 981 oil drilling platform into Vietnam’s maritime territory, about 120 nautical miles from Vietnam’s Ly Son Island. After unsuccessfully sending ships to disrupt the Chinese oil rig, Vietnam asked the international community for help but no nation—including the US, Japan or India—came to Vietnam’s defense. They only urged both sides to be self-restrained and to solve disputes peacefully.
Now, the US, Japan and Australia seem eager to help Vietnam with its economic development, national defense and South China Sea disputes with China. However, Vietnam’s poor human rights and religious freedom records have restrained more robust ties at a crucial time of Chinese expansionism.
Recent revolutions in Asia and the Middle East, including the Arab Spring, were born of similar situations now seen in Vietnam. Although there was no organization and no coordination at the outset, Vietnam’s democratic revolution is gathering unmistakable pace in an orderly, powerful and patriotic way.
“If poverty was the cause of revolutions, there would be revolutions all the time,” Russian revolutionary and Marxist theorist Leon Trotsky once said. While poverty may not be the strongest factor behind revolutions, social injustice and corruption often are. A huge gap between rich and poor is present in Vietnam, within nearly all districts, cities and provinces.
The poor are ordinary and powerless people; the rich are government officials, high-ranking Party members and their cronies who not long ago claimed to belong to the proletariat. The Vietnamese people supported the communists in their victory against foreign oppressors, but they are ready to move on.
Many Vietnamese now believe that a long-awaited true revolution has just begun (Prof. Khai Nguyen)
A New Perspective on Human Rights in Vietnam
Speech on Workshop on Human Rights and Environment at
Canadian Assembly on May 10th, 2018.
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of Vietnamese community living outside of the Mother Land, today, it’s my honor to share with all of you the different perspectives on Human Rights in Vietnam today to commemorate The Black April Day, the thirtieth of April 1975.
From this day, human rights are widely understood to be the rights of man to live on this planet. These are fundamental rights that have been approved most countries in the world, as the 10th of December has been dedicated for International Human Rights Day.
With more than 100 laws and protocols on human rights existed, Vietnam only ratified certain laws. Most of the basic rights applied to people living in civilized countries were not recognized by Vietnam for the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment that is indispensable to human rights, including the right to life, health, food, water, and sanitation.
These above are the rules of human rights, fundamental freedoms, the right to form associations, protocols for the prevention of torture, and more.
Therefore, Vietnam still has many shortcomings in ensuring an "equal" life for the people.
The basic human rights is a flagrant disregard of the communist government in Vietnam. Currently, the Vietnamese people are not entitled to the justifiably rights as all citizens of the world in accordance with UN regulations. There are the rights that people must demand and fight for these noble cause. It is essential for their daily life and future:
1. The right to have clean water;
2- The right to breathe unpolluted air;
3- The right to hygienic and safety of foods.
Although these rights are included in the No. 3 & 25 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which are:
· No 3. The right to Life. We all have the right to life, and to live in freedom and safety.
· No 25. Food and Shelter for All. We have all the right to a good life. Mothers and children, people who are old, unemployed or disabled, and all people have the right to care for.
But in reality, the Vietnamese people are struggling to obtain these rights.
After 43 years of governing and managing the whole country by the Political Bureau of Communist in Vietnam for economic development, the rights mentioned above were not applicable. At this time, the government’s policy and planning which have applied in the past and present had created a massive disaster that heavily impacted the environment in our Mother Land.
So, today, I would like to express my voice as a Viet’s child to share with all of you, the representatives of the Canadian, the reasons why the Vietnamese people should have these rights, and the causes of these environmental impacts are:
1- Environmental impacts of deforestation
Before the Second World War, the surface of forest in Vietnam was 19 million hectares (58% of the country's total area). By 1943, the forest had only 14.1 million hectares (43%) remaining; By 1990, the situation was worse, with only 9.1 million hectares (27.7%). Now, only 5% of forestation is remaining!
2- Air pollution
Although Vietnam ratified the Kyoto Protocol on Global Warming on September 25, 2002, air pollution and dust pollution increased. Dust is the most common air pollutant in Vietnam. For the past 20 years, "... most of the cities in Vietnam have been contaminated with dust, many of them are severely contaminated with dust."
Lead is another common air pollutant, especially in urban areas. The number of motorcycles and cars exponentially increases and this leads to an airborne lead concentration of 1 to 4 micrograms/m3 (ug/m3). For comparison, according to research published in Pediatrics Journal in 1994, lead concentration in air in Chicago in 1988 were below 0.5 mg/m3 ", considered the most polluted city in the United States of America.
3- Water pollution
The UN has initiated a very clear concept that "water itself is colorless and borderless so it cannot be inhibited" and "Everyone in the world has the right to have enough clean and safe water.”
In Vietnam, the rapid economic and social growth since 1986 has caused urban and rural water pollution throughout the country, and the quality of water resources in Vietnam seems to be more and more degraded.
Wastewater from residential areas, industrial centers, export processing zones, agricultural land, etc., has penetrated surface water, groundwater, and even water quality in coastal areas. Residential water, industrial wastewater, and leachate from landfill sites are the main causes for organic pollution in surface water, especially in big cities such as Saigon, Hanoi, Hai Phong, Da Nang, Can Tho.
4- The use of chemicals in agriculture
The term "bảo vệ thực vật in Vietnamese" meaning “plant protection” refers to chemicals used for pesticides, insecticides, weed killers, and fungicides. Here are three main reasons why these poisoning chemicals are becoming universal in Vietnam:
The above chemicals used do not have the clear label for ingredients. In Vietnam, there are over 700 different brands of these chemicals are being used as fertilizers and “plant protection chemicals”;
Farmers are not adequately trained.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has recommended that the pesticide use index in Vietnam is very high, reaching an average of 5.3 per season, while the index in China is 3.5, the Philippines, 2.0, and India, 2.4.
In Vietnam, pesticides are used separately or in the form of a cocktail to enhance the toxicity of the drug against insect resistance. DDT is considered the main agent in many of these mixtures. For example, a mixture of DDT, Thiodan (or Endosulfan) and Folidol (Methyl Parathion) are commonly used to kill leaf rollers insect in the rice industry.
So, incorrect application of plant protection chemicals as using a proper dosage, incorrect identification of the target (insect pests ...), and incorrect timing are three factors that cause:
· Rapidly degrading on the environment;
· Economic efficiency in production is low;
· And the health of the farmer are affected because there are no safeguard measures to access to chemicals.
5- Right to education and guidance
The percentage of farmers in Vietnam is about 50%, according to the 2016 statistics, which is about 48 million. Most of them are not educated or taught how to use chemicals in agriculture. Indonesia is a regional country having a good vision and is seen as a model of proper agricultural development and strong strategy for national development in harmony with environmental protection.
Just a few years ago, an extremely heartbreaking tragedy occurred in the East Sea in which the Chinese called the South China Sea. From the Specific Economic Zone of China, under the name of Formosa at Vũng Áng, Hà Tĩnh Province, thousands of tons of liquid and solid toxic chemicals dumped into the East Sea, which resulting in killing millions of fish alongside from Hà Tĩnh province to four southern provinces as Quảng Bình, Quảng Trị, Thừa Thiên, and Đà Nẵng.
Since hundreds of thousands of fishermen have quit their jobs because they no longer catch fish and shrimp. They are at risk of starvation because there is no job to survive. Once the fishermen perish due to starvation, the farmers and traders are at stake due to the domino’s effect on their businesses. Moreover, millions of people are unaware that shrimp and fish are poisoned, not edible. Consuming the poisoned seafood may not kill them immediately. Yet, in the long run, their lives are at risk of much potential harms to their health.
It is worth mentioning that the so-called Nhà Nước (State of Socialist of Vietnam) has inconsiderate and insensitive to this calamity. Nguyen Phu Trong, the supreme ruler visited this killing area in Vũng Áng but he did not have a word or take any action to protect the victims. The Prime Minister and the President of the National Assembly also stayed in silence regarding this catastrophe.
So, in the great indignation of the Vietnamese people, we took the opportunity, once again, to bring this letter of complaint to the United Nations Human Rights Commission, to Human Rights Watch, asking them to banish the Vietnamese Communist Party out of Human Rights Commission.
One of the most burdensome responsibilities of the Vietnamese leadership is for UNICEF to sponsor and promote the digging of tube wells for clean water in Mekong Delta and Hồng River Delta. Bangladesh is also home to over 4 million tube wells nationwide since the years of 1970. Now, hundreds of thousands of people die each year from arsenic contamination in water.
The Vietnamese Communist continues to advocate the digging of tube wells even though it is acknowledged that arsenic contamination is a reality, through the occurrence of arsenicosis already happened at one Southern part of Ha Noi because the tube well has arsenic concentrations higher than the permitted standard required by WHO (10 ug/L water) more than ten times, and more.
For the past more than ten years, I and a few friends have researched and found out the way of eliminating arsenic in water of these regions in using dried water hyacinth (cây lục bình). My friends are already going back to Mekong Delta to educate the farmers how to use the “bamboo filter” for their drinking water. Please see our web www.weall.care.
Again, Vietnam needs a global perspective, in line with the general development of the world, accepts the common law, and most importantly the need to remove and replace of the structure of “The proletarian dictatorship” (cơ chế chuyên chính vô sản) to govern the country.
Vietnam has won a military victory in 1975. Since then, after 43 years, it can be said today that the mentality of the Vietnamese leader has been poisoned by the above structure, resulting in severe corruption and severe mismanagement syndrome.
Could the victory in the war, although has been gone for 43 years, but it still gives the Vietnamese leader the glory and ecstasy of winning the old days?
Unify the country is not enough. Vietnamese Communist needs to take the blame and take initiative in reconciling the entire cracked and spiritual destroyed nation.
Only this clever work can create the opportunity to save Vietnam in the new process of humanity.
Dears Ladies and Gentlemen,
In recent years, the globalization process of nations around the world has proved that countries that do not adapt to a fast and new change will soon disintegrate sooner or later. The global superstructures will no longer be compatible with the way the Vietnamese Communist gives pressure to the Vietnamese people, dictates and orients them to the “so-called” socialist way.
This procedure will no longer work and cannot be applied to Vietnamese people.
Thank you for your listening.
Mai Thanh Truyết
Chairman, Vietnamese American Science & Technology Society – VAST
Chairman, Vietnamese Environmental Protection Society - VEPS________________________________________
China has warned its citizens in Vietnam after protesters clashed with police over a government plan to create new economic zones for foreign investment that has fuelled anti-Chinese sentiment in the country.
More than 100 protesters were arrested and dozens of police injured at a protest in central Vietnam on Sunday, one of several demonstrations nationwide against the special economic zones opponents fear will be dominated by Chinese investors.
The Chinese embassy in Hanoi posted a notice on its website referring to the protests as "illegal gatherings" that had included some "anti-China content".
"The Chinese embassy in Vietnam is paying close attention to the relevant developments and reminds Chinese citizens in Vietnam to pay attention to security when travelling," the notice said.
Vietnam's National Assembly agreed on Monday to delay a vote on the draft bill, which would allow foreign investors to lease land for up to 99 years and provide greater incentives and fewer restrictions than at present in the country.
Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan, chairwoman of the Assembly, said the protesters might have misunderstood the nature of the bill.
Public protests are rare in Vietnam and are often quickly quelled by the police.
On Sunday, protesters in the central province of Binh Thuan threw petrol bombs and bricks at police and damaged local government offices and vehicles, state media reported.
Police arrested 102 protesters, the online newspaper VnExpress reported on Monday, citing local police.
The report said dozens of policemen were injured in the incident.
In the capital Hanoi, police detained more than a dozen protesters who marched down a busy street, some carrying anti-Chinese banners including one that said "No leasing land to China even for one day".
Activists said several protesters were also detained in the country's economic hub, Ho Chi Minh City.
The Government has said the bill aims to boost development in three provinces in northern, central and southern Vietnam and provide "room for institutional experiments".
The initial draft law said land in the zones could be leased for up to 99 years, but Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc told local media last week the term would be reduced, although he did not say by how much.
Vietnam is among several countries in the region that have claims in the South China Sea, through which an estimated $US5 trillion ($6.5 trillion) in trade passes each year.
Some of the protesters at Sunday's demonstrations were also protesting against another draft bill on cybersecurity amid widespread concern the law would cause economic harm and stifle online dissent in the communist-ruled country.
On April 6, 2016 dozens of tons of dead fish began washing ashore along Vietnam’s central coast. The phenomenon continued through the month, turning into what is considered the largest environmental disaster in the country’s history.
Fishing communities in Hà Tĩnh, Quảng Bình, Quảng Trị and Thừa Thiên-Huế provinces were decimated and left without a way to make income. Public blame for the disaster quickly fell on Formosa Ha Tinh Steel, a massive steel plant operated by the Taiwanese company Formosa Plastics, which reportedly discharged huge amounts of chemicals into the sea in the days before the dead fish appeared.
However, the Vietnamese government didn’t announce Formosa’s culpability until June 30, nearly two months after the disaster had unfolded. This delay angered the public, leading to social media commentary and even demonstrations in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s largest cities. These protests were swiftly broken up by the government, and sites like Facebook and Instagram were blocked at times.
These events brought the environment to the fore of public discussion in Vietnam and shone a spotlight on Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh, a blogger known as Mẹ Nấm, or Mother Mushroom. The 37-year-old had been active online for years as a co-founder of the Network of Vietnamese Bloggers, a rare independent organization among the country’s state-owned news agencies.
Mother Mushroom had written previously about environmental crimes and state repression, but the Formosa disaster drew major government attention to her writing. On October 10, 2016, she was arrested while visiting a jailed dissident. She was accused of defaming the government.
State-run media outlets reported Quỳnh’s sentencing, but made little mention of the issues she wrote about. Instead, they focused on official accusations such as publishing distorted information and abusing democratic rights, a commonly used but highly ironic charge in a single-party state.
It appears likely that Quỳnh will serve her full term, though she remained defiant in the courtroom, which was guarded heavily during the completely closed one-day trial. Even Quỳnh’s mother wasn’t allowed to attend.
“Each person only has a life, but if I had the chance to choose again I would still choose my way,” the blogger said before her sentence was announced.
by Paul N. Hung
In 2014, thousands of young women crossed
the border to be exploited in brothels or subject to forced marriages.
Consumerism and materialism are among the causes of this growing trade.
The victims are mostly from remote and isolated areas, but middle class
girls fall victim as well because of the Internet and social media.
Catholics are among those who have come to the defence of the victims.
Ho Chi Minh
City (AsiaNews) - In Vietnam, one of the modern forms of slavery involves the
trafficking of young women, forced into prostitution in brothels along the
border with China or sold for money as brides to men across the border. In
recent years, trafficking in the Asian country has particularly involved young
women and girls, some just out of puberty, increasingly treated as "new
On 8 February,
the Church will mark the first day of prayer and reflection against human
trafficking. Recent studies in Ho Chi Minh City have found that "Vietnam
is one of the nations in the Asia-Pacific region with the largest number of sex
of trafficking come from Vietnam's more remote regions. Often from poor
families with little education, they end up in the hands of "pimps,
traffickers and Chinese businessmen" who use every means to "lure and
women from urban areas, from both both middle and lower middle class, end up in
traffickers' net as well because of the Internet and modern technologies of
groups and associations trying to rescue the young victims, "one of the key
reasons" for the growing problem is society's widespread consumerism and materialism,
which eventually undermine the basic moral structure of the Vietnamese family.
lure girls with the prospect of a job, with which they can help meet the needs
of their family, but once across the border in China, they end up in brothels
or as brides to Chinese men who bought them.
leave, the young women are made to sign fictitious employment contracts in
foreign languages (Chinese, etc.) that they cannot understand.
Hundreds of such
so-called workers are hired and sold by unscrupulous traders who exploit the
inability or the complicity of borders administrators and government officials
charged with fighting trafficking.
men and Vietnamese women of Chinese origin are also involved in the trade. They
lure their victims by winning their confidence, and getting them to move to a "new
place" for a job that, in most cases, is linked to the world of prostitution.
thousands of young women crossed the border between China and Vietnam, to be
reduced in slavery and exploited in the sex trade. Last November alone, police
in the provinces of Quang Tây and Vân Nam rescued a hundred young Vietnamese
women, who had been reduced to conditions of semi-slavery in China.
are still many difficulties, some cultural, in the fight against prostitution
and the sex trade. For instance, smuggling and trafficking are treated the same
way. The net results is that victims are not recognised and the culprits are not
happened in 2013 when, according to sources in Hanoi, at least 982 young women
were "sold" in China, 871 of whom victims of "human trafficking".
Last year on
14 December, the authorities in Lai Châu, with the cooperation of border guards
in Ma Lu Thang, broke up a trafficking ring involving women. About 512 people were
tried with 420 sentenced to at least three years in prison.
mostly young Vietnamese women, but some of the victims come from Myanmar, Laos,
Thailand and Cambodia.
For young Vietnamese
men involved in trafficking, especially those living in villages along the
border, trafficking in women is an easy way of making money.
involves two young men, Văn Pan Tao Lu, an ethnic Lu, and Lò Thị Chom. The two were
paid US$ 4,000 per woman.
case, Bùi Đ. Giang, a young Hanoi native, tricked and induced into prostitution
more than 50 young women from the villages and towns on the Chinese border,
mostly from ethnic minorities.
the news, Bùi Đ. Tuấn, the trafficker's 52-year-old father, said he "did
not know" about his son's activities and "the pain he caused to the
victims," adding that "our family is in shock."
both clerical and lay, are in the forefront of the fight against the
trafficking of young women and against all modern forms of slavery.
provided help and counselling to a young victim," a social worker in Ho Chi
Minh City told AsiaNews. "She was
found in a Chinese brothel near the Chinese border and was brought back home."
years, she ended up in China again because of an unscrupulous trafficker, where
she was humiliated and sexually abused. Her bosses and torturers, men and
women, forced her to take drugs and prostitute herself with Chinese customers."