Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Situation of Dissidents

The Situation of Dissidents Political Views in Vietnam

Huynh Viet Lang, sentenced 2 and 1/2 years in jail for his democratic activities

By Huynh Nguyen Dao aka Huynh Viet Lang – PDP’s Central Committee Member
(Translated by Thuy Tu)

The struggle to peacefully overthrow an entrenched totalitarian regime cannot be carry out by grass-roots revolutionary movement. Rather an organized and well-supported task force is vital in order to achieve the ultimate goal of a democratic political assembly. Just as a skilled labor force is the key to a successful competitive economy, so to be talent a well-organized revolutionary movement in deciding the success or failure of democratic revolution.

At present, we must look at Viet Nam's needs on two fronts. First, a complete systematic analysis of what is needed in order to implement democracy must be performed. Second, a concise strategy must be developed in order to peacefully change Viet Nam's present political climate. Fighting for Viet Nam's political freedom is a political fight of which must be done from the outside in.

The scope of this article will discuss the general situation of democratic trend in our nation. For the security reason, I will discuss, only in general terms, matters relating to any particular political assembly (a party, a club or a group) in the country.

The real situation of the underground democratic movement inside Vietnam is not entirely known to the overseas Vietnamese community. Partly because of alliances between the national and international movements have not been thoroughly developed. And partly because past attempts have resulted in the exposure of underground national forces during the 1980s and consequently causing series of captures and arrests that originated directly from relationships with overseas personnel. It appears that the overseas' organizations did not take adequate precautions in screening of their staff which resulted in the infiltration of communist sympathizers. An example would be the case of secret agent Dang My Dung (Yungthe XXI c Krall) that was revealed by CIA and FBI on October 1978. This lead to the repatriation of Dang Ba Thi, Vietnamese U.N. ambassador. Thi helped organize the beginnings of the network of VCP spies in the U.S. What followed was thirty years of silent infiltration. Vietnamese communist spies began coming to the U.S. just before and after 1975. The next wave of penetration was in 1978 when Chinese people living in Vietnam were forced to leave that country. The last wave of infiltration occurred during the U.S.' Orderly Departure Program (ODP). As a result, the overseas anti-dictatorship battlefront in Western Europe and North America was exposed by Vietnamese communist spied network. Consequently, it is understandable why the democratic movement inside Vietnam is very careful when communicating abroad and are hesitant to form alliances with its international compatriots.

The democratic grass-roots revolutionary movement inside Vietnam is a multi-faceted well developed organization, which is capable of bringing many otherwise separate factions. Based on certain code of conduct, many groups have joined together to form a united front in order to reach their ultimate goal: to overthrow the dictatorship of the Communist party. What was once an armed struggle is now replaced by non-violent revolutionary movement.

Of course each group’s perception is distinctly their own. However, it is wrong to think that national Vietnamese democratic movement is the sole voice against the Vietnamese Communist Regime. In reality, all people who love Vietnam, working either individually or collectively, are striving for democracy as the ultimate solution to liberate Vietnam from communist oppression.

In this present struggle for democracy, the true battle is fought not in the streets, but in the minds of the Vietnamese people. The struggle lies in showing the Vietnamese people the true cost of communist oppression. The facts that the intensive development of many Southeast Asian as well as some other Asian nations, which result from a workforce armed with end-of-20th century’s technological skill, is a proof for this assumption. Information technology has shortened the differences concerning the pace of expansion between Europe-America and Asia, not only in economics but also in politics and workmanship of revolutionary movement.

I. The Beating Of The Gong

The advent of an organized anti-governmental political organization is a relatively new phenomenon. Always, there have been people who were for democracy and opposed to the state government's political views. The democratic warriors reflect the entire range of Vietnamese citizens, from the rural farmer who lives in a village who speaks a native dialect to the urban dweller who rides his know “xich lo” (a man-powered vehicle which demands tremendous work). The goal of democracy transcends class and place.

Even now, patriots inside the Vietnam are broadcasting their presence in a unified voice to all corners of the globe and letting the world know that: “We, who love democracy, are here!!” Vietnamese as well as all democratic peoples have most certainly heard this call and are coming together to create a common front against the Government’s communist ideology. However, in our efforts to peacefully changing Vietnam’s political landscape, certain innate problems must be addressed.

Before marching together with fellow citizens to raise yellow, red or orange … flags in a grand parade national wide, the official appearance of these democratic patriots will replace the role of the flags.

Except for a handful of individuals, most of the people in the nation today who love democracy have never been trained by any institution to become politicians. Entering into the revolution movement, they are equipped by nothing but a heartily patriotism and firm belief in democracy.

The following story will help us to further understanding the democratic warriors in the nation:
In 1789, the French National Parliament, representing the public's wishes, sent a proclamation of human rights to the King of France. The public's demands were disregarded while Versailles Palace continued to hold its lavish and debaucherous banquets. This angered and infuriated the public. Standing up in opposition, the eloquent speaker Danton publicly berated and criticized the King’s conduct. He said that the people do not have enough to eat because of the king. Making a comment on the King’s girth, Danton went on to say that maybe the king should be butchered so that way people would not be hungry any more. The crowd listened passionately to Danton. Suddenly, a lady stepped out from amongst the crowd. While beating a gong, she shouted out loud while beating the gong: “RETURN THE BREAD TO US!!!” Several other ladies followed her. The crowd energetically followed the ladies. It was said that if the French lady had not beat the gong on that day, then history would never know of the first declaration of human rights. Symbolism such as the beating of the gong is important in inspiring the people. No matter how fervent and passionate Danton’s speech may have been that day, it would have been forgotten had not the beating of the gong been there to commemorate the moment.

Therefore, in attempting to identify leaders of democratic movements is not difficult. Leaders naturally pushed forward both their actions and by their fellow compatriots. Their actions reflect a person who dares to take responsibility rather than as a leader holding on power. These leaders of democracy embrace every hot or cold breath of their fellow citizens under their skin and their stomachs and use it to motivate them. Another definable characteristic of democratic fighters is that they sacrifice their time and effort all for the hope of creating a better place for their family.

In developing a democratic movement, it is important to look at other models that have succeeded. Due to censorship in Vietnam, it is difficult to fully study the methods applied in the revolutionary movements in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. However, democratic ideas and information is coming in and they are being conveyed to a quiet public. The general idea of “silent majority” is no longer accurate in Vietnam. While these quiet masses seldom raise their voice, they still listen, read and think. Indeed, within this silent majority is a network of supporters that create a neural system which recognizes social changes and disseminates these signals outward like an echo.

Ii. The Dispersion Of Personnel And Organization

In order to effectively defend against the daily tools of ideological suppression, i.e., PA 25 (bureau of literature security) and PC35 (bureau of intelligence), there must be a persistent pressure on the political structure at all departmental levels. At present, the security force comprises 70% of Vietnam’s governmental body.

At the conclusion of the Vietnam Communist Party’s 12th Central Convention any hopes for democratic changes within the dictatorial communist structure had all but vanished. The common citizen’s patience concerning governmental bureaucracy and corruption had reached its limit. What remained was an energized and anxious society yearning for the winds of democracy to come in. Within this motivated society is where democracy’s true strength lies. Indeed, it is the people’s hearts that is the best fortress to protect revolutionary democratic activities. Relying on the supports of citizens as well as the warrior spirits of our forefathers, the freedom fighters of this democratic revolution that led to the public uprising in the summer 1997 at Thai Binh and on the right fork of Hong river. It is also this same support that keeps them secreted away from the communists to this very day. This is a classic example of the symbiotic cooperation between the democratic front and civilized society in Vietnam.

In analyzing the democratic movement in Vietnam, one must understand the governmental system in power. A step-by-step analysis must be made regarding the most effective means of political confronting the VCP. The democratic movement must realize and plan against any counter-attacks by the VCP. Already, intelligence experts within the communist security agencies have by overt means identified the specific-goals of many rebel groups. However, with carefully planning and strategic maneuvering, it will be almost impossible for the13 members of political bureau of VCP to predict and to prevent all tactics and movements of the democratic revolution. These strategic approaches had been successfully justified and used in Kyrgyzstan and would likely prove successful in Vietnam as well. When citizen’s rights and values are not honored by the authoritarian regime, the formation of democratic forces based on decentralized structure is necessary.

On the other hand, what happened in Eastern Europe might not happen in Vietnam, as Vietnam’s situation is more similar to the Central Asian countries than the other parts of the world. The Chinese democratic movement after the Tiananmen Square demonstration, for example, lends valuable insight to Vietnam’s democratization efforts. It is essential for those who are fighting for democracy in Vietnam today to have subjective points of view of the political and social as a whole. The democratic movement will be successful in VN only if it can carry out in a manner specific to Vietnam own characteristics and needs. Although insightful, any duplication of the democratic movement in other countries without theses considerations will prove to be a failure. So too is underestimating the VCP’s capabilities which if done will make all the sacrifices made thus far to be for nothing.

Social Activities of the Democratic Movement.

Since late 1996 to early 1997, there were 8 boycotts, generated by Saigon workers, range in from the small scale strike of 150 taxi cab drivers to larger scale movements of 800 workers at the Khanh Hoi clothing factory and 1000 workers at the Tan thuan export manufacturing company. Boycotts have spread so widely that Colonel Huynh Hanh had to admit, “the boycotts had been directed by the former resistance force (former VCP cadres)”

Since it does not fully describe all activities currently being carried out by the democratic fighters, the term “anti-government political views” is no longer suitable for the democratic movement in today’s Vietnam. The activities for democracy are not limited to political proposals to the VN government; rather they more frequently involve demands for human rights. Since unions are the orbital organizations of the VCP, they are not a worker’s representative body and consequently, do not reflect the worker’s issues or needs. Rather the aforementioned boycotts are generated and lead by responsible workers, who act as the leaders for the true benefit of their fellow workers. By their actions, they are undeclared democracy activists. However, one should realize that the success of a boycott is not in the hand the leader only, but also the workers themselves. Armed with their devotion and willingness to sacrifice, the workers risk their daily “bread and butter” for equality and justice. These brave workers, these common citizens, stood against the immoral legal system created by the Vietnam Communist government and imposed on its own people.

Undeclared Status and Pluralism in Political Point of Views.

The nature of the Vietnam’s present day struggle is the result of the conflict between the elite minority VCP Party (the high ranking VCP’s cadres and CVN government members) and the mass of common citizens. The collapse of the VCP domination is inevitable. In the interim, one of the essential goals of the democratic movement must be self-protection. If exposed and destroyed, the VCP’s collapse will come later than sooner. To publicize the movement’s goals, activities and members at the present time would benefit only the VCP.

At this point in time, the struggle for democracy has not yet reached the parliamentary level therefore to publicize the status of members and their activities are unjustified and would serve no purpose. This self- protecting strategy is necessary in facing the totalitarian regime, which is not voted for by its citizens and is holding on to its power by brutal means, police, underground agents and prisons. There is no opportunity for independent thought and points of views to be expressed. As such, in the face of such unfertile soil, it is important to save the seeds of democratic movement for a more suitable condition.

However, the democratization progress does not include a “wait and see” attitude. It calls for tremendous efforts all the time. The success of the democratic movement against the totalitarian government must be based on its actions and not on unrealistic propaganda. Within the Vietnam political environment, it is important to understand that boycotting is not a violent act. America, through the decades, has used the same method to peaceful change the face of the country. Boycotting is a peaceful act of fighting for democracy; it is nothing more than another form of political warfare. Therefore, when initiating and generating a boycott, the democratic revolution is officially declaring, in no uncertain terms, political war against the VCP and communist government. Having set the wheels in motion, there can be no retreat, no surrender.

At last, the ultimate goal of the democratic movement is to establish a pluralistic political environment. Therefore, the existence of different political ideas within the common ground of pluralism is a matter of course. The only reason to suppress these different ideals is to create a totalitarian government.

In writing this paper, the author would like to share his point of view from within Vietnam in hoping that we all can contribute effectively to the success of the democratic movement as a whole. Of course, confronting an organized totalitarian regime is not easy task, especially when performed by a grass-roots democratic movement. Preparing and motivating members with political sensitivity and a high capability for furthering the democratic movement, etc., is essential for its ultimate success. As the technical skill and knowledge of workers are competitive advantages in today global competition, so too is the political sensitivity and knowledge of democratic freedom fighters are fundamental requirements for the success of the democratic revolution.

Saigon, July 26, 2005.

According to BBC and RFA news on January 22 and October 02, 2003, Wang Bingzhang, an American resident and democracy activist, was arrested by Chinese secret agency in Vietnam in July 2002 and sentenced for life.
Since June 2005, all boycotts that have occurred have been deemed illegal according to Communism Vietnam’s Labor Laws, acts 173, 174, and 178. All workers found to have boycotted are subjected to be layoff and prosecution.


“Political Changes in Vietnam: In search of the middle class challenge to the state”, Asian Survey, 2002, Martin Gainsborough.
“Dieu Kien Hinh Thanh Chinh The Dan Chu tai Viet Nam” and “ Quyen Vi Chinh” , 2004 and 2004, Viet Bao Pham Van Ban
“ Thu Phan Doan Cho Mot Lo Trinh Dan Chu Hoa Nuoc Nha”, March 2005, Van Viet Ha
“ Dan Chu Hoa Viet Nam – Hien Thuc va Kha Nang”, Spring 2004, Le Tung Minh.
“Tieu Luan so 1: Bay Han Che Lon cua Bat Dong Chinh Kien o Viet Nam”, July 2005, Lam Yen.

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