A legacy of corruption, economic ruin, repression and ethnic cleansing
By Scott Johnson May 27, 2009
Chi Minh died in 1969, and on the anniversary of his birth this May the
old guard in Hanoi predictably imposed another state celebration in his
honor. More than just ‘keeping up appearances,’ the Vietnamese
communist regime is fighting to retain ideological justification as
today’s “money-making communists” cling to power. Since North
Vietnamese forces in Soviet tanks first crashed the gates of the
Presidential Palace in Saigon however, some three decades ago the
Vietnamese communist party has done nothing but fail their people ….
and fail them in spectacular fashion.
hosts one of the most corrupt regimes in the world and in 2008 was
rated by Transparency International as 121st ‘most corrupt’ amongst 180
nations. Likewise Vietnam is also one of the poorest with the average
wage being a few dollars a day. Initially, the post war communists
found an easy out, blaming its economic woes on French and American
wars but as the years went by, the communist lie became harder to
defend. Doi moi (renovation) grew older and the Vietnamese tiger
remained asleep in the forest. The communist victory in Vietnam
however, was doomed from the outset, predestined to birth a template
for economic decay and endemic corruption ... and like their brutal
human rights record, the failure in Vietnam is nothing less than a
origins of Vietnam’s problems can be traced to its conception. In the
1950s, Ho Chi Minh and his communist party murdered an estimated 50,000
people in Northern Vietnam. It was called the “Land Reform Program” but
the only reform it did was the execution and starvation of tens of
thousands of peasants and landowners. Earlier during the 1930s and
1940s, Uncle Ho and his gang eliminated their political opponents in a
series of assassinations. Yes, murder, where the communists in
mafia-like fashion shot and killed their opposition, thus ending the
true Vietnamese nationalist parties, the Quoc Dan Dang and Da Viet.
is through this use of terror that Uncle Ho and his cohort General Giap
came to power forging the Viet Cong’s strategy of “terror.” The
deliberate massacre of thousands of Vietnamese civilians in 1968 at the
imperial city of Hue or the 1967 butchery of hundreds of tribal
Montagnards by flamethrowers in the village in Dak Son would became a
testament to Ho Chi Minh’s brutality. After taking over South Vietnam,
the communists would further murder at least 80,000 Vietnamese people
in Stalinist style re-education camps.
the children of Ho follow his legacy by mimicking China, North Korea,
Cuba, Burma and Iran by maintaining power through brute force and
censorship of the press. In March 2009 Reporters Without Borders
declared Vietnam an “enemy of the internet” and all a citizen of
Vietnam needs to do today is criticize the regime and security police
will come for you with handcuffs.
brutal repression of Vietnam’s tribal peoples also continues unabated.
The U.S. State Department acknowledged killings of Montagnards by
security forces and there are today hundreds of Montagnard political
and religious prisoners rotting in Vietnamese jails.
Montagnards of Degar people have in fact been subjected to decades of
persecution in a “creeping” form of “ethnic cleansing.” The attack upon
these indigenous peoples started in 1975 with the execution and
imprisonment of their political and religious leaders. The next phase
of attack was aimed at the Montagnards’s lifeblood, where the
communists confiscated their ancestral lands to make way for forced
migrations of ethnic Vietnamese. The Montagnards today have been driven
into poverty and their natural resources, the once great forests of
Vietnam have been deforested by companies controlled by the Vietnamese
persecution against Christians continues also and in April 2008 a
42-year-old Montagnard woman named Puih Hbat was arrested for having
Christian prayer services in her home. Officials from the U.S. Embassy
and the European Commission have investigated her case, yet Puih Hbat
has not been heard of since and her family believes she may have been
murdered in custody.
Communist Party deny any such human rights violations, but have tried
placating concerns raised by foreign investors. Party Chief Nong Duc
Manh stated in 2006 that “Corruption threatens the survival of our
regime,” and yet institutionalized corruption continues to plague the
country at every level. The problem is, Hanoi hosts a most stubborn
regime and unlike its former patron the Soviet Union, never undertook
even the most palatable of communist admitted failings such as
“de-Stalinization.” Hanoi responded to Krushchev’s denouncement of
Stalin’s murderous reign with official idolization, calling Stalin a
“marvelously noble ideal communist.” Never mind that Stalin killed
millions of his own people.
Vietnam’s state press continues espousing paranoia of the threat to
their sovereignty by overseas “hostile forces.” Hanoi went so far as to
formally accuse the U.S. based Montagnard Foundation with terrorist
allegations in the United Nations. While they lost this bogus bid to
silence its critics Hanoi continues today to persecute the Montagnards
with a vengeance.
a comical farce, Vietnam’s leading newspaper the Nhan Dan actually ran
an article on May 6, 2008 titled, “The Everlasting Vitality of
Marxism.” Such diatribes against capitalism seemingly have no effect
upon trade delegations from the West who eagerly reap the profits of
Vietnam’s cheap labor markets. Yet reform is slow and party rhetoric
won’t cure Vietnam’s deeply rooted communist ills. In March 2009, top
secret politburo documents uncovered by the Paris based Vietnam Human
Rights Committee described Hanoi’s plan to “maintain a climate of
permanent fear” so they can “stay in power for another 20 years.”
goes the strange saga of Vietnam. Communist on the outside, capitalist
on the inside and…corrupt all over. It is stranger still, given their
hatred of religion that Hanoi dared to promulgate its own religion. Yet
they did exactly that in preserving Ho like Lenin for public display
and proclaiming his saintly status, by alleging he was celibate! Truth
be known Ho had numerous mistresses and the Vietnamese author Duong Thu
Huong reports party officials murdered one such mistress named Xuan in
1957 by party officials just to keep the celibate myth alive. Bui Tin,
the North Vietnamese Colonel who defected in 1989, also confirmed Ho’s
sexual affairs, and lest we forget, communist party general secretary
Nong Duc Manh long built his career on claims he was the illegitimate
son of Ho Chi Minh!
Chi Minh’s gift to the people of Vietnam however, was not his macabre
corpse entombed in the stone monstrosity in Hanoi. His gift was
authoritarianism, lies, corruption and repression built on the blood of
the Vietnamese people. A gift of creeping ethnic cleansing, that glides
across the Vietnamese landscape in a deathly bid to silence an ancient
race of tribal people.
the powers to be no doubt are trying to massage Vietnam out of its
slumber, foreign aid and trade deals have yet to shake off Hanoi’s
chains of corruption. The regime has entrenched its power and the
transition to true democracy is held hostage by Uncle Ho’s ever
recalcitrant children, the Vietnamese communist party.
Scott Johnson is a lawyer, writer and human rights activist who has focused on issues in South East Asia.