Juli 09, 2013

Vietnam - From a Free Country to a Huge Prison

The Saddest Day in Vietnam's History - "Black April", 1975

"[...] I will not fight against the Vietnamese Communist regime umsing their methods – retaliation and violence. I do not fight with hatred, or with a feeling of revenge. I do not want to see more bloodshed in my country. Enough has already been shed under the communist regime. I want them to return the sovereignty of my country to its people." - Freedom fighter Vo Dai Ton in: Foley, Dennis. "A Soldier of Words." The Ottawa Citizen (1992).

I can see the sadness in the eyes of my parents, when they tell me about the darkest day in the history of Vietnam. It was April, 30th, 1975, also known as "Black April", for Vietnamese "Ngày Ba Muoi Thàng Tu", the day on which Saigon fell under the North Vietnamese communist regime after 30 years of war. Since that day, Vietnamese people have been deprived of freedom, human rights and liberty, and were forced to live under suppression and terror on a daily basis. Saigon, the old capital of South Vietnam, has been renamed symbolically for the takeover of communists into "Ho Chi Minh City" – a city which had lost its beauty of the old Saigon, a city being hardly recognizable for many Southern Vietnamese who were born and raised in the once free and beautiful Saigon. Everywhere one looks around, there is poverty, starvation and misery. The communists have built up an economy based on their hypocritical "equality" which cannot nearly meet the needs of the nationThe only people who profit from the new system are themselves, communist cadres. Organized surveillance, bureaucracy, corruption and govermental propaganda dominate the lives of the population. 
For the North commuists, it is the "Relief of South Vietnam", the tendential anti-communist South just remains of the day as the "Fall of South Vietnam". Down to the present day, the terror of the communist regime governs the anxious lives of most Vietnamese. It seems as if the tyranny will never find an end, until human rights are reconstituted and Vietnam will break its isolation from the outside world.
For many people, who are not familiar with the history of Vietnam, it is quite hard to understand, why there exists such a deep hostility towards the North Communist Regime. There occurred many events, which have never been mentioned in history books or international media because the Vietnamese communist government has tried to hide their inhuman actions in order to prevent interventions from other countries to secure their authority. 

My parents who have been in the middle of the war,  witnessed at first hand the inhumanity of the northern communist dominion. Luckily, they have managed to escape to Germany after the Fall of South Vietnam. The stories they told me are very disturbing and sometimes also unimaginable because Germany has been as opposed to many other countries quite peaceful since the German reunification in 1990.

My Father's Story: Captivity of South Vietnamese Officers in so-called "Re-education Camps"

Two months after the Fall of Saigon, my father in his young years of 24, received a letter from local authorities. In this letter stood that he was required to sign in for a so called "re-education", which would last, according to the communist regime, no longer than ten days. This re-education was set up for "resistant" ex-officers who have worked for the old army of South Vietnam. Through the time of the re-education they should get used to the new system, coincident meaning to abolish the old one and learning to scorn non-communists who were allegedly criminals wanting to destroy the country.
So my unsuspecting father packed suitcase for ten days, not anticipating that this “little journey” would cost him three precious years of his life. wanting to destroy the country. The meeting point was a catholic school of old officers, where the young men were already expected by the communists with a festive buffet. This was very spectacular for most of the young men who normally had to work hard for their food. If only they had known that the insincere generosity was only set up in order to distract from further plans the regime had provided for their young southern officers. My father met some of his old friends from school who have also served as officers for the Southern army. During the feast, the camp leaders explained to their mentors further procedures, emphasizing that they had no reason to worry because they would return back home soon after having successfully absolved the re-education. 

At night, it must have been 2 a.m., the young ex-officers heard some noises from outside and were woken up by their commandants. Outside the building, there were standing several trucks, being completely covered so that neither the young men nor anyone else could take a look inside or outside the cabins. On each truck, two soldats were sitting threateningly on the roof, armed with long rifles. My father and the other officers were carried along into the trucks, not knowing whereto the trucks would drive.

After a sleepless night, they arrived in the morning at Trang Lon, a suburb of Tây Ninh, lying about 37 miles from Saigon. The place was in former times an old military basis of the U.S. and were used as concentration camps. 

With the arrival at the new location, the kindness of the communist commandants suddenly disappeared. The ex-officers were forced to hard physical labor, at least 12 hours a day from 6 a.m. The work they had to fulfill was often gratuitous. Above all, it should teach the young men that they had no chance to resist their communist authorities, and that their orders had to be obeyed.
Everyday, they only got two boils of rice with salt, which was not nearly enough to collect new strength for the hard work. Therefore they were forced to eat everything they could find in nature. Insects, leaves or even snakes. Many men died because they starved or ate plants which were poisonous.

My father remembered one day working on an old minefield.What the officers did not know was that there have still been old mines stuck in the ground because nobody warned them. While my father was cutting barbwires, he suddenly heard a loud noise and noticed dark smoke with something falling down from the air. At the first moment, he assumed that it must have been a test shot of the commanders. But when he came nearer, he recognized to his dismay his fellow screaming with pain because he stepped unwittingly into one of the old mines. His leg had been bombed away so that it had to be amputated without any anesthesia by the camp ambulance. After some days of this traumatic incident, the men was transported away with a truck with no one ever knowing to which place he was carried next, or if he was still alive after all [...]
Anyhow, the young ex-officers’ family members have never been informed about the truth of their son or husband, since there has been a strict prohibition of contact to the outside world during the first year in the camps. Only once, they received letters by the regime, saying that their husbands or sonss were in good hands, would lead a healthy life and that the family had absolutely no reason to worry.

Of course the families had become suspicious, but whenever they turned to local authorities, they were told nothing but lies. The fact of not knowing what had happened to their dearest was an extremity of misery for the families. Many have also expected their husbands and sons already dead, while this believe proved to be true in many cases.  The only thing they could do was hoping that the leaders would show mercy and would release their dearest soon. 

Not until there have been started many riots by family members and friends in the South, the communist regime gave the permission for families to visit their husbands and sons once half a year. Each visitor was allowed to bring 3kg rice to provide their dearest.
Day after day passed where the men have never heard a word about their release. Certainly, they were curious about the further duration of their stay in the camps; they were missing their families, their normal lives. Nevertheless, the only thing they were told was that their release dependent solely on their personal behaviour and development, the willingness to adapt to the communist system. Those, who obeyed the orders and worked hard would come out faster.
My father was finally captured for over three years: six months in Trang Long, the other two years he had to stay in Phuoc Lonn, a deep jungle even more isolated from other cities than before. Every relocation meant that my father was taken away from his comrades he slowly became friends with. Frequently, ex-officers were transported away to an unknown place. The communist commandants justified the situation that this was due to new work instructions of the government. Later on, the ex-officers understood, why there were permanent group divisions. The only reasonable explanation for this phenomena was that the communist regime must have been afraid of the group getting to know each other better, developing kind of community spirit and would use their cohesion to offer resistance against the orders or would start a revolt.

Sometimes, when the situation was unbearable, some captives tried to escape secretly from the camp. Nevertheless, in most cases, they had less chances to survive because either they were eaten by wild animals in the jungle, or they got lost in the huge wilderness. Even if they reached an exit point, they could not stay in a city because they were taken away their passports and identification papers from the start. Local authorities could not let them entering a town without the ability to identify themselves. Everytime they were captured at a borderline, the communist camp leaders were informed so they were brought back to the camp and were punished or directly shot to dead. Most times, their dead bodies were piled up in front of the cottages of the other prisoners to act as deterrence.

Even if the prisoners dared to go at night on toilett without a lamp, they got shot because they were suspected of trying to escape from the camp.

My father can account himself "lucky" that he came out of the jungle alive. After three years of confinement he was released from the campThe reason for his releasment was that he had only worked three years for the Southern military and was therefore only an officer of first grade. Colonels of higher military grades were in the eyes of the communists more “dangereous” and had to be particularly treatened with caution, meaning lifelong imprisonment or assassination. Lately, my father heard that one of his old classmates was being killed during his captivity in the camps. 

Though, the Vietnamese communists tried to impugn in public that they were holding prisoners in the worsest conditions. There has never been a word of mention about the mass extermination of more than one million ex-officers. There was never the talk about  Labor camps; for the public, it were just re-education camps. Camps, where humans have been exploited to the worsest. Camps, where human rights are not being accepted. Camps, in which the prisoners were allegedly no real prisoners, but just young men who had to be re-educated, but starved and worked themselves to death. And these camps still exist in Vietnam.

However, it was the best for the nation and the world if they only knew half the truth. Why don’t just telling lies to the whole population, the people that they call their own “nation”. Those, for whom they just want the best, although it was them who have destroyed the luck of a whole nation, its culture and tradition. 

The dispossession of human rights and the misuse of power has always seemed to be the easiest way for the communist regime.
The old people who lived in the country before the Fall of Saigon, those who have fled from the brutality of the regime, know the true face of the corrupt government and all do hope that someday peace and prosperity will return to Vietnam again. 

Social Situation in Vietnam

My father, right after his release from the camp, got hired for a job in a film production company through the help of my grandfather's old friend who lived in the North. For at least one year, he was allowed to work there – even though unpaid because Vietnam has been highly in debt since the American soldiers had left the country and the war had destroyed everything. Not until the country would have recovered from the charges, my father would get paid his wages.

However, it was a great relief for him being able to work anywhere because those who did not have a job were condemned to demanding field work. 

In this context, it should be mentioned that people who have worked in former times for the Southern Government, seldom got hired because they were renowned as traitors to their own country and became social outcasts. Those families, who have not fled from Saigon yet (like the Boatpeople), were classified according to their former activities: in "capitalists", "revolutionists", "exploiters" or paradoxical,"puppets of the system" etc. This kind of separation has been decisive for the further fortune of a family, like whether they were allowed to visit furtheron schools or universities, or if they found a (good) job. Many adolescents were therefore excluded from the education system. 

Although my father had largely outstanding academic achievements, he was not allowed to study at all because he had been officer for the Southern army.

Moreover, there were imposed some restrictions in the choice of field of study. My mother, for example, had just finished school and dreamed of studying law at an university. Her dream, however, seemed to become unfulfillable after the takeover of the north regime since law was a subject contradicting the principles of their communist ideology and therefore was forbidden. But also was she not allowed to study any other subject. Her father once was a mayor, when he was still living in Bac Ning, a small village in North Vietnam before Communism spread in the country. But as the situation in the North heated up, he fled in 1954 to the South, two years before my mother was born. On that account he was considered as traitor to the Fatherland. 

In order to earn some money, my mother was forced to work on the black market, sewing clothes that later on would be sold in clothing stores. Her other familiy members did not carry on a job. Her parents were already too old and exhausted. So my mother was single earner and had to feed the whole family. However, the money she made was by no means enough to live a normal life so that the whole family lived under the worsest conditions. 

One of the older sisters of my mother had to stay back in North Vietnam because she has been already married by 1954 and therefore was not allowed to leave the North until 1975. If she had tried to leave the North after 1956, she would have got shot by militants who kept a strict watch at the border, which was built by the Ben-Hai-River. Hence, my mother was not allowed to see her sister until the Fall of Saigon. The situation regarding the frontier crossing was quite similar to that of the BRD and DDR in Germany. 

Actually, it is fair to say that communism is in theory a quite humanist idea. Unfortunately, it has always proved to fail in practice, leading in most countries, which are governed by a communist regime to brutal corruptions because most authorities tend to trade on their power.

In Vietnam, many people who have been wealthier than the average population, were labelled by communist authorities as “exploiters” and got executed without any court order or were sent away rather to prison or working camps. Paradoxically, the authorities only wanted to take profits from the rich's fortune - alleged for the community, but they only used it for their own welfare. Another reason, why they wanted to get rid of them was that the regime was simply afraid of the higher class population, since most of the people were educated. They feared that they could start a revolt against their new established regime.

Largely, those people who were killed have been innocent citizens and often people who even supported the poor. The execution methods were cruel: they were buried alive, were stoned or shot do death. 

Those, who dared to say anything against these brutalities appeared on the Communist’s records and had to fear for their own lives.

A recent example of the communist authorities’ strict and corrupt approach towards people who speak up for human rights appeared on the news all over the world. Two brave students, Dinh Nguyen Kha (20) and Nguyen Phuong Uyen (25) who have peacefully demonstrated against the intended attempted invasion of the communist China to Vietnam and the Vietnamese Communist Party, were sentenced for more than six years to prison on subversion charges. Vietnam, but also China lack the right to freedom and expression, being scared that the whole population would turn their backs against them.

Freedom Fighter Vo Dai Ton

Usually, cases as that of Dinh Nguyen Kha and Nguyen Phuong Uyen are seldom brought to light so that other countries do not come to know of the brutalities going on in some Asian countries. Though, other countries are mostly more interested in China than in Vietnam because China is a great export economy, and since 2013 also the second-largest economic superpower of the world of which other countries can take profits. It is internationally more integrated as contrasted to Vietnam.
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However, a man whose actions had also gained international attention is Colonel Vo Dai Ton (also known as poet Hoang Phong Linh), born in 1936 in central Vietnam. This man has risked his life in order to fight against the injustice of the arbitrary communist regime and for Vietnam’s recreation of human rights. He received multiple awards for his courage and is highly regarded as a hero and a bearer of hope for the Vietnamese people because he never gave up fighting for freedom. Still, for the Vietnamese communist regime he is considered as a threat to their power position and traitor to the Fatherland who has to disappear completely.

Before 1975, Vo Dai Ton was assigned as a commando instructor within the South Vietnamese Army Special Forces. During this time, he trained Nung tribesmen units absolving parachute jumps over North Vietnam for intelligence missions, and for the purpose to intrude the Ho Chi Minh Trail, which linked North and South Vietnam. He also became head of the South Vietnamese spy-war section, seeing his mission in muckraking the true nature of the communist regime. Moreover, he intended to enlighten his compatriots about the general communist ideology and its fatal consequences in implementation.

Certainly, the communist authorities knew about his plans to overthrow their regime. So in 1975, after the Fall of South Vietnam, he was sent like all the other old southern officers to an “re-education camp”. However, one year later, he managed to escape to Sydney with his wife. Actually, he could have started a new life, and the Vietnamese Communist regime would have not been able to do anything against it. But when he was in Australia, he was not able to forget the miseries in Vietnam and founded an organization against communism. 

By 1981, the freedom fighter could not bear the deteriorating situation in his motherland anymore, and therefore made the hard, but confident decision to leave his wife and his by this time three-years-old son to return to Vietnam via Thailand and the jungle trails of Laos. Vo Dai Ton knew that there were people who would take care of his lovely family. He was also aware of the fact that maybe he would never come back to Australia anymore in case the Vietnamese government would find and arrest him. Nevertheless, he could not stay idle, while communism slowly destroyed his native country. He could not bear abandoning all his comrades, still living and fighting there, while he led a reckless life in Sydney. The communists, back then, had taken away his luck, they had taken away everything he loved when he was only ten years old; his mother and two of his uncles, died by the hands of communists. His family has been one of the wealthier families in former times, so the regime had an eye on them. One day, his mother, accompanied by Vo Dai Ton's uncles tried to escape from the town to another place, hoping to be able to lead a normal life without being persecuted. The other family members should join them afterwards, if everything worked out well. Tragically, his mother and his uncles were caught out by the communists, were slayed and buried alive. Vo Dai Ton found it out later, when he was older. He often still reminds of his mother, how she took affectionately care of him, walking with him hand in hand around. But these times were gone and Vo Dai Ton felt responsible to conclude the actions he had already started, hoping to gain back the sovereignty and freedom for his country as well as freedom for himself and his lost family members. 

Since the communists had governed Vietnam, the culture seemed to have lost its beauty. Citizens have been poorer than ever and everywhere has been this gloomy, unbearable atmosphere of suppression and permanent policing. Freedom of expression is only one of the things that have been deprived of the nation.

Vo Dai Ton describes as follows the depressing situation of his homeland:

“[...] Tonight it turned cold, the spinal injury from the last battle suddenly renewed its bite and hurt my back -     

 I walked half unconsciously, like an old horse performing my daily routine in front of the cart, like a bus driver who has learned his repetitive journey by heart and every day, every month, every year, filled with boredom, still quietly goes on with his task, trying to put up with his uneventful life.

I stepped into a bookstore at the streetside and found in a remote corner, where spider web and dust covered the wall, a flag, my national colour, not as large as an open hand. It suddenly moved my heart; tears came in my eyes. At my inquire for the price of the tiny flag, the shopkeeper, an Indian, looked surprised, and with his fingers he indicated two dollars.

“Don’t you know this country has been lost” he asked. Quietly I folded the flag, put it in my upper pocket, just opposite where my heart was crying...Three bright stripes on the yellow background...Who said my country had been lost?

My friends had been cut down when they were sill young, half of my life had been spent in danger and hardship in an effort to keep the red stripes burning and the yellow-background brighter. But now it cost only two dollars. What a cheap symbol for my country.

I hastily got out of the shop, struck by the sight of a multitude of foreigners who had awakened me to the painful reality that my country was really lost...

The old injury was hurting again, and I continued my aimless journey with the flag carefully stored in my pocket, looking at myself as nothing more than an old horse in front of a loaded cart. The sunset faded against the background of the city buildings”.

When Vo Dai Ton was on his way back to Vietnam, he and his fellow men were ambushed and arrested without any court decision by Laotion government troops at the Vietnamese-Laotian border. First, they were taken to a small town of Pak Se and were captured bounded in a small schoolroom with 68 other prisoners. Every night rats came and bit the captive’s feet bloody. For three days, they lay motionless on the floor. On the third and fourth night, Vo Dai Ton was hung up with a rope from a ceiling and was racked for hours. 

After the sixth day of torture, he was sent away to a Soviet-prison in Hanoi, but the conditions got even worse. The next decade would change his life.
For 10 years and 17 days, he was forced to live in a tiny cell of 2.5x3m in solitary confinement, where he got tortured exactly 96 times, already thinking that he would die. He was hung up on a ceiling, bounded feet, bounded arms, and was beaten for hours. 
 He remembers: 
“They beat me with their hands, with their feet, their shoes and anything they had. They kicked me like a dog. There was blood all over the floor of the cell. I fell unconscious.” 
For six months and ten hours a day, there were interrogations. They wanted to know with whom he had been working with, but of course he did not tell them the truth. He wanted to protect his comrades from the same misery that he was going through and therefore invented some stories.
Every day, he only got two small balls of rice or soup and some salty water. They let him starve, beat him again and again.
After one year of prison, on July 13th, 1982 he had to attend an international press conference in Hanoi. Surrounded by 10 western reporters and foreign embassies, the communist authorities pressurized him to admit that he was an important anti-communist spy for the CIA and had contacts to the non-Communist Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Red China authorities and Thailand’s generals.  Vo Dai Ton first feigned accepting the frivolous claim against him in order to be able to expose the bitter reality of communist Vietnam on-camera. 
But when he was brought into focus and had to answer to the interrogation, surprisingly he held a short speech in which he affirmed that he would never betray the people who have helped him and that he will not stop fighting for the freedom and liberty of Vietnam, being ready to take on the consequences.

Right after his testimony, he was pulled away from the cameras and the live broadcast suddenly stopped.

The journalists and cameramen were taken away their film tapes and Vo Dai Ton should be sent back to Hanoi prison in solitary confinement forever. He expected to die. However, one journalist managed to hide his tape and to smuggle it outside, which was later on among others decisive for the freedom fighter’s release.
Actually, Vo Dai Ton’s plan was to commit suicide on-camera after his statement with a sharpened chopstick from prison he hid in one of his shoes. But his plan did not work out because his suicide-weapon was found by the authorities.

So he was forced to live further on in his tiny cell, not knowing if he ever came out alive, whether he could ever see his family and friends again. They were not informed about his miserable situation. Vo Dai Ton was not allowed to speak a word to anyone of them for ten years - not even the jailers talked to him to make him lose his mind.

The cell he lived in had no windows, he never saw daylight during is imprisonment.  He merely knew that there had to be other prisoners besides him in jail because he heard them screaming when they got tortured. 

The Colonel emphasized: “The most brutal thing you can do to another person is to isolate them. The monotony of not getting out of your cell, of speaking to no one. They tried to kill me with isolation, with mental torture.”  (Magazine, Michael. "Night brings back 10 years' horror". The Age (1992).)

Neither did he read one single sentence of a book in all these years nor was he allowed to listen to music. Still, he did not allow the communists to take control over his mind, which was all they wanted. When I asked Mr. Ton, what he did during his ten years of isolation, he answered me that he set up for himself a strict daily routine. To keep himself mentally alive, he was praying every morning, then tried to learn and study foreign languages and subjects that he could still remember, imagining  that he was standing in front of a large audience. In the evening and nights, he wrote poems, diaries and books in his mind. During his captivity, he wrote overall 900 poems and three whole books with his mind, repeating them all over again until he learned them by heart, which is very impressive. It is great to see what a human mind can bring about, and that Vo Dai Ton never gave himself up, although he thought that he would be executed sooner or later in prison, expecting that the next day could also be the last one . He counted all that was possible, that is why he still remembers the exact amount of his tortures, the number of days he had to spend in hell. 
“They don’t have to use guns, or anything like that...just time. That’s enough to kill a man”, he says. He was only allowed to take one short bath every summer month and only once every three months in winter. Within his years in captivity, he dropped 25kg, only weighing 45kg after his time in prison.

Then, on December 9, 1991 he received the incredulous news: he should be set free under pressure from the international world. The journalist who had managed to smuggle the video outside of the conference, had published the video of the trial of 1982, which came to fame over time. The tape was a perfect proof for the Vietnamese regime's misdeed towards Colonel Vo Dai Ton, causing protests all over the world. Especially the Australian Government was a main force to put pressure on the Vietnamese authorities. 

When the Vietnamese regime released Vo Dai Ton, they even had the audicity to say that he was only set free on account of their good nature and their mercy with him.

After ten years, one month and 17 days, Vo Dai Ton was finally free again and returned back to his family in Sydney - finally being able to get to know his grown up son. 

Although the Colonel had experienced hell, has been deprived of everything he loved and almost died during his brutal imprisonment, he has not given up hope for his fatherland. With his nearly 80 years, he is still travelling around the world, holding speeches and encouraging former Vietnamese who had escaped from the country after 1975 not to forget about their roots. He is still fighting for Vietnam's liberation and sovereignty - without violence, without retaliation.

In a documentation about the Vietnam War, he asserts that he did not hate his tormentors, although they had done so much harm to him. The only thing he wanted was to make them clear that their "politics" were not good for the country, that the new regime has destroyed the whole Vietnamese tradition and culture. It was important for them to overthink their way of thinking and acting.

Short Interview with Vo Dai Ton

Finally, here are some questions I asked Mr. Ton about the political and social situation in Vietnam. 

Mimi: Do you think that the non-Asian countries are widely informed about Vietnam’s history and the true nature of the communist regime? Are there many people from outside who know about the prison camps?
Vo Dai Ton: Most of the world is not familiar with Vietnam’s history. The extent of their knowledge is limited to the fact there was a major war many years ago in a country far away and as a result there are now many refugees all over the world. Realistically, we cannot expect people to take a special interest in our history, as  we also take minimal effort to understand the histories of other great peoples and their sufferings. The truth is that many of our own Vietnamese are not even aware of their own heritage and history.
The world is beginning to understand more about communism in general since the collapse of the USSR and its Eastern European allies. People living under those regimes are now talking and writing. Unfortunately for us, the world still lacks understanding about Vietnamese communism. This is due to 2 main reasons. The first is we Vietnamese keep our stories to ourselves and are not forthcoming in telling the whole world. We have conferences and write books but all in Vietnamese. They do not serve the purpose of informing the rest of the world. The second reason is the complex, intricate propaganda machination of the Vietnamese communist party. They have invested so much time & money in producing propaganda materials through many different mediums including print, movies, arts & cultural shows and now the internet. Through these people have a very skewed view of Vietnam’s history, the communist regime and their network of prison camps.

Mimi: Why is it so difficult to change the situation in Vietnam?

Vo Dai Ton: There are several reasons.
1. The powerful army and police force calm down on any prospect of activities calling for change
2. People have starved and deprived for many years, now with some economical easing, everyone is out to make money for themselves and their families rather than for the greater good of the country
3. The communist party has over million members. Everyone who wants to thrive in their professional career must be a member of the party or somehow connected to it. People in these positions of power will not let go and are not willing to accept changes as it will jeopardize their own future.
4. Globalization and world economy is important to all major countries. They benefit from trades with Vietnam and do not want to risk economical gains when bringing human rights and political advancement onto the table of talks.
5. The Vietnamese community outside. Vietnam has lost its enthusiasm in its fight and struggle for a free Vietnam. The generation that was most eager in the refugee wave is ageing and the younger generation has no real attachment with the Motherland and does not feel the need to continue the fight.

Mimi: How do you judge the situation in Vietnam, is there still hope that the violation of human rights will find an end in the next 20 years? What are the preconditions for the country's overcoming of isolation and the integration into the world community?

Vo Dai Ton: History has taught us that every oppressive regime will eventually be overturned by the very people that it oppresses. The Vietnamese people have proved in the past that we do not surrender the tyranny. There are still brave activists in Vietnam who are raising their voice, risking their lives to come head to head with the communist regime. As individuals, their efforts are not enough to make significant changes. However,  their courage will cause a ripple and then tsunami through the Vietnamese people to stand up and claim back their rights.

The people within Vietnam must be driving force for any advances. Many have predicted that with economical changes there will also come political advances. However, this is not the case. The best example is the communist China which is now the second biggest economy in the world, yet its poliitical and human rights record is still dismall.
For integration into the world community, communist Vietnam must make genuine attempts at fostering
1. True open economy
2. Democracy (abolish the one party rule)
3. Human rights
4. Calm down on corruption
5. Increasing role in United Nations
6. Changing the guards of the communist party to allow younger and more progessive representation
7. Encourage and support outside contributions and exchanges on all aspects of life from economy, social education, culture, health.

Mimi: Today you are nearly 80 years old and are still travelling around the world to hold speeches. Which people are your main audience? Do you have the feeling that people feel encouraged by your speeches to commit themselves in Vietnam?

Vo Dai Ton: In my human rights’ campaign around the world, I have tried to bring out the Truth about the real situation in VN under the communist regime and their severe violations of Human Rights. Speaking with foreign agencies, government officials, politicians, public media, and people in the VN communities, schools, seminars, conferences, etc… I have talked to a great numbers of young audience, Vietnamese as well as foreign students, A majority of them have been inspired by my speeches with Truth because I was a living Witness, and they have understood furthermore about the real situation in VN now. As for my older generations’ audience, they were themselves victims of the last war, of the present regime, but they have been so busy with their own life and family, trying to survive and integrate into the new societies around, so they understand and can see the true picture through my speeches but not many of them wanted to follow my path. Their own life is shorter and shorter everyday, so they did not want to get themselves involved in the struggle against the present regime in VN. But I always have a strong determination and true hope into the younger generations, outside as well as inside of VN to stand up for the Right and Common Cause for our country of Vietnam.

Mimi: When visiting Vietnam as a tourist, is it obvious or at least recognizable that vietnam is led by corrupt regime? How has the landscape of the country changed? 

Vo Dai Ton: As a foreign tourist it can be very difficult to see the extent of corruption in Vietnam. Every aspect of life is based on corruption. It has become an economy in its own right. Everyone at every level is involved. However it only clear when you converse with a local or when you live there. As a tourist you will see the high rises, shopping malls, night clubs and beautiful tourist destinations. You will observe the booming economy which is definitely happening. The traffic jams with motor cycles and expensive cars are a reflection of wealth, but unfortunately not distributed evenly for the people. People in power are desperately hanging on to that by any means. People are freer to speak, to travel and to accumulate wealth. However, criticism of the communist party & demands for political changes are not tolerated.

18 Kommentare:

  1. Great post dear! There are so many things people in "the West" seem to forget again and again... and very few people know much about all the horros of Vietnam and almost noone knows about the secret war in Laos :(

  2. Wow! my best regards to you and your family.Many young people who live now in free world they do not pay much attention about what has happened in Vietnam, or why their parents must leave VN.
    What you wrote moved me so much!thanks alot!You give me the hope about a free Viet Nam in the future.The young Vietnamese can do much for Vietnam once you still think of it.Your knowledge and your English will help others to know the real face of communistism.Do not be deceived by their propaganda,just see what they did.

  3. What a touching post! I hope Vietnam becomes rich, strong, united, and heal from the decades of war! All the best to you and your family! Thank you so much for stopping by! We've been following each other for some time, at least I am, on ”GFC” "Maria" (#101) , and on "Google+", I hope you still are following me on both ;)
    Keep in touch sweetie! Hope you have a fabulous week ahead<3


    "Saúde & Beleza - Health & Beauty"

  4. Great post! Sincerely hoping the best for Vietnam :) <3

    xx Mandy

  5. Was für ein berührender Post, wow, danke für's Teilen! Und danke für deinen lieben Kommentar auf meinem Blog, hat mich wirklich gefreut! :) Ich wünsche dir ein traumhaftes Wochenende! :) x


  6. Love, love, love!!!

    personal style and fashion musings of a LA fashion lawyer living life in the fab lane!

  7. this was a wonderful post. I think it's interesting to study these things in history, but unfortunately we forget that the terrors that have occurred in the past are things which still happen in the world today, and that real life people have lived through these things.


  8. such an interesting post, dear!
    what about following each other? just let me know)

    love, Yulia

  9. this post moved me so much. i have never known that it was this bad in Vietnam.
    I learned about the communism in south east asia during my recent trip to Cambodia.
    I had a glimpse of what the communist did during the time when they sent innocent people to jail and no education is allowed.
    Knowing all these really open my mind and to notice that there are still many history in Asia that is kept from foreigners
    i really hope that Vietnam will grow better as time goes by and have more equal treatment to all citizen


  10. Wow, there are so many things I didn't know about. It#s a bummer, but Vietnamese history is rarely known in Europe. This post really impressed me, thanks for sharing these words!

  11. Such an inspiring post
    I'v been to Vietnam and its gorgeous:)


  12. Hey! Thank you for your comment!I love your blog!

    I'm following you now on GFC, G+ , hope you follow back! ;) xxxx



  13. Danke für deinen Kommentar :)
    Hab mir gerade den Bericht durchgelesen, echt toll!
    Darf ich fragen wie du diese Bildleiste einfügst? Bei der du von links nach rechts scrollen kannst?

    Liebe Grüße,
    Verena von www.whoismocca.com

  14. Liebe Mimi, erst einmal vielen Dank, dass du mit uns die Geschichte deines Vaters teilst. Es ist wirklich schrecklich was er und viele andere an Unmenschlichkeit und Unterdrückung erlitten haben. Ansich ist der Blogeintrag recht gut geschrieben, was mir auffällt ist leider eine sehr einseitige Darstellung der Geschehnisse und die etwas sehr krasse Darstellung von “Gut und Böse”. Was wahrscheinlich mit der Tatsache zu tun hat, dass deine Eltern dich doch ein wenig beeinflusst haben. Was total legitim und verständlich ist, wenn man bedenkt, welche Erfahrungen sie diesbezüglich unfreiwillig gesammelt haben. Ich finde nur, dass der Blogeintrag, eigentlich nur der zweite Absatz und ein paar Stellen weiter hinten, eine vielleicht sehr einseitige Darstellung der damaligen Situation wiedergeben kann, vor allem für Personen, die nicht sich mit der Thematik beschäftigt haben. Die “bösen” kommunistischen Nordvietnamesen gegen die “guten” Südvietnamesen, die im schönen “once free and beautiful Saigon” gelebt haben, die jetzt im Amut leben, weil die gierigen Nordvietnamesen durch ihre Planwirtschaft alles runtergewirtschaftet haben was einmal vorhanden war. Ja, so kann die Geschichte natürlich sehr leicht erzählt werden und für einige Personen auch total nachvollziehbar, weil das war ja auch unter Stalin so. Aber Vietnam ist nicht die stalinistische Sowjetunion, die DDR, Kambodscha unter Pol Pot oder Nordkorea. Es war ein bitterer Stellvertreterkrieg, der ohne die Einmischung von Außenstehenden vielleicht nicht so verlaufen wäre. Die Geschehnisse sind so komplex gewesen und wer jetzt gut oder böse ist, dass kann ich nicht beurteilen und ich glaube, dass du auch nicht in der Lage dazu bist, da die südvietnamesischen Truppen, genau wie die nordvietnamesische Truppen ihre Hände nicht gerade in Unschuld waschen können. Beide Regime (ja die Herrschaft Diems war auch ein Regime) haben politische Gegner ausgeschaltet. Fragt sich nur was besser ist, gleich abgeknallt zu werden oder drei Jahre Arbeitslager und Exil. Auf was ich hinaus will ist nicht, dass dein Papa glücklich sein sollte, das Arbeitslager erwischt zu haben, sondern eher dass dort Krieg herrschte, auch wenn die Amis schon abgezogen waren. Man kann sich das gar nicht vorstellen, was ein Krieg, der auch noch so lange gedauert hat, aus einer Bevölkerung macht, nachdem 2-4 Millionen Menschen gestorben sind. Dein Papa hat 3 Jahre Arbeitslager überlebt und andere Menschen den ganzen Krieg. Es ist natürlich scheiße, dass die vietnamesische Regierung mit ihrer Geschichte nicht reinen Tisch machen kann und genauso wie Japan seine Kriegsverbrechen totschweigt, aber das Thema wird schon behandelt, zumindesten lese und höre ich davon nicht zum ersten Mal (obwohl meine Eltern ja Nordvietnamesen sind ;)). Um das hier mal zusammenzufassen, Kommunismus ist scheiße, Regime sind scheiße, aber ich bin froh, dass es jetzt ein Vietnam gibt, welches sich allerdings noch in vielerlei Hinsicht verbessern muss.

    1. Hey Hanna,

      ich freue mich, dass du dich so ausgiebig mit meinem Blogeintrag beschäftigt hast und dass du dir so viel Zeit genommen hast, darüber nachzudenken. Du hast vollkommen Recht, wenn du sagst, dass meine Meinung über die Geschehnisse in Vietnam sehr stark von meiner Familie geprägt ist. Ich habe diesen Blogpost vor über einem Jahr verfasst. Das war zu der Zeit, wo mein Vater sich mit mir ziemlich ausgiebig mit diesem Thema beschäftigt und er mir ziemlich viele Sachen erzählt hat, die er vorher nie erwähnt hatte. Kurz darauf habe ich diesen Blogpost verfasst, da man in so einer Situation natürlich auch sehr stark emotional miteinbegriffen ist. Zumal hatte ich sehr viel Kontakt zu einem südvietnamesischen Menschenrechtler in Vietnam, welcher (natürlich kein Einzelfall) sehr grausame Sachen während und auch nach dem Krieg erlebt hat, wie in dem Post ja auch zu lesen ist.
      Wenn ich mir allerdings durchlese, was ich vor einem Jahr über den Krieg geschrieben habe und darüber reflektiere, ist es mir sogar ein wenig unangenehm, dass meine Sicht damals wirklich sehr einseitig gefärbt war. Ich bin mir heute sehr bewusst darüber, dass man den Krieg nicht einfach nach dem Motto "gute Südvietnamesen" und "böse Nordkommunisten" pauschalisieren kann. Ganz gewiss nicht. Es steckt wie du schon sagtest, sehr viel mehr Geschichte dahinter, die wahrscheinlich keiner ganz genau wissen und ergreifen kann. Ein Blogeintrag darüber reicht keineswegs, um die ganzen Geschehnisse zu beschreiben, die damals stattgefunden haben, denn diese sind sehr komplex - und auch ich weiß wahrscheinlich verhältnismäßig nur sehr, sehr wenig darüber. Ich kenne das, was meine Eltern mir erzählt haben und das, was man auf der anderen Seite in Geschichtsbüchern vorfindet.
      Aus diesem Grunde wollte ich, wenn ich bald wieder etwas mehr Zeit habe, einen neuen Blogpost über Vietnam verfassen, da ich es interessant finde, wie sich meine Sichtweise darüber verändert hat - und auch dies kritisieren und reflektieren, was ich vor einem Jahr beschrieben habe.

      Ich freue mich wirklich sehr und weiß es zu schätzen, dass du dir so viel Zeit genommen hast, diesen langen Kommentar zu verfassen. Lieben Dank und liebe Grüße!


    2. Liebe Mimi!

      Danke für die Antwort, bin auf weitere Artikel gespannt.

      LG Hana

  15. I am so moved by your story, speechless about the cruelty of humans. My heart is crying...I think it is so good, that you tell this story. Your family has experienced such a trauma, telling family-stories helps healing these wounds. Thank you for sharing!