by Dr. Nguyen Dan Que

N.B. This article was brought out of Vietnam by U.S. Representative Christopher Smith of New Jersey after he visited Dr. Nguyen Dan Que in Saigon during his trip to Vietnam in December 2005. Mr. Smith had also met Dr. Que before in October 2001.

If anybody bothers to ask the Politburo of the Communist Party of Vietnam, “Will the CPV be able to continue its monopoly of political power in Vietnam?” the answer would be, “Certainly, and we are now in control!” But the problem is that fewer and fewer people believe so. The people, including a big number of party members, are very dissatisfied with cronyism, corruption, and blaming one another. No one is accountable or responsible. Government is ineffective; development occurs without planning. The leaders sometimes follow the initiatives of the people and then claim credit; their policies are patch-work, but the propaganda machine paints a picture of imaginary miracles. The people are not just sick and tired, but too sick and too tired of the regime; they detest it. The downtrodden, who are the direct victims, continue to endure the oppression but find indirect ways to resist:

a. They consider the rulers devils. They hold the CPV as the source of all injustice and corruption and the Politburo as the main culprit. Even in the party itself, there have been calls for democracy, accusing the Politburo of manipulation and machination. To create a deceptive picture of people’s support, the party intends to have the National Assembly approve the policies of the party itself. They must remember that the National Assembly Deputies, in principle, represent the Vietnamese people. They are not constitutionally vested to approve the CPV’s platforms.

b. They boycott products from state-owned enterprises because private business products are available and better. State-owned enterprises are ineffective and never make a profit because of poor management and they are a source of corruption and embezzlement. If the state bank does not rescue them, these enterprises will collapse; but if discipline is enforced, all the party’s dirty laundry is exposed.

Vietnam today is a backward country in a dynamic world of progress and this reality has shamed the Politburo’s fictitious propaganda. The people, with creative use of connotative speech, deride the party: “Liars! Do you think we are all children?” Intellectuals, likewise, can only shake their heads against government bureaucrats, “Abuse people then people will flee!” As for the young: “Watch TV only for movies; surf the Internet for accurate news!”

Such negative reactions and resistance of tens of million of people have stymied the governing ability of the CPV’s Politburo. The monopoly of political thought has paralyzed the thinking and responding ability of the Politburo while every Vietnamese citizen, having awakened, invokes his or her own capacity to rise up, to join together and to help the opposition multiply and grow into a mass movement. The globalization movement has come at the right time which is favorable for our side and for enhancing people power:

1. On The Economic Front

a. Capitalist investors will drive Vietnam towards market economy operations. The economic and social infrastructure of our society has been changing extensively and will force a change to an appropriate governance structure.

b. Trade with Europe, Japan, and above all the Bilateral Trade Agreement (BTA) with the U.S., is having great impacts. Economic reforms require legal reforms but Vietnam’s pace is either too slow for fear of loss of control causing disorder and paralysis, or half-baked while commercial activities expand. The State had to sell shares of the state-owned Vinamilk three times to raise funds, an unprecedented phenomenon, and at the end of 2005, it had to sell bonds on international stock market for borrowing at an annual interest rate of 7.125% for 10 years.

c. Negotiations with the World Trade Organization (WTO) have run into problems, especially with the U.S. The reason is that China had set a bad example in its accession into the WTO: promises were not kept or US markets were exploited by dumping garments and shoes. As a result, the U.S. learned the lesson and set the bar of WTO accession higher for Vietnam. Vietnamese products will have a hard time competing with Chinese products in the U.S. market. The end result will be the bankruptcy of Vietnam’s state-owned enterprises while private firms thrive thanks to being more competitive. Faced with this danger, Hanoi, on the one hand, tries to appease the U.S. in negotiations and combine three laws on investments (in state-owned enterprises, foreign-owned and private business) into one law to satisfy the WTO, on the other hand, the Politburo still tries to manipulate and interfere with private businesses through administrative measures. These interventions are strongly resisted.

2. On The Educational and Cultural Fronts

a. Educational and cultural exchanges, which have taken place in the last few years with many countries, including with the U.S., have been chiefly one-way from Vietnam outward. The reverse is still being negotiated, but most likely, Hanoi will have to succumb. An example is Hanoi has allowed foreigners to open schools in Vietnam.

b. An educational system which is humanistic and multicultural will be welcomed, especially by the youth. Hanoi rulers will have to abandon the indoctrinating, obsolete approach and stop the teaching of Marxism-Leninism in Vietnamese schools in the near future.

3. High Tide Of Human Rights And Democracy:

a. The world has become smaller in the information age and with the ease of communication, through the Internet and travel, overseas Vietnamese communities and those organizations advocating human rights have conveyed to Vietnam millions of points of light illuminating the universal values of human rights and democracy that our people should have enjoyed but for the thuggish misappropriation by the communist dictatorship.

b. The United Nations proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948; the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, plus the two supplements in 1966; and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. These three documents form the complete body of law on human rights that are universal: each individual and people are the masters of the nation, the government must respect the basic rights of the people. If these rights are violated, people everywhere have the right to intercede and assist to change the regime. The rulers cannot hide behind the issue of sovereignty. Young Vietnamese, up to 70% of the population, absorb very quickly the universal values of democracy and human rights and have become the catalysts in the struggle for democracy and human rights in the entire country. The cause is just and it belongs to our people.

Described above are some of the upheavals in the economy and culture of Vietnam, all unprecedented in our society. They have paralyzed the communist regime and that paralysis made it impossible in its effort to exploit the potential of the people.

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There Must Be A Different Way

Originating from the world today’s realities, the contemporary trends and the universal values of humankind can create trust among the generations of Vietnamese, inside and outside Vietnam, and between Vietnam and the world. On this basis, our people can unite to participate in the new world.

Most people recognize the obvious realities in many progressive countries that development must go hand in hand with democracy, and liberalization of economy and culture will lead to political freedom. Each individual must have equal opportunity to develop physically and mentally. Society – a collection of individuals – will be strengthened and become prosperous. To implement this approach, under the current social circumstances, there can be no other way but to abolish the dictatorship and to empower the people by:

1. Expanding trade and attracting more investment: Businessmen will demand transparency, resist corruption, and insist on contractual obligations. Any hesitation from investors will mean a demand for change because without change business cannot continue and this will cause crises. Desertion of investors becomes a nightmare for the Politburo and it is the best leverage to speed up political changes in Vietnam.

2. Encouraging students to study abroad and to welcome scholarships in technologies and cultural exchanges worldwide. This is the best way to help them get rid of the obsolete and erroneous ideology and build a brighter future for themselves.

3. Integrating into the world community. Whoever lives and works in Vietnam will be treated according to international norms, irrespective of the party in power. In peace and cooperation for development, a “parasitic party” corrupts governance, causing stagnation and distortion in social activities. To have a healthy body, all parasites must be exterminated.

4. Affording the common people, when having grievances, opportunities to lobby the National Assembly for redress. They will demand that the N.A. have greater power and an independent voice. They will encourage the NA to become a forum to demand justice for the people, make laws for the benefit of the people of Vietnam, instead of for a minority of a party or group. Once people power reaches a critical stage, many events will take place. Current critical issues such as discrimination against the Montagnards, corruption, social injustices, land grabs, worker strikes, religious oppression, etc., can explode any time. Young people, who are stakeholders in government, including the military and police, will stay neutral in the beginning but will eventually side with the people. If the regime resorts to force, social upheavals will follow because the Internet and cell phones will enable the people to congregate and disperse quickly, on a large scale and at many locations simultaneously. The people truly want a peaceful evolution, so there must be a transition period from dictatorship to democracy. The pressure for change, from inside and outside, is increasing and strengthening.

Like it or not, the Politburo of the CPV must:

1. Accept the free exchange of information, between inside Vietnam and the outside world,

2. Release all political prisoners,

3. Extend the people’s basic freedoms, such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, movement, and association, etc.,

4. Respect freedom of religion and of the ethnic peoples,

These concessions will buy them only a short time. People power will continue to press and force the Politburo.

5. Restore the National Assembly to the institution of highest political power, as vested by the constitution,

Respecting the will of the people, the National Assembly will:

6. Proclaim to the world that Vietnam respects human rights, civil rights, and property rights,

7. Abolish all party’s activities at all levels of the government,

8. Draft and enact legislation to hold an internationally supervised, free and fair election,

9. Let the current National Assembly organize and carry out an election for a new Assembly in which the new deputies prepare a new constitution for Vietnam. (Using the government which is already independent from the party and under the guidance of the new election law specified above.)

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In Conclusion

Throughout our struggle, it is clear that the people want:

1. A comfortable and decent life: farmers owning land, workers being protected by their unions.

2. A free market economy. Immediately privatize throughout the entire country, those state-owned enterprises that cannot compete. Private sector becomes dominant in the national economy. The government no longer manages but only coordinates and facilitates all sectors of the economy,

3. Trade with all the countries on the basis of equality, fairness and mutual benefits,

4. An educational system which is humanistic, scientific, transformative, and creative to develop independent and thoughtful individuals, not obedient subjects, and

5. A democracy based upon the rule of law. The people have the power to change their government through periodic elections, one person one vote. The leader of the nation must govern according to the constitution and laws and regular consultation with the people through referenda and conferences.

People power will terminate tyranny and give birth to democracy. In the final analysis, the people hold the key to democracy. People power will decide everything. Democracy is the strength of humankind for the future.

Dr. Nguyen Dan Que

Cao Trao Nhan Ban

Saigon, Vietnam

December 12, 2005

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