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What Is Wrong With Vietnam?

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What is wrong with Vietnam?

By John E. Carey and Honglien
September 8, 2006

For the last three weeks, Vietnam has detained an American who was born in Vietnam and works in conjunction with an anti-communist group that wants a multiparty system in Vietnam.

Cong Thanh Do, 47, of San Jose, California, has been held in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam without charges since August 17, 2006. He was visiting family in Vietnam, and traveling with his wife and son according to family members in California and Vietnam's Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Dung.

Mr. Do is a member of "The Peoples Democratic Party of Viet Nam," which is what might be called "the movement" or "the underground," to put it in the parlance of WWII.

In a letter from Reporters Without Borders on September 6, 2006, that organization asked the U.S., French and Finnish ambassadors in Hanoi to intervene.

The letter said in part:

"Five people are currently imprisoned in Vietnam for having expressed democratic views on the Internet. Contrary to the claims of the Vietnamese authorities, none of them is a terrorist, criminal or spy. These men have been punished for using the Internet to publicly express their disagreement with the political line of the sole party. They are non-violent democrats."

Vietnam is a communist nation. Many of us have forgotten what that means.

Vietnam has no freedom of press, no freedom of speech and no opposition party. Internet access is severely restricted and monitored in Vietnam.

In Vietnam, starting in the 2006-2007 school year, all high schools must provide accredited and extensive IT education to all students. Each high school must also be equipped with a computer center with at least 25 computers connected to the Internet.

These reforms are dictated by the Communist Party's Ministry of Education and Training. The Vietnamese leaders believe that by making their youth more computer savvy, the nation will reap the great benefits of a surging economy for many years to come.

But the Vietnamese leaders, like the Communists in China, want to control the internet, read all email, monitor usage by individuals , and limit access to many western sites. Prohibited search words include "democracy," "freedom," and "declaration of independence." Many web sites Americans take for granted are prohibited in Vietnam and China.

On August 28, 2006, Vietnam announced the release of prominent dissident and pro-democracy activist Pham Hong Son. Son was originally sentenced to five years in prison. His crime? He translated articles from the U.S. State Department web site for an online journal. The articles were titled "What is democracy?"

Vietnam tightly controls freedom of speech and many western web sites are blocked and not accessible.

Also in August, Vietnam received international attention when it arrested staff members who worked for a foreign bank. The government of Vietnam was demanding their employer pay "compensation" to a state-owned bank for the $5.4 million it lost in speculative foreign-exchange trades.

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John E. Carey is the former president of International Defense Consultants, Inc.
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