Open letter to National Assembly

Open Letter

Ho Chi Minh City – December 10, 2004

To:
-  The National Assembly and Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam
-  The Central Committee of the Vietnamese Communist Party
-  The media in and outside of Vietnam
-  Concerned friends My name is: Do Nam Hai – Born in 1959 in Hanoi.
Residency: 441 Nguyen Kiem, Ward 9, District Phu Nhuan, Ho Chi Minh City.
Occupation: banking professional.

I am writing this letter to the above bodies and concerned friends, to present the following issues:

1) My writings: during my stay in Australia, under the pen name Phuong Nam, I wrote 5 short essays:
-  Vietnam my country (6/2000)
-  Vietnam and doi moi (4/2001)
-  Thoughts on reassessment (6/2001)
-  Writing about chairman Ho Chi Minh (7/2001)
-  Continued writing on reassessment (8/2001)

(published on websites such as Dan Chim Viet at www.danchimviet.com and Mang Y Kien at www.ykien.net – under “Tac Gia” heading.)

The main contents of these five essays are: suggestions on reassessing the vital issues of the country, often publicized through means of mass media, and taught by the schools and educational institutions of Vietnam, such as: Marxism and Leninism, Ho Chi Minh ideology, causes of the two Indochina Wars (1945-1975), establishment and disintegration of the socialist ideology (1917-1991), current doi moi efforts and Vietnam’s backwardness in comparison with other countries in the region and the world. Simultaneously, suggested that a Referendum be held in Vietnam (concrete details presented in part 4 of Vietnam my country), in order to open a door for the nation to thoroughly resolve the current problem of backwardness. In early 2002, I returned to Vietnam and in October of 2004 was interviewed by Radio Free Asia; the contents of the interview recapturing the views presented in my five essays. (see attachment).

2) My current difficulties:

In the evening of August 6, 2004, a number of officers from the Ministry of Public Security came while I was at work in the bank, and politely invited me to board a car to a villa located at 310 Truong Chinh – Ward 13 – Tan Binh District – Ho Chi Minh City. After this, I was detained there for over two days (from 4:00 pm on August 6, 2004 to 6:00 pm on August 8, 2004) to “answer a few questions regarding national security,” according to the letter of invitation. Four months later, I was again detained by public security officers for over 24 hours at the Phu Nhuan District Police Station, 181 Hoang Van Thu – Ward 8 – Phu Nhuan District – Ho Chi Minh City. Also in the approximate past 4 months, I had to answer to many requests by the police: at restaurants, in closed rooms of different hotels, in a closed off ambulance on the Nhieu Loc canal in Tan Binh District. My computer was confiscated and held at the Phu Nhuan Police Station since December 12, 2004, the verbal explanation given to me by the officers being, “it will be returned to you once we have deleted all the data in there.”

Thus, as of now, I have no means of working at home.

During the above meetings, I have answered to the public security officers (whose ranks ranged from lieutenants to colonels) in the same general idea: “Yes, I have written these essays. The sole motivation behind my writing and distributing them is patriotism. I wish and vow to contribute my part in pushing democracy in Vietnam to the forefront. It is evident that democracy is currently nonexistent in Vietnam. What is now called socialist democracy, in reality, is only a kind of sham democracy; it is democracy for the few who are leaders of the Vietnamese Communist Party. It, if at all present in society, is at best but the crumbs of true democracy.

It is quite easy to prove the above observation, and this has been done by Vietnamese democracy activists before and after myself. The most concrete and lively manifestation lies in the fact that I must sit here, must answer your questions, must reluctantly open my emails and the Nha Viet Nam internet forum (which I have joined since 6/2003). You call my articles and the material I carry subversive material, opposing the party and the government. But I think differently. I think they are documents on democracy; they have been posted in entirety and widely on the web previously. I hope more and more Vietnamese people, especially in Vietnam, will read them, and I verify that I have done much in this endeavor. Honestly, I do not blame you for you only carry out the orders you are given. What’s to blame is the single-party political system legalized by Article 4 of the current constitution of Vietnam. It has been, is now, and will be the problem of all problems, the cause of all causes which create countless disasters and pains, and the shameful backwardness, of this country, this people.

Regarding my relations to people in and outside of Vietnam in the past 4 years, it has all been purely an exchange of writings on democracy. I am always aware that I have the capability and confidence to readily converse with anyone, whomever they may be and whatever their past and present. I will support them if they are right, oppose if they are wrong. I do not instigate, do not provoke anyone to create a rebellion or an overthrow, nor do I carry bombs or mines. And in return, those who converse with me respect me and understand my point of view, which is expressed in my articles: Supporting only democratic means to bring about the process of change for this nation. You have read the letters I sent out as well as those sent to me (by force or without my permission); you have read the ideas we exchanged on Nha Viet Nam internet forum, you can clearly see this.

To me, the people of Vietnam today want an appropriate way out, so that they can well assimilate into today’s world. So the first and foremost, important thing to do is to recognize and to resolve the cause of all these catastrophic and painful events, and the shameful backwardness of this nation as mentioned above. At the same time, it is necessary to avoid the misconception that anyone who advocates for political pluralism is automatically one who harbors “intentions of enemy forces inside and outside the country to overthrow the Vietnamese Communist Party.” I believe that the very danger of losing to opposing forces the right to lead the country will be the vital and necessary pressure on the Vietnamese Communist Party to become better in the eyes of the nation and of history. It will have positive effects in combating the degeneration of increasing speed and depth of those in the leadership of the Vietnamese Communist Party, in the government machinery from the central to local in Vietnam today.

In other words, it is the very golden key to help the Vietnamese Communist Party to reorganize its cadres, to replace the task of “protecting the party, protecting the regime” by the dictatorship of the proletariat throughout the political system, the economy, and the society of Vietnam in the past half the century. The ball is now in the court of those who possess true authority in the politburo and central secretariat of the Vietnamese Communist Party. We do not fear that the country has no valid proposals to rebuild and develop, but that the path of the entire nation has been mistakenly chosen. The same nation which has chosen the wrong path yesterday must courageously overcome itself today, to re-evaluate together and to join forces in choosing a newer, brighter, and more humane path. This is normal. It should not come to a day when, with the shouts of the angry nation, an event has to take place like that in Romania in December 1989, where the finale is the shameful but deserved death (by execution) of the dictator Ceausescu and his wife. I am a Vietnamese who adores democracy. I would never wish for my country’s evolution to take place in such chaotic circumstances.

3) Observations and Petition:

a) Observations:

- An outstanding characteristic of the modern era is the world wide disintegration of dictatorships and one-party regimes. Within the past 20 years, humankind has witnessed the death of many such regimes, such as in South Korea, Chile, Philippines, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Iraq, as well as in the Soviet Union and the socialist countries of Eastern Europe. Though these countries have and will experience difficulties and challenges of different magnitudes, sooner or later they will succeed in changing from a backward society to a progressive civil society. It is also the vital trend of the era, and no persons nor forces, no matter how conservative and how brutal, can hinder that trend. One shouldn’t revel in laboriously focusing on the difficulties faced by the above nations in their first steps to change, hoping to play boogieman to scare off the heroic people of Vietnam. Because, that in itself is a crime! And a crime, once committed, will be paid for sooner or later.

- For as long as one-party rule continues to exist in our country, injustice, poverty, and underdevelopment will only deepen and worsen. This is an assertion.

Vietnam has stepped out of the war for nearly 30 years, yet its path today is still blurry and unclear like that of a severely myopic person: walking on an unfamiliar road without glasses or a walking stick. The regime is entirely powerless in facing the national tragedy of corruption, and is incapable of putting a stop to the currently alarming rate of social demoralization. Although, slogans appealing to these purposes are not at all in shortage. The naïve faith of many Vietnamese people in what is called “the market economy in the socialist direction” (which is a nonexistent thing in books on Marxism and Leninism) bears no difference to the pitiful gullibility of the little boy in a famous poem by Hoang Cam:

So wrapped up in searching for a fictitious leaf while his lady love has long been married. [1] Those “little boys” now make up the majority of the still-impoverished Vietnamese society, and have become the rocket ramps for the minority of increasingly wealthy Mai Van Dau’s. [2]

I do not know if the public security officers who worked with me over the past 4 months have made any comparisons between the contrasting standards of my life, of their lives (both of which I believe to be better than many others’ living in Vietnam), and that of the “champions” of the petroleum industry?

There, they have pulled a magic show to divide millions of U.S. dollars amongst themselves, straight faced like people apportioning fish from the village common pond. These “champions” emerge from everywhere in the country. What you have always believed in: That you are protecting the national security, from another angle, only means protecting a corrupted regime which has been the most damaging yet in Vietnam’s history of some thousand years. It is eating into the nation’s resources by the day, by the hour, until there is nothing left but unseen debts for which our later generations must pay. The speed of these modern “champions” is so fast it becomes dizzying. True to the observations of the former Solidarity leader and Polish president, Lech Walesa: Communism is the longest road from Capitalism to Capitalism. (And the capitalism present in Vietnam today is only a mockery, else had it been the real thing like the rest of the world, it would be a different story!) This regime has also caused the loss of the Vietnamese land and sea upon which our forefathers spilled their sweat and their blood.

b) Petition:
- Overcome our current difficulties as presented. I suggest the National Assembly, the Government, and the Central Committee of the Vietnamese Communist Party examine and review my proposal regarding a Referendum in Vietnam, in which the only question to be answered by the people of Vietnam is:

Shall Vietnam adopt a multi-party political system, or not?

Those who agree will vote Yes. Those who don’t agree will vote No.

I will be very glad and ready to wait, with my friends from in and outside of Vietnam, to converse with the National Assembly, the government, or the Vietnamese Communist Party, to further explain my proposed petition above. I genuinely hope to have grasped your attention and sincerely thank you in advance. In the case that the public security organs of Vietnam deem my actions to be in violation of the law, I shall be ready to face the worst of possibilities. As for my current situation, it is indecent the way the Department of Security – Ministry of Public Security have treated me for the past 4 months. In place of a conclusion, I would like to quote a phrase by the revolutionary Nguyen An Ninh (1900-1944):

“Freedom cannot be begged for. It must be fought for!”


[1] In a Vietnamese poem, a boy’s object of affection promises to marry him if he could bring her a specific leaf, which she invented, to avert him. [translator’s note]

[2] Vietnam’s former Deputy Trade Minister. Linked to a scandal involving in garment and textile shipments to the United States; a accused of abusing power and authority while carrying out the duty of a State official. [translator’s note]

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