Archive for December, 2010

Examining Economic Growth in Vietnam

Posted in Economics, Politics with tags , , , , , on December 29, 2010 by Ian Pham

Analysts often observe the increasing economic growth of Vietnam, pointing out the country’s expansion in the workforce and international trade.  It seems good on the surface, right?  To most liberal democracies, a growing economy and increased productivity usually means a better quality of life for the citizens and the country as a whole.  However, the situation in Vietnam is not so simple.

There is a major problem arising in attempting to measure economic growth in Communist Vietnam: corruption.  According to the New York Times, Vietnam ranks 116th on the Transparency International Corruption Index (TICI). This poor rating on the TICI means that the country is still too shady a place for foreign investor to conduct big business deals.  Therefore, even though Vietnam is starting to become a more attractive place for business people, many still question the country’s ability to protect investors.

Statistics and investors aside, let’s examine how the corruption impacts the people.  Even though the economy of Vietnam may be on the rise, the majority of the country’s profits tend to flow into the pockets of the VCP.  The top leaders in the Political Bureau of the Communist Party are insanely wealthy.  Nguyen Tan Dung, the Prime Minister of Vietnam, is a very rich man with a hefty bank account holding more than a billion dollars.  He’s not a business man, he’s not an entrepreneur, where does his wealth come from?

It appears Vietnam has become a commodity in recent years that many foreign countries are considering doing business with.  The population is currently 87 million people, foreign investment is on the rise, and many consider Vietnam a good alternate to markets in China.  However, the country is still riddled with problems.  Vinashin, a major state-owned shipping company worth billions of dollars, went bankrupt just several months ago, Bauxite mining still exists, and let’s not forget about Paracel and Spratly and the fishermen in the Southeast Asia Sea.

Vietnam has some very real opportunities for major economic growth and development, I acknowledge that.  However, they can only be utilized if the leaders wake up and fix the detrimental problems that plague the country today.  The only way for Vietnam to achieve true economic stability and growth is if the old problems were properly handled.  Purge the government of corruption, end the Bauxite projects, judge workers based on talent and skill rather than elegance to the Party, and take back Paracel and Spratly.  Only when the VCP gain the courage to address these issues can real progress be achieved.

*FYI: This is Freedom For Vietnam’s 100th post!  Best wishes to all you readers as 2010 comes to a close.  We will continue to fight in the name of freedom and democracy on behalf of everyone oppressed by dictatorships all around the world.  Thanks for visiting!  See you in 2011!

Seasons Greetings!

Posted in Announcements with tags , , , , on December 24, 2010 by Ian Pham

Hey there readers,

It’s the holiday season, a team of giving, sharing, and appreciation for all things we hold dear.  I would just like to take this chance to let you readers know how much I appreciate your loyalty.  It does not matter where you’re from, what your personal beliefs are, or anything else like that.  Readers are readers, and I am grateful for every reader that I get.  I appreciate your continued visits, as well as your feedback and would like to take a moment to tell you that.  Happy holidays people, I wish you all the best!

Who Didn’t Attend the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony?

Posted in Politics with tags , , on December 21, 2010 by Ian Pham

About two weeks ago, the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony took place in Norway.  The award ceremony honored Liu Xiaobo, a human rights activist that has been jailed for many years by the Chinese government.  Overall, the ceremony was well attended with 44 countries sending representatives to Norway.  However, 19 countries declined the invitation.  Obviously, China was one of the 19 countries that didn’t attend.  Who else didn’t attend you ask?  Surprise, surprise, Vietnam is one of them.

I wouldn’t exactly say that Vietnam was pressured by China to not attend the ceremony.  Both countries are Communist, so it’s a given that neither country would show up at a convention in promotion of freedom and human rights.  Other countries who didn’t attend are Afghanistan, Colombia, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Sudan, Tunisia, Ukraine, and Venezuela.  There are many possible reasons why these countries didn’t attend, but the biggest reason for most would have to be economic pressure exerted on them by the Chinese government.

This might be old news to some of you, as the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony took place in Oslo, Norway about two weeks ago.  I would just like to give my spin on the story and acknowledge the courage that Liu Xiaobo has shown during his incarceration.  It doesn’t matter where you are from, Vietnam, China, Burma, wherever.  We are all fighting for the same goal: freedom and democracy for our nations, and the greater picture of peace on Earth.  For that reason, I would like to send my regards to Liu Xiaobo and every other freedom fighter everywhere.  English political theorist Edmund Burke once said that “all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”  That is the reason we fight and that is why we will win.

Natural Disasters in Vietnam

Posted in Society with tags , , , on December 19, 2010 by Ian Pham

Over the past several months, Vietnam has been going through some rather devastating weather conditions.  Floods, typhoons, and heavy rains have been causing substantial damage to the Vietnamese mainlands.  This past October, a severe flood in Vietnam’s north-central coast killed about 200 people, destroying a huge amount of land in that area.

The floods in October weren’t the first of the natural disasters that occurred in Vietnam.  As far back as September of last year, the country was struck by a typhoon that resulted in the deaths of 100 people.  According to the Global Post, the storm was known as “Typhoon Ketsana” and wound up causing more destruction than any other storm in the area.

To make matters worse, forecasts predict that this is not the end of it.  Rising sea levels are an increasing concern in Vietnam as millions of homes are at risk of being submerged in the near future.  Major farming areas where much of the country’s rice exports are grown are also at risk of being lost.  Vietnam is said to be one of 12 countries that are most affected by climate change, highly susceptible to Earth’s increasingly unpredictable weather behavior.  Right now, all we can do is hope for the best and pray that the government can maintain the safety of the people.

Lý Long Tường and the Other Mongol Invasion. “Part 2”

Posted in Dynastic History with tags , , , , , , , on December 15, 2010 by Ian Pham

Welcome to Korea

Upon their arrival, Prince Lý and his envoy received a warm welcomed by Kojong, the King of Korea’s Koryo (aka Goryeo) Dynasty.  It seems that Lý Long Tường and his crew came to Korea at the right time, as they were handsomely accommodated by the people of Korea.

Whether Kojong knew it or not, he had been waiting for Lý Long Tường to land on the shores of Korea for a long time.  News of the prince’s arrival came to King Kojong in a dream, could it be fate that brought Prince Lý to the distant land of Korea?

The Dream of King Kojong

Legends speak of how Kojong had foreseen the arrival of Lý Long Tường in a dream.  Kojong dreamt of a majestic phoenix that flew all the way from the south to land on the shores of Korea.  Prince Lý’s arrival was therefore perceived as this phoenix, a heavenly sign that was immediately accepted by Kojong and his people.  Lý Long Tường was one of Đại Việt’s most talented generals, well versed in literature and the art of war.

Recognizing his talents, the Koreans quickly promoted Lý to the position of general.  For the rest of his days, Prince Lý Long Tường would be known as Lee of Hwasan, a bright and heroic figure of the Koryo nation.  With news of the Mongols’ impeding conquests on Korea, Lee of Hwasan, his Lý compatriots, and the Korean nation, mobilized their forces.

Ogodei and the First Mongol Invasion

Korea’s relationship with the Mongols tend to fluctuate at various times.  The Koryo Kingdom and the Mongol Empire may cooperate at one instant, and become hostile at another.  It all depends on the circumstances, and this time it’s war.  With the momentum of countless successful military campaigns across the lands of Eurasia, the Mongols now prepared to capture the Kingdom of Koryo.

The earliest of the Mongol invasions on Koryo was ignited in 1231-32, under the orders of Ogodei Khan.  Diplomacy between the two sides have failed, as a result the Mongol Empire prepared their assault against the Koryo Kingdom.  Ogodei, the son of Genghis, would oversee this first invasion, as well as the defeat at the hands of Koryo and Lý Long Tường.

Ogodei’s forces bombarded Koryo in all directions, through naval and conventional assaults.  Though they initially succeeded in capturing some Korean territories,  Prince Lý (aka Lee of Hwasan) mobilized his forces and confronted the Mongols at Hwang-hae.  Lý’s forces successfully warded off the Mongol advances, thus preserving Koryo’s sovereignty for the time being.  The Korean forces also showed tremendous resistance to the Mongol threat, neutralizing their efforts of capturing Koryo.

30 Years Later: The Final Invasions

After 30 years of intense fighting with the Mongol Empire, Koryo would finally see an end to the bloodshed.  Nearly three decades have passed since Ogodei Khan kick-started the Mongol invasion of Korea, and neither side wanted to let up.  The Mongols had captured many of Koryo’s territories, only to lose it in the distant future.  Treaties and agreements have come and gone, always resulting in military clashes between the two sides.

Lý Long Tường, now in his 70’s, has been fighting alongside the Korean forces.  It has been three decades since the prince accepted the title Lee of Hwasan, helping the Koreans in their struggle to break from the Mongols’ grasp.  After numerous battles, the Lee of Hwasan would engage in one final battle against the Mongols, playing a big role in their final defeat to the Kingdom of Koryo.

The Defeat of Mongke Khan

In the year of 1253, the Mongol army, under the fierce command of Mongke Khan, entered Koryo once again.  As they tried to capture the province of Hwang-hae, the forces of Lý Long Tường was their to engage.  After five months of armed combat, the forces of Lý Long Tường successfully eliminated the Mongol forces in that region, forcing them to surrender.

This victory would be the beginning of the full Mongol withdrawal from Korea.  Finally, after 30 years of excruciating resistance against the Mongol Empire, Koryo was finally free from their grasp.  Political actions taken by the patriotic rulers of Korea resulted in the Mongols abandoning their ambitions of capturing the Koryo Kingdom, leaving the country in 1259.

Lý Long Tường: The White Horse General

The fighting spirit of the Koreans helped them defeat the Mongols in numerous battles.  Numerously courageous warriors joined the fight to ultimately expel them from the country.  Fighting alongside these Korean generals was Lý Long Tường, Prince of Đại Việt, and descendent of the royal Lý family.  Prince Lý, along with the remnants of the Lý family, joined in the fight against the Mongols, playing a big role in their final defeat to the Kingdom of Koryo.

Prince Ly was a valiant fighter and a fearless general who led a division of the Korean military.  He arrived on the shores of Korea from Đại Việt in the 1220’s and will spend the rest of his life in Korea.  The several thousand members of the Lý clan would stay there with him, becoming proud members of the Korean community.  Besides the title Lee of Hwasan, Lý Long Tường was also known as the “White Horse General,” riding into battle on the back of a fierce white stallion.

It is said that throughout his life in Korea, Prince Lý would sit on the peak of a mountain and look southward in reverence of his former home.  Little did Prince Lý know that the land he looked back on so fondly would become a battleground for the Mongols’ next conquest.  His successor, St. Trần Hưng Đạo of the Trần Dynasty, would achieve a feat similar to Lý Long Tường.  Next time however, he would do so in a fashion even grander than the Lee of Hwasan himself.

Stay Out of Hoàng Sa! 1974

Posted in Modern History with tags , , , , , , on December 12, 2010 by Ian Pham

In contrast of recent happenings in the Southeast Asia Sea, let’s look back to the year 1974, when worldwide protests erupted over the Chinese invasion of the Paracel Islands of Vietnam.  The following are photos, courtesy of the Nguyen Thai Hoc Foundation, showing protests from Canada, Japan, France, and South Vietnam.

Protests in Ottawa, Canada’s capital in January of 1974.


Protests on January 31, 1974 in Tokyo, Japan.


Demonstrations in Paris, France – January, 1974


Lastly, the protests in Saigon, South Vietnam in January of 1974.

As the photos should indicate, the Chinese invasion of Paracel had outraged the international Vietnamese community.  The citizens of North Vietnam sadly, were never informed by their government of the Chinese invasion.  North Vietnam and China were allied at the time and were unwilling to defend the country’s islands.  That’s the excuse at least.  Isn’t it quite similar to what’s happening right now?

Photos and details courtesy of: Nguyen Thai Hoc Foundation

Political Cartoon: Don’t Say a Word

Posted in Art, Political Cartoons, Politics with tags , , , , on December 10, 2010 by Ian Pham

“Open lips make

the teeth turn cold…

Biting the lips…

will make them silent.”

This one is rather complicated.  It represents the relationship between Vietnam and China.  Apparently, China’s relationship with Vietnam are like tooth and lip.  China is in control and can keep Vietnam quiet at their will. Tooth and lip is a figure of speech in Vietnamese, quite perplexing if you ask me.

“Open lips make the teeth turn cold,” was a quote by Ho Chi Minh, comparing how Vietnam and China went hand in hand.  The second line, “Biting the lips… Will make them silent,” is a sarcastic ridicule by the author of the cartoon.  He mocks the stupidity of Ho Chi Minh, showing how his policies have eroded Vietnam’s sovereignty.

This is another cartoon about the Chinese invasion of the Paracel and Spratly islands.  It mostly demonstrates the coercive nature of the Peoples’ Republic of China, at the same time showing the weakness of the Vietnamese Communist Party.

The Communist Vietnamese are cowardly, staying silent while the Chinese government takes the islands away from the Vietnamese people.  They don’t resist, nor do they let the people of Vietnam resist.  Any stand made by the common folk are immediately crushed by the VCP, for fear of offending the invaders.  It’s shameful.


Is Karzai Really That Corrupted?

Posted in Opinions, Politics with tags , , , on December 6, 2010 by Ian Pham

Anyone who has been paying attention to Afghanistan should have a vague familiarity with the comparisons made between this war and the Vietnam War.  It is understandable that so many have drawn parallels between Afghanistan and Vietnam, since a lot of the central themes have come up.  What I can’t help but notice about the current situation in the western media however, are the claims of corruption aimed at the Karzai government.  Is there anyone we can think of in the past that the Americans have wrongly accused of being corrupted?  Ngo Dinh Diem?  Nguyen Van Thieu?  Correct!

I’m not exactly dismissing every accusation that the media makes toward Hamid Karzai and his administration, but I do want to remind everyone not to believe everything the media says.  In the 60’s, the American media branded both Vietnamese presidents as corrupted, incompetent, etc., only today have these claims been proven wrong.  It is possible that some of Karzai’s actions have been less than ethical, but the way he is portrayed in the media have been much over-exaggerated.

What I am trying to suggest is that we should give Karzai the benefit of the doubt, let him govern his country as he was hired to do.  As history has shown, foreign intrusion into a domestic government only makes things worse.  There are many reasons why the media would oppose Karzai, but that doesn’t make them right.  If Karzai was truly a corrupted man, time will confirm it.  Right now, he is the leader of a sovereign nation and deserves the opportunity to govern his country.  Maybe he is corrupted, maybe he isn’t.  Only time will tell.

Lý Long Tường and the Other Mongol Invasion. “Part 1”

Posted in Dynastic History with tags , , , , , on December 3, 2010 by Ian Pham

The Mongols’ defeats at the hands of Trần Hưng Đạo of the Trần Dynasty are one of the most prominent feats in the history of Vietnam.  There is however, another glorious victory during the Mongol Wars, accomplished this time by Prince Lý Long Tường.  As a survivor of the overthrown Lý Dynasty, Prince Lý Long Tường would help fend off the Mongol invasions on the kingdom of Korea, decades before Trần Hưng Đạo and the nation of Đại Việt.

Trần Thủ Độ and the Fall of the Lý

The story of Lý Long Tường begins in a tragic way, as the last Lý monarch, princess Lý Chiêu Hoàng, abdicated the throne in favor of her husband, Trần Cảnh.  This was made possible because of Trần Thủ Độ, a man who exploited the conflict of a female ruler to break the line of succession of the Lý family.  As a result, the Lý family was deposed from the royal throne and replaced by the Trần family.

Infuriated by Trần Thủ Độ’s political schemes, the members of the Lý family became a strong opposing force to the new Trần rulers.  Fearing a revolt, the diabolical Trần Thủ Độ, regent of the fledgling Trần Dynasty, would orchestrate a political purge aimed at the entire Lý family.  With the power of the military, members of the Lý were targeted and ruthlessly executed.  Thousands of Vietnamese people died at the hands of Trần Thủ Độ, just for baring the name of Lý.

Lý Long Tường and the Voyage to Korea

Recognizing the serious situation that the Lý were facing, Prince Lý Long Tường decided to take action.  With the last of his political power, Lý Long Tường rounded up the remaining members of the Lý family, formulating a plan to evacuate them from Đại Việt.  What was once the homeland of the proud Lý Dynasty now became a hostile territory, a place where the first great rulers were no longer welcome.

With three giant ships, Lý Long Tường and the remnants of the Lý Dynasty set sail for the Eastern Sea.  On their journey at sea, the prince’s envoy encountered a typhoon.  In order to prevent the destruction of the envoy, Lý Long Tường had to make a pit stop, landing on the shores of Taiwan.  When the storm finally passed, the prince gathered his forces and continued northward.

However, Prince Ly’s son, Lý Long Hiền, was afflicted with a serious ailment during their stay in Taiwan.  As a result, Hiền was forced to stay behind while his father proceeded on his voyage in the Eastern Sea.  A number of mandarins and government officials stayed with Lý Long Hiền, becoming members of what is now known as Taiwan.

The Shores of Korea

After more than a month on the high seas, Lý Long Tường’s forces finally landed on the Korean peninsula, where they were warmly welcomed by Kojong, the king of the Korean kingdom.  It is here that Prince Lý will spend the rest of his days, along with the remaining members of the Lý clan.  When Prince Lý fled Đại Việt, he brought numerous talented people under his wing, all of which would be fully utilized by Korean rulers.

The time that Prince Lý arrived in Korea was also the time that Genghis Khan and his Mongols unleashed their fearsome conquests upon all of Eurasia.  Korea, like any other country at the time, was in danger of Mongol domination.  As a result, the Koreans mobilized their country to prepare for the Mongol invasion.

Since the Prince was a talented military commander for Đại Việt, Lý Long Tường was granted a leadership position in the Korean army.  With his help, the kingdom of Korea was prepared for the Mongols coming invasion.  News of Mongols’ countless military endeavors swept across the entire continent, and Korea was next on the list.

To be continued…