April 1, 2007
In recent days, the Vietnamese communist authorities have unleashed a series of articles in the official media vilifying Viet Tan. These articles mix in some facts with many distortions and not a few fabrications. One article appearing on the English-language Viet Nam News is titled: “Reactionary terrorist group casts spectral shadow over democracy.”
While this is not the first time authorities have attempted to discredit Viet Tan, this smear campaign comes as Hanoi is confronted with a grassroots democracy movement which they seem unable to extinguish.
The aims of these articles can be summarized as follows:
1) To portray Viet Tan as a terrorist organization even though the communist regime itself has terrorized the Vietnamese people for more than half a century.
As the record of Viet Tan’s entire history shows, despite the fact that in the early 1980s at the height of the Cold War our founding members had to arm themselves to survive the entire army of the communist regime, armed revolution has never been the goal nor means of our organization. Viet Tan has been committed since our inception to achieving political change through grassroots and peaceful means.
In Vietnamese, the union of “Viet Nam” and “Canh Tan” in our party’s name means wide-ranging reform and development. Our ultimate goal is to rebuild the nation which has suffered so long and so much from political and economic backwardness. The dream of achieving a democratic society and healing the social wounds inflicted by the dictatorship cannot be brought about by violence. We strongly believe the only weapon which Viet Tan, and the democracy movement in general, can turn to is the power of the people through non-violent struggle.
As with most other dictatorships, the inability to deal with popular non-violent resistance is the Achilles heel of the Vietnamese communist regime despite their well-fed and well-trained security forces.
2) To sow divisions among the democratic forces by attributing real and fabricated activities to Viet Tan.
The last year has witnessed unprecedented labor strikes, a grassroots democracy movement called the Bloc 8406, an Alliance for Democracy and Human Rights in Vietnam and the founding of many other unsanctioned political groups. This nascent civil society is the result of many individuals and organizations of which Viet Tan is one participant. Many of us have paid a high price for taking this first step toward pluralism whether the communist regime likes it or not.
By asserting all these activities are orchestrated by Viet Tan, the regime hopes to foster ill-will and schism among the democratic forces. We believe the common burning aspiration for democracy and human rights among the ranks of the activists will flatten such tactics. Viet Tan has tremendous respect for the individual efforts of all pro-democracy groups, and is always ready to find further areas of collaboration.
Meanwhile, the official media has also tried to sow mistrust among Vietnamese democracy groups by linking Viet Tan with activities we totally reject. One example is the accusation that Viet Tan had submitted disguised candidates for the National Assembly election in May 2007, an exercise in which all candidates are screened by the Communist Party. Again, Viet Tan’s objective is to achieve true democracy, not to enable the communist regime to legitimize one-party rule to the world. For that reason, Viet Tan, through our underground publications, radio broadcast into the country, and members on the ground is calling for acts of civil disobedience. We are encouraging citizens to cast blank ballots or to write in the names of candidates outside the list dictated by the Communist Party in the upcoming National Assembly “election.”
3) To lure Viet Tan into acknowledging our activities and members inside Vietnam.
Since our organization went public on September 19, 2004, Hanoi’s security forces have redoubled efforts to uncover our underground network. Due to the communist regime’s severe persecution of all opposing political groups, Viet Tan’s members must operate clandestinely regardless of our non-violent activities. When the opportunities arise, Viet Tan will shift to more public acts of peaceful defiance against the dictatorship. Until then, our organization will not be dragged into commenting on which civil society project or which democracy activist is or is not affiliated with Viet Tan.
Living under the Communist Party, the Vietnamese people have witnessed almost daily the perversion of the language by the regime. Not unlike the Stalinist era, religious leaders, internet activists, and journalists today are easily labeled terrorists or spies for foreigners. Political prisoners are called common criminals or mental patients. And the one-party system is acclaimed as “centralized democracy.”
The members of Viet Tan are proud to join in the efforts of Vietnamese in the country and around the world in the difficult quest for a democratic and just Vietnam. We hold the leaders of the Communist Party directly responsible for the ongoing terror and “spectral shadow over democracy.”
Do Hoang Diem
Chairman, Viet Tan (Vietnam Reform Party)