Archive for August, 2011

1979: The Sino-Vietnamese War (Part I)

Posted in Modern History, Politics with tags , , , , , , , on August 10, 2011 by Ian Pham

The border war between China and Vietnam in 1979 was a controversial one.  Both sides claimed victory, with varying degrees of evidence.  China claimed that it met its objective, that it had taught Vietnam a lesson and that it was time to leave.  Vietnam has then disputed that China never met its objective, that they couldn’t go on fighting, and that they just gave up in the end.  Simply put, the Vietnamese claimed that China lost the war, while the Chinese say different.

One of the causes for this war can be traced back to Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge.  Pol Pot was the Communist Dictator of Cambodia, and his organization was known as the Khmer Rouge.  The story of Pol Pot is a frightening one.  Not only was his model of Communism extremely idiotic and alien, it turned out to be one of the most destructive policies in the history of Communism.  Pol Pot’s aim was to turn Cambodia into an agrarian socialist society.  He wanted to erase all traces of modern society, envisioning the rise of a new era of civilization, starting with “Year Zero.”

In order to achieve his demented ideal, Pol Pot instituted a nationwide purge of anyone who he believed threatened his political objectives.  The victims of Pol Pot’s executions were mainly teachers, artists, intellectuals, and those in the educated realm.  The purges didn’t stop there.  Certain accounts claim that anyone who showed signs of intelligence were hunted and killed by Pol Pot’s people.  Even those who wore glasses were murdered, simply because they looked like they were the learned type.  As a result of this policy, combined with the poor agricultural reforms of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge as a whole, a staggering number of Cambodia’s population was lost.  The death toll in Cambodia is estimated to be between 2-3 million people.

Besides the genocide he committed on his people, Pol Pot was saw the deterioration of his relations with Vietnam.  From his rule in 1975 to his fall 1978, Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge faced a number of military confrontations against the People’s Army of Vietnam.  As relations soured between Vietnam and Cambodia, Pol Pot switched his sites to the Vietnamese people living in Cambodia, ordering his military to exterminate any ethnic Vietnamese that resided in the country.  With the support of Communist China, Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge further instigated military conflicts at the Cambodia-Vietnam border, at the same time attacking the ethnic Vietnamese inside the country.

By late 1978, relations with Cambodia completely broke down.  As a result, General Secretary Le Duan of Vietnam ordered a full scale invasion of Cambodia.  Within 24 hours of Le Duan’s command, the Khmer Rouge regime was toppled by Vietnam’s forces, with Pol Pot’s forces driven from the country.  In Pol Pot’s place, a puppet government was installed by the Vietnamese, who were now in formal control of all of Cambodia.  This greatly angered the Communist Party of China, who were in full support of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge.  As retaliation for Vietnam’s total disregard for Sino-Vietnamese relations, the People’s Republic of China mobilized for their invasion of Vietnam.  The Chinese forces were extremely confident of their strength, as famously expressed by Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, “We’ll have breakfast in Lang Son, but we’ll have dinner in Hanoi.”

To Be Continued…


Freedom Fighters: A List of Democracy Activists Jailed in Vietnam (Updated)

Posted in Democracy Activists, IV. Columns, Politics, Society with tags , on August 5, 2011 by Ian Pham

The political situation in Vietnam, as I have often illustrated, is quite bleak. Dozens of democracy activists are arrested by the truckload (well, not exactly a truckload).  Some are prominent professionals while others are just common citizens disillusioned by the poor governing of the VCP.  I’ve mentioned a few of them, though I have yet been given the chance to write much about them.  These people have been nurturing the freedom movement, risking their lives to better Vietnam as a whole.  These are only but a few of the courageous faces in this fight for freedom, it’s time we got to know them.

1. Cu Huy Ha Vu

Mr. Ha Vu was recently convicted (2011) for advocating multiparty democracy in Vietnam and twice suing Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung for his concessions to China at the expense of the Vietnamese people.  He courageously stood up to the Communist Party of Vietnam despite his high-standings within this Communist system.  Furthermore, he has presented the idea of further strengthening of relations with the United States.

2. Father Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly

Father Ly has been convicted since 2007 for his open criticism of the Vietnamese government’s human rights abuse.  He is also one of the prominent faces of Vietnam’s democracy movement, lobbying the Party for more religious and personal freedoms.  Though Father Ly was released by the Communist government on humanitarian grounds, having suffered several strokes during his incarceration, the government recently sent him back to jail for fear of his influence among the Vietnamese Catholics.

3. Le Cong Dinh

Incarcerated since 2009, Mr. Dinh caught the eye of the Vietnamese government, the Vietnamese population, and even the United States, when he vowed to sue China in the international court for their naval crimes in the Southeast Asia Sea.  In fear of offending China and a challenge to their own authority, the Vietnamese government convicted Mr. Dinh, sentencing him to 5 years in jail.  Le Cong Dinh is a prominent Vietnamese lawyer with a law degree form the U.S., he has taken part in many human rights defence cases in Vietnam, and has also shown his support for multiparty democracy in Vietnam.

4. Le Thi Cong Nhan

Attorney Le Thi Cong Nhan was arrested by Vietnamese police in 2007 for her own views on democracy for Vietnam, expressing her visions of a just and free country.  Ms. Nhan also advocated an independent labor union, further threatening the Communist Party’s authority.  During her incarceration, Ms. Nhan was offered a chance for amnesty to the United States, an offer that she rejected.  Le Thi Cong Nhan wanted to remain true to her struggle, refusing to leave the people who need her.  Though she has finished her three year prison sentence, Le Thi Cong Nhan is still held under house arrest by the Communist government.  Even so, she has vowed to continue her fight for freedom and justice.

5. Tran Khai Thanh Thuy

Tran Khai Thanh Thuy’s first arrest took place in early 2007.  As a blogger and writer, some of her work was deemed harmful by the Vietnamese government, she was imprisoned for 9 months as a result.  During her detention, Tran Khai Thanh Thuy was denied critical medical treatment that she desperately needed, as she was suffering from diabetes and tuberculosis.  Following her detention, Ms. Thuy was kept under strict house arrest by the police, who harassed her and her family daily.  Her house was vandalized, and members of her family were continually beaten by both policemen and hired thugs.  In 2009, following one of many altercations with the Communist cops/thugs, Tran Khai Thanh Thuy was once again held in detention by the Communist police.  She was jailed for another 2 years until 2011, when she was granted amnesty to the United States.  Tran Khai Thanh Thuy currently resides in the United States with her daughter, away from Communist hands.

The Faces of Freedom

This is just a short list of the many people out there who are fighting for the freedom of Vietnam.  There are many bright and courageous people besides these five individuals who have risked, and continue to risk their lives to bring a positive change to Vietnam.  They do so with full knowledge of the dangers associated with going up against the Communist Party goliath.  This democracy movement may still be young, but in time it will become strong.  This Communist rule has gone on for too long, and the problems that the Party currently face is a sign that their legitimacy is wearing thin.  Though we can’t determine when the change is going to come, we can be certain that it will come, no matter what.  We are the real people of Vietnam, we will prevail.


*** Update (January 17, 2016): Due to recent findings and developments, Cu Huy Ha Vu is no longer recognized as a freedom fighter by Freedom For Vietnam. He is hereby blackballed from this list.

Cu Huy Ha Vu’s Appeal

Posted in Democracy Activists, Politics, Society with tags , , on August 2, 2011 by Ian Pham

One of Vietnam’s most prominent dissidents, Cu Huy Ha Vu, was in court yesterday for his appeal trial. Once again, Mr. Ha Vu courageously reverberated his support for a multiparty state, despite persecution from the ruling Communist Party.  According to the New York Times, Mr. Ha Vu asked that the court dismiss his current case.  Ha Vu stated that his main objective was not to go against the Party.  Instead, Mr. Ha Vu wanted to promote multiparty democracy for Vietnam, so that healthy competition between parties can help to benefit the nation.

Though this is a perfectly viable argument, the Vietnamese government does not tolerate any opposition to their one-party rule.  Therefore, it does not look good for Mr. Ha Vu’s case.  The Communist government will likely continue to persecute Cu Huy Ha Vu, persisting that he was breaking the law in some way, using incoherent and often fabricated evidence to support their claims.  Many of Cu Huy Ha Vu’s supporters held signs and banners outside the courtroom, showing that they are behind Mr. Ha Vu in his fight for political reform.

The democracy movement in Vietnam might not be very strong right now, but there are many courageous and intelligent people waiting for their chance to lead this fight for freedom.  Cu Huy Ha Vu is a prime example of what we’re capable of when we find a cause worth fighting for.  Though the government tries to shut him down with all their might, it is clear that many people are on his side.  In order to rebuild the country, the people of Vietnam need to be free.  It is only a matter of time before this dream is realized.