The above photo was taken at a 10 June 2018 demonstration in HCMC against a bill to create three new special economic zones (SEZs) in Quang Ninh and Khanh Hoa provinces, as well as on Phu Quoc Island. (There are already 18 SEZs.) As a result of considerable feedback from the public, including in the form of protests, the government has said it would adjust the 99-year term. At issue is the fear of Chinese encroachment on Vietnamese sovereignty, since many of the investors would presumably be Chinese. (China is Viet Nam’s leading trading partner.)
Below is my response to a thread on the Viet Nam Studies Group (VSG) listserv about reputable sources of information about Viet Nam. One colleague, DB, suggested Asia Times (AT), among others.
Asia Times? Really? I guess it depends on which articles you read. The one below, written by “Khai Nguyen” (KN) and posted on VSG a while ago, is an op-ed masquerading as news (Southeast Asia – Politics). KN is obviously toeing the VK (Việt Kiều) or overseas Vietnamese/US-centric party line and thereby engaging in the kind of wishful thinking that’s prevalent in overseas Vietnamese refugee communities. (Think Quận Cam/Orange County, CA, USA) By the way, does anyone know who KN is? I’d like to drop him a line. Or maybe it’s a nom de guerre (?).
A democratic revolution has just begun in Vietnam (8 July 2018, Asia Times)
Massive but orderly protests across the country hint at the beginning of the end of Communist Party rule
My favorite comments, both spot-on, are:
What a stupid story. Just more wishful thinking by Vietnam haters living in the US. – Bao D Nguyen.
This is clearly sponsored fake news. -Badri Subedi
If history is any guide, the suggestion in this comment is also a distinct possibility:
Another colour protest organized and funded by CIA and the NED. CIA and the NED failed in their attempt to organise similar protest in Hong Kong and Thailand. Now, they are trying Vietnam. They will fail again. – Michael Chan
Below is the excerpt GN shared with the list. Absolute BS, pardon my salty language. Source? Likely KN’s overactive imagination. Statistics pulled out of thin air. Whatever it takes to enhance his false narrative.
The government now spends about 82.1% of the national budget to pay salaries to government officials, military, police, 205 public security generals and five million Party members. The remaining 17.9% is earmarked for development investments.
If you don’t know very much about Viet Nam or you hate its government, you might be inclined to believe this 1700-word rant. That was certainly the case with Chieu T. Nguyen, a Vietnamese-American who lives in Texas, and therefore sees his ancestral homeland through three red-striped glasses. As if on cue, here’s what he wrote in the comments section: “This is an amazingly accurate, good report.” How many of you agree with this assertion? I thought so.
One of my favorite statements is KN’s conclusion: Many Vietnamese now believe that a long-awaited true revolution has just begun. Based on what, exactly, a dream the author had? How many? Which Vietnamese? The author’s refugee buddies (or relatives) in the diaspora who still fly the flag of a client state that was vanquished and tossed into the trash bin of history with the liberation of Saigon on 30 April 1975? The millions of Vietnamese who are among the most optimistic people in the world, economically and otherwise, according to annual surveys? The notion that “a long-awaited true revolution has just begun” is so much pie in the sky. This article has “OUTSIDER” stamped all over it.
[KN’s essay is not unlike this article, posted by a VSGer a while back to a cyberchorus of groans and snickering.]
Here’s part of what I wrote to AT about this poorly written and argued tirade: Shame on Asia Times for publishing this tripe. Conclusion: take many of AT’s articles with a grain of salt. That includes some of David Hutt’s work, e.g., Reactionary ‘red flags’ tilt Vietnam to the Alt-right.
After reading my post, DB responded thus: Agree — a story credited to “Khai Nguyen” recently appears to be a Việt Tân propaganda swallowed wholesale by Asia Times. (Việt Tân, also known as the Vietnam Reform Revolutionary Party, is a network of members inside Vietnam and around the world, that aims to establish democracy and reform Vietnam through peaceful and political means. It is classified as a terrorist organization by the Vietnamese government.)