Archive for the Society Category

Brief Thoughts on the Formosa Disaster: The VCP Fails its People Yet Again… To No One’s Surprise

Posted in Economics, Opinions, Politics, Society with tags , , on July 11, 2016 by Ian Pham

Fish Deaths VietnamPhoto via Saigoneer

Folks, a lot has happened since the last time I’ve posted on here. I haven’t been able to provide coverage for them all, which sucks, but I would like to get us up to speed on some of the major issues here. I’m not sure how many issues I’ll be able to cover. I only know that there are some issues which I would love to chime in on. The Formosa issue is one that I feel the need to provide insight on, and that is what I will talk about today.

This problem has been brewing since early April of this year, with things finally boiling over by the end of that month and then beyond. The “Taiwanese” company Formosa Plastics Group has been in the hot seat for its role in contaminating Vietnam’s ocean waters, causing massive deaths of marine life, as well as considerable human life, along the country’s central coast.

The damage is so extensive that Vietnam’s fishing industry, its coastal waters, and the lives of millions of Vietnamese people will never be the same again. The livelihoods and means of survival of so many Vietnamese men and women have been taken away from them, Vietnam’s already damaged economy will only plummet further, and many Vietnamese lives have already been and continue to be lost due to poisoned water and fish.

One big thing I want to note about this horrible disaster is Formosa’s deliberateness in the whole issue. Formosa has made it no secret that they were both aware and willing to dump these exorbitant amounts of toxic waste into Vietnam’s waters, with no regard for the safety of Vietnam’s wildlife, habitat, or population.

The most notorious example of Formosa’s attitude comes from one of their officials’ audacious response to the crisis, saying the Vietnamese people must either choose between the steel industry or the fish industry, but they can’t have both (The Diplomat). Furthermore, the same source says that Formosa explicitly invested $45 million into that toxic waste dumping system, and, Formosa argued, since they already paid for it, feel they are entitled to dump in whatever means they see fit. They, Formosa, sought to destroy Vietnam’s environment, and, to the surprise of no one, Vietnam’s government was, and is happy to let them do it.

Whether it is from fear, incompetence, shameful obedience, or all of the above and more, the Vietnamese Communist Party has been slow and reluctant to respond to the Formosa disaster. Both in terms of helping Vietnam’s affected victims, and in holding the perpetrators responsible, the VCP has done little to step in and do its job in response to Formosa’s deliberate destruction of Vietnam’s land. It comes as no surprise, though. The VCP has been failing its people for this long, and there’s absolutely no hope in my eyes that they would ever step up and stop humiliating themselves or stop humiliating the people of Vietnam. The communists are cowards. It’s who they are, it’s who their fathers were, and it’s who their children will be.

In response to the massive backlash by Vietnam’s population, Formosa has claimed responsibility for the disaster, and offered a measly $500 million for the irreparable damage they had caused to the people of Vietnam and their country (Reuters). The damage thus far includes over 100 tons of dead fish (Asia Times), deaths of many, many Vietnamese people including fishermen and consumers of fish, the resulting broken families, devastated ocean waters and overall environment, and a fishing industry that may never recover.

Just so there is no mistake: $500 million is nowhere near enough to compensate the amount of damage caused by Formosa to the people of Vietnam. To put it in perspective, we may look at another environmental disaster: the BP Oil Spill along the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

In that disaster, which was an accident, a rig explosion caused a massive oil spill in the Macondo Prospect, located in the Gulf of Mexico (southeastern U.S., northeastern Mexico) (EPA). The environmental impact of this disaster was huge, and when the dust and smoke had settled, British Petroleum, the company responsible, was forced to pay up to $56 billion in fines, compensation, and cleanup (DoSomething.org). The settlement alone costs BP $20 billion, according to DW.com. In this disaster, the parties responsible were held accountable, everyone worked promptly to deal with and fix the issue, it was an accident, and, with the exception of the 11 workers who died in the initial accident, no further human lives were lost. Also, the compensation, which I repeat here, was worth $56 billion. That’s Billion, with a B.

By contrast, this Formosa disaster in Vietnam killed many Vietnamese people, destroyed over 100 tons of marine wildlife, was done deliberately by the offenders, who only admitted their faults eventually due to public outrage, and, even now, there is still no real solution to the death and destruction it has caused. The Vietnamese government has done absolutely nothing in response, besides happily accepting the money Formosa has offered to them, which is only $500 million. That’s Million, with an M. This money is not going to the victims of the disaster, but instead is being allocated to what the VCP is calling “future development,” which we all know really means their personal bank accounts.

Let me once again take a minute to talk about the compensation.

BP Oil Spill (U.S., 2010): accident, zero human casualties (besides the 11 BP employees), promptly handled, $56 billion costs in fines, compensations, and cleanup.

Formosa (Vietnam, 2016): deliberate, massive human casualties, still not handled, $500 million offer by Formosa to compensate (which the government is keeping).

Just so we’re clear: $56 billion / $500 million = 112

British Petroleum paid 112 times more to the U.S. for their accidental disaster than Formosa paid to the people of Vietnam, even though the Formosa Disaster of 2016 was deliberate and is astronomically more devastating than the BP Oil Spill of 2010.

That is why I say $500 million is a measly sum.

For a disaster of this scale, $500 million does nothing to compensate the myriad of people affected, the environment destroyed, or the lives lost. The Vietnamese Communist Party is stupid to accept it, but what else is new? They get to keep the money anyway, so in their eyes, it’s not about the worth of the disaster. In their eyes: “IT’S $500 MILLION, GUYS!!!” which goes straight into their pockets.

Out of this horrific disaster, the VCP did nothing to protect or help their people. All they did was make another measly profit off of the suffering and humiliation of their country and its people. They, the communists, are shameful. They are bastards. They are deserving of neither forgiveness nor remorse. They are communists, and they deserve to die.

That is why I say the Formosa Disaster is another failure by the Communist Party to the people of Vietnam.

At this point, though, what more can we expect from a communist? Just when we think it couldn’t get any worse with the communists, it does. So, I wouldn’t be surprised if they sink even lower in the future. This is the sad state of Vietnam today, people. The only way to change this sad situation is to change the regime. I’ve said it before, and I say it again now: The Communists need to go, and they need to go now.

Remembering South Vietnam: A Tribute to The Republic

Posted in Economics, IV. Columns, Modern History, Politics, Society with tags , , , , , , , , on April 30, 2016 by Ian Pham

Remembering South VietnamPhoto via Flickr

This is just a brief tribute to the former Republic of Vietnam and all the brave men and women who fought so bravely to protect the country. We all know very well the story of its tragic fall, but we also know very well what a great nation it was.

This year, to commemorate the day that Saigon fell to the communists, I want to remind everyone of the greatness of South Vietnam. By recognizing the actions, ideals, and achievements of the Southern Republic, I aim to demonstrate to us all why April 30 is such a sad day for any Vietnamese who loves freedom.

Every year since 1975, April 30 marks the fall of a proud, vibrant, and prosperous Republic, one that flourished culturally and economically, and carried itself with courage, pride and dignity. Moreover, this day marks the fall of a democracy, a young democracy, but a true democracy nonetheless.

South Vietnam was a nation that nurtured its young. It was a nation that had a deep love for education, invested heavily in education, and went to great lengths to ensure their citizens the access to this education. In only two decades of its existence, South Vietnam successfully expanded its educational programs by leaps and bounds, growing exponentially at the elementary, secondary, and university levels. To put neatly, South Vietnam was a nation of smart people, with endless potential for advancement and growth.

In terms of economy, South Vietnam was highly competitive, a leader in the Southeast Asia region, and a contender in Asia as a whole. Starting from its humble beginnings as a postcolonial state, South Vietnam showed rapid growth immediately after its birth as an independent nation. Over the course of its lifetime, up until its fall in 1975, South Vietnam prospered economically, excelling in agriculture, heavy industry, and trade. Due to its success, its capital city Saigon garnered huge respect from the world, and earned itself the famous title of “Pearl of the Orient.”

When speaking of democracy in South Vietnam, there is no doubt that the Southern Republic was a true liberal democracy. Secret ballot elections, universal suffrage, multiple political parties, freedom of speech, expression, and association, and checks and balances between its executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government, South Vietnam met all of these criteria. In all, South Vietnam was a free country, one that championed the rights of its people, adhered to the rule of law, and kept its people safe.

Lastly, I would just like to recognize South Vietnam as a brave and noble nation that fought with every ounce of its strength to defend its people, from domestic terrorism by the National Liberation Front, the all too familiar invasions from North Vietnam, as well as an abrupt naval invasion by the People’s Republic of China.

In all of these cases, South Vietnam responded, and with whatever resources it had, the Southern Republic fought. This was the nation that captured many VC terrorists, even converting many of them to forsake their communist allegiances and come over to the Republic. Moreover, this was the nation that kept the North at bay for 20 years, and, statistically speaking, eviscerated the communist forces in the majority of engagements on the battlefield.

Finally, South Vietnam was the nation to open fire on the Chinese when the latter sent their warships into Hoang Sa (Paracel) in 1974, thinking that they can push the Southern Republic around. With all that has been shown, it simply needs to be understood here that South Vietnam was a nation that stood tall and fought hard. It was a proud nation, a brave nation, and an honorable nation that kept its people safe.

The loss of this Republic on April 30, 1975 is more than just a page in history. It is a tragedy, marking the day that every freedom-loving Vietnamese person lost their home.

The sadness brought about from the loss of the Republic of Vietnam stems from the greatness of its legacy. Because of its ideals, and because of its bravery, the memory of South Vietnam continues to resonate in the hearts and minds of every freedom-loving Vietnamese person across the world, even inside Vietnam today.

South Vietnam has become a symbol of what it means to be truly Vietnamese in the modern era: smart, hardworking, brave, loyal, and living with integrity. These are the things that the Republic of Vietnam stood for, and these are the type of people who hail from its origins and carry on its legacy. The yellow flag of freedom represents our roots as people of a proud and honorable nation, and reminds us of our undying love for independence and democracy.

In all of this, we cannot forget our veterans. The troops that sacrificed themselves, paying the ultimate price both physically and mentally to defend the ideals of the Republic and keep the people safe, their sacrifice must never be forgotten.

To the soldiers of South Vietnam, the soldiers of the United States, and soldiers of the allied nations who gave their lives to defend freedom in Vietnam, we thank you, for everything.

This is a tribute to the nation of South Vietnam, and all the brave men and women who fought to defend the country and its ideals. This is for you.

Thank you.

Annotated Bibliography: “South Vietnam’s New Constitutional Structure,” by Robert Devereux

Posted in Modern History, Modern History - A.B., Politics, Society with tags , , , , , , , , on April 26, 2016 by Ian Pham

Nguyen Van Thieu SpeechPhotograph via Xac Dinh

Devereux, Robert. “South Vietnam’s New Constitutional Structure.” Asian Survey 8, no. 8 (1968): 627-645.

As its title indicates, this article by Robert Devereux provides analyses of the provisions within South Vietnam’s constitution, which was promulgated officially by Nguyen Van Thieu on April 1, 1967 (p. 628). For anyone interested in exploring in-depth the function and structure of South Vietnam’s democratic system, Devereux’s article is a fantastic starting point.

Following the usual format, this brief blog article will only cover a few of the many important insights about South Vietnamese democracy covered in Devereux’s work. However, the points raised in this entry will be more than enough to prove the credibility of South Vietnam as a true and functional democracy.

To begin, Devereux’s article shows that in 1966, of the estimated population of 14.5 million people in South Vietnam, 5,288,512 were registered to vote, and 4,274,812 did just that. The day of the election was September 11, 1966, and these over four million people went to the polls to elect their new Constituent Assembly, which consisted of 117 members (p. 627).

One year following this important election, a formal presidential election took place on September 3, 1967, resulting in Nguyen Van Thieu’s election as the new President of the Republic of Vietnam (p. 628). Also on that day, 60 new Senators were elected to South Vietnam’s Upper House, and on October 22, 1967, another 137 representatives (called Deputies) were elected to the nation’s Lower House (ibid). In South Vietnam, elections were carried out by universal suffrage and secret ballot (p. 631), a point relevant here for clearly demonstrating the verity of South Vietnam as a democratic nation.

The major events above are mentioned in the introduction to Devereux’s article. The sections following then delve at great length into the various chapters and sections of South Vietnam’s constitution. Covered by Devereux in his article are the many provisions outlining the functions and powers of South Vietnam’s three branches of government: the Executive, the Legislative, and the Judicial.

The Executive section talks about the powers of the President, the Prime Minister, and the Vice President, and their duties and responsibilities to the National Assembly and other government organs (p. 628-631). In the Legislative section, the process of introducing and approving bills is discussed, with details on how the Senators in the Upper House and the Deputies in the Lower House go through the process of making laws (p. 631-634). Lastly, for the Judicial branch section, the process of selecting judges to the Supreme Court in South Vietnam, as well as details of the country’s judicial process, are examined (p. 634-636).

In addition to these sections, Devereux’s article also talks about other important parts of South Vietnam’s government structure, as covered within the constitution. Specific offices and governmental organs, described as Special Institutions, are discussed (p. 636-640), as well as the functions of Local Administrations in South Vietnam (p. 640-641), and very importantly, in the Political Parties section, the guaranteed rights of opposition parties to form and operate in the Republic (p. 642-643).

Devereux moreover provides important insights on the human rights aspects of South Vietnam’s constitution. In the Bill of Rights section of the constitution, as summarized by Devereux, many statements are presented which guarantee and defend the rights of South Vietnamese citizens. Examples include a line from Article 6 of the constitution, which stipulates that the state is pledged to “respect human dignity, and the law every citizen’s freedom, life, property, and honor,” (p. 641). Furthermore, in Article 8, the document “guarantees the privacy of a citizen’s personal life, home, and correspondence…” and that “Freedom of thought, speech, press and publishing is guaranteed,” (ibid).

In addition to these provisions, the Judicial section previously mentioned also demonstrates many examples of the Republic’s adherence to the rule of law. Articles 7 and 8 of the South Vietnamese constitution express many guaranteed rights to protect its citizens, and include, but are not limited to, the following:

“Every defendant is entitled to a speedy and public trial and to a defense lawyer at every stage of the legal process, including the preliminary investigation.”

“No one can be arrested or detained without a warrant issued by a competent legal authority, except in cases of flagrante delicto.”

“No one can be tortured, threatened, or forced to confess, and any confession obtained by such means cannot be used as evidence.”

“Defendants will be considered innocent until found guilty; in case of doubt the court must find for the defendant.”

“No one can enter, search, or confiscate the property of a person without a properly executed court order, unless it is necessary for the defense of security and public order according to the spirit of the law.” (p. 636).

These provisions outlined clearly illustrate the democratic foundations in which South Vietnam was built. From the information above, it can be clarified that the Southern Republic was one that respected human rights, and one that championed the basic rights and freedoms of its citizens and the rule of law.

Evidences provided in this article clearly demonstrate that South Vietnam was a true liberal democracy. Proven throughout this post, through Devereux’s findings, is universal suffrage, secret ballot elections, a system of checks and balances in government, individual’s rights, constitutional rights, and multiparty democracy in South Vietnam.

For all of its challenges as a young and developing nation, the Republic of Vietnam had all the foundations, and met all the criteria of being a liberal democracy. Further study will continue to prove this fact. In terms of establishing a base for research on this topic, this source by Robert Devereux is an excellent place to begin.

Annotated Bibliography: “Education in Viet Nam,” by Berry E. Morton

Posted in Modern History, Modern History - A.B., Society with tags , , , on April 24, 2016 by Ian Pham

La San Taberd School in Saigon, South VietnamPhotograph via Flickr

Morton, Berry E. “Education in Viet Nam.” Contemporary Education 45, no. 3 (1974): 201-208.

This article examines in detail the growth of South Vietnam’s education system during the nation’s lifespan. From the evidence presented, one will learn that from the nation’s birth in the 1950s up to 1974 when this article was written, South Vietnam’s education system achieved exponential advancement that was nothing short of extraordinary. From elementary, through secondary school, all the way to post-secondary, South Vietnam invested heavily in its education, increasing rapidly its number of schools, student enrollment, as well as its teaching staff, with the active support and assistance both from friendly nations and international organizations from all over the world (p.202).

Morton’s article is filled with valuable statistics and information. This brief entry will only highlight a few, to illustrate just how much value South Vietnam placed on the educational development of its people.

Notable points presented by Morton include South Vietnam’s vast expansion in higher education. According to Morton, “there were no colleges or universities in all of South Vietnam” in 1954. However, by the 1973-74 academic year, South Vietnam had established nine universities, and enrolled a total of 86,000 students to these institutions (p. 201). Moreover, by that same 1973-74 academic year, South Vietnam had also developed “sixteen post secondary two-year teacher training schools, enrolling 9,000 elementary teachers in training; plus two newly operational junior colleges which are part of the recently planned system of two-year post secondary institutions,” (ibid).

At the top of South Vietnam’s priority list was the development of its elementary schools (p. 202). “In 1954,” Morton explains, “there were 8,191 elementary classrooms scattered throughout the nation; very few classrooms were built between 1954 and 1960,” (ibid). With the South Vietnamese government’s investment in education, a staggering 17,000 classrooms were added by the 1970-71 academic year, “making a total of approximately 25,500 classrooms… housing 2,490,246 elementary students,” (p. 203).

During the 1960s, the South Vietnamese Ministry of Education undertook a massive task to reform and develop the country’s secondary school program (junior high and high school), changing the system from an elitist French-colonial structure into a more accessible, “viable and truly Vietnamese secondary school system,” (p. 203-204). This initiative was carried out through the widespread building of classrooms, changing of curriculums and administrations, increasing of enrollment, and an abundant array of other developments. The astronomical growth in South Vietnam’s secondary schools is illustrated by the following information:

In 1956, there were 69,700 students enrolled in the nation’s secondary schools. By 1960 this figure had increased to 165,000 students or about six percent of the youth of secondary school age. By 1970 this figure had increased to 710,541 or about twenty-one percent and during the 1973-74 academic year the total secondary school enrollment is 1,062,000 or about twenty-eight percent of the population group (p. 205).

These statistics of the rapid increase in secondary schools is an indicator of South Vietnam’s success in overhauling its system for schooling youth of the adolescent age group. As a whole, the information presented thus far, regarding the whole South Vietnamese educational system, from elementary all the way to post-secondary, presents a clear representation of the South Vietnamese nation’s emphasis on education, improvement in the quality of life, and the development of its people.

Another interesting point worth noting from Morton’s source is that in South Vietnam, education for the nation’s public universities is free (p. 206). In addition to this, it is also noteworthy that education ranks second among the desires of the South Vietnamese people, with “security from insurgency” ranking first (p. 201).

Morton’s article is lengthy and detailed, containing many more relevant information and statistics regarding South Vietnam’s educational development. This brief annotated bibliographic article only presents some notable highlights. In all, the information presented here should demonstrate South Vietnam as a nation that greatly valued education, and went to all the possible lengths to deliver education to its people.

Communists Are Afraid of Books, Arrest Phuong Uyen Again for Holding One

Posted in Books, Democracy Activists, Politics, Society with tags , , , , , , , on December 21, 2015 by Ian Pham

Phuong Uyen Holding BookPhoto via Tin Mung Cho Nguoi Ngheo

As comical as that headline may be, one might find it even more comical, and sad, that it’s actually true.

If you recall, Nguyen Phuong Uyen is the feisty and highly intelligent young democracy activist who, in 2013, was arrested by the Communist Party for speaking out against the VCP’s despotic, corrupt, and cowardly governance. One of my favorite messages from her was, “Đi chết đi, DCS VN bán nước,” which roughly translates to, “Kill yourselves, treasonous Vietnamese Communist Party.” She was released in August of 2013 due to international pressure, but was still terrorized by the Party thereafter. Well, she is still here, she is still fighting the commies, and she is bolder than ever.

Just over a week ago, the young activist and former prisoner of conscience Phuong Uyen met up with a few friends at a café somewhere in Saigon. In her possession was a newly published book titled Ước Mơ Của Thủy, which translates to The Dreams of Thủy, or Thủy’s Dreams in English. The book is written by a young author, Ms. Le Viet Ky Nhi, with the preface written by Ms. Phuong Uyen herself. For her involvement with the book, as well as for simply having the book on her person, Phuong Uyen was arrested again by VCP police and held captive for several days.

Ước Mơ Của Thủy is a very important piece of literature that is causing quite a stir within the communist dictatorship system. In only 100 pages, the author Le Viet Ky Nhi is able to present some very powerful ideas that are more than scaring the shit out of the communists. Both historical and political, the author starts out by examining the long and deep history of the Viet people, before moving on to contemporary times, and how the country needs to change to rebuild itself.

Naturally, the communists view this as a threat, and have banned the book from circulation in Vietnam.

And so, on December 13, 2015, while meeting a few friends at Chieu coffee shop, and carrying the book in her bag, Nguyen Phuong Uyen was apprehended by a gang of communist policemen and hauled off to the police station. According to Dan Lam Bao, she was detained for two days and one night by the communist police. She is still being monitored and harassed by authorities after her release.

Keep fighting the good fight, Uyen.

You’re not alone.

DMCS.

Sources:

Dan Lam Bao (Collaborator), Dan Lam Bao (CTV), Dan Lam Bao (VRNs and translated by Ngu Ngoc), Tin Mung Cho Nguoi Ngheo, United Press International, Youtube (VanHoaNBLV1)

Viet Khang is Officially Home

Posted in Democracy Activists, Music, Society with tags , , , , on December 15, 2015 by Ian Pham

Viet Khang ReturnsPhoto via Radio Free Asia

It’s official, folks. Viet Khang, the renowned musician and democracy activist, has returned home safely to his family.

In his interview with Radio Free Asia, the musician explains his long trip back home after being released from communist imprisonment. Being provided a group to drive him, Viet Khang did not arrive home until 3-4pm, having left at 7am earlier that morning. He cites the fact that his drivers, taking their sweet time, had to stop for food and refreshments and whatnot, while he was anxious to get home and did not eat at all.

From the same interview, the musician explains that he will be under house arrest for the next 2-3 years, that he is very grateful for all the love and support that he has received throughout this time, and, that he has no regrets for the things that he has done. He is a musician who speaks from his heart, and he is a man who loves his country.

Welcome home, Brother Viet Khang.

Listen to the whole interview at Radio Free Asia.

Musician and Human Rights Activist Viet Khang Released From Prison Yesterday

Posted in Democracy Activists, Music, Politics, Society with tags , , , , on December 15, 2015 by Ian Pham

Viet KhangPhoto via We Heart Music

Yesterday in Vietnam, Viet Khang, the musician and human rights activist who has been imprisoned by the Vietnamese communist government since late 2011 because of his music, was finally released after four years in jail.

Brother Viet Khang, as many of us like to call him, wrote two songs in 2011: “Viet Nam Toi Dau (Where Is My Vietnam)?” and “Anh La Ai (Who Are You)?” Both of these tracks ask some serious questions about the Vietnamese Communist Party and their governance, namely, “why are you selling our nation to the Chinese?” and, “why are you suppressing and terrorizing our people for defending the country?”

As you may know, it is illegal to ask questions in Vietnam, especially if they bring up how stupid or cowardly the communist leadership is. And so, for his courage and the willingness to ask questions, Brother Viet Khang was arrested and sentenced to four years in jail.

Vietnam. Where asking a simple question such as, “why don’t we just defend our country?” can get you sentenced to four years in prison. But, I digress.

As of yesterday, December 14, 2015, it is reported that Viet Khang has finally been released from captivity. According to SBS, Viet Khang’s mother is awaiting his return home. There is not yet news of his safe arrival at this time of writing.

Let us all pray for Viet Khang and his family, and hope that the brave musician returns home to his family soon, if he is not home already.