A new political party, Viet Tan, has been launched by Vietnamese émigrés and people living in Vietnam to promote peaceful democratic political reform in the country.
The National Civic Council President, Peter Westmore, gave an address at the launch of the Victorian branch of Viet Tan last week, from which these extracts have been taken.
The people of Vietnam have a long history of fighting for their freedom and independence, a history which goes back many hundreds of years. The Chinese words for Vietnam mean “flee to the south”, reflecting the Vietnamese people’s long struggle for independence from China.
In the 20th century, we recall the battle for independence from France, a broad-ranging fight which was hijacked by the Viet Minh, led by Ho Chi Minh, who seized power in North Vietnam after the Japanese defeat in World War II.
The flight of at least a million people from the north to South Vietnam in the 1950s, after Ho established a Stalinist regime in North Vietnam, is further testament to the Vietnamese people’s love of freedom.
Even during the Vietnam war, which ran from the 1950s to 1975, elections were regularly held at a village and province level, again reflecting the people’s desire to determine their own future. Since the fall of Saigon in 1975, no such elections have been held.
It is often forgotten, in the West, that the number of Vietnamese soldiers and civilians who died to defend their country from totalitarianism was far greater than the number of Americans or Australians who died trying to stall the invasion.
While many Westerners were duped into believing that Ho Chi Minh was a patriot, as his nom de guerre implied, the memoirs of leading communists such as Vo Nguyen Giap, since published in the West, have made clear that the Communists were absolutely ruthless in their pursuit of power, and were willing to play the nationalist card, both within and outside the country, to mobilise support.
They won power by the brutal use of terror, not by the consent of the people.
In any case, the Communist victory could not have been secured without the military, financial and material support of the two Communist superpowers, the Soviet Union and China, over many years.
After the North Vietnamese conquered the South in 1975, the flight of millions of Vietnamese people by sea from Vietnam again reflected the willingness of the people to risk death, rather than live as slaves.
Since then, hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese people, perhaps millions, have spent years in Communist-run concentration camps – called re-education camps and prisons – because they had fallen foul of the police state, and its ever-present party cadres.
Australia is a nation which secured its freedom and independence by peaceful change, over 100 years ago.
Over the past 30 years, we have been enriched by the Vietnamese people who have come into our country as a result of the tragedy in Vietnam. We therefore have a moral duty to help end the reign of fear and terror which is occurring in Vietnam at present. Arguably, there is little that can be done directly.
The Communist regime is entrenched in power, and largely impervious to outside criticism. However, totalitarian regimes do not last forever. Remember the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany.
With the opening up of Vietnam to foreign investment, and the development of the Internet, the regime is increasingly dependent on foreign goodwill to rescue its moribund economy from the shackles of Marxist-Leninist dogma and corruption.
Australia potentially has an important role to play in assisting this transformation. We can help by bringing to the attention of the Australian people and government the continued denial of civil, political and religious rights in Vietnam, so that outside pressure is brought to bear on the regime to change.
Equally important, however, is that the Vietnamese people, both at home and in the diaspora, give the lead in this struggle, and I therefore welcome the establishment of the Vietnam Reform Party, Viet Tan, to further this objective.
Viet Tan is obviously committed to the democratic ideal, to the principles of personal freedom, to the rule of law, the establishment of democratic government, freedom of the press, protection of the family as the fundamental unit of society, and economic freedom.
Its establishment will be welcomed by everyone in Australia committed to these ideals.