Declaration of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam

For the people of Vietnam, who were just beginning to recover from five years of ruthless economic exploitation by the Japanese, the end of World War II promised to bring eighty years of French control to a close. As the League for the Independence of Vietnam (Vietnam Doc Lap Dong Minh Hoi), better known as the Viet Minh, Vietnamese patriots had fought against the Japanese invaders as well as the defeated French colonial authorities. With the support of rich and poor peasants, workers, businessmen, landlords, students, and intellectuals, the Viet Minh (led by Ho Chi Minh) had expanded throughout northern Vietnam where it established new local governments, redistributed some lands, and opened granaries to alleviate the famine. On 2 September 1945, Ho Chi Minh proclaimed the independent Democratic Republic of Vietnam in Hanoi’s Ba Dinh square. The first lines of his speech repeated verbatim the famous second paragraph of the USA’s 1776 Declaration of Independence.

Source:  History Matter, George Mason University

Photo courtesy of National Defence Journal

All men are created equal. They are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among them are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

This immortal statement was made in the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America in 1776. In a broader sense, this means: All the peoples on the earth are equal from birth, all the peoples have a right to live, to be happy and free.

The Declaration of the French Revolution made in 1791 on the Rights of Man and the Citizen also states: “All men are born free and with equal rights, and must always remain free and have equal rights.”

Those are undeniable truths.

Nevertheless, for more than eighty years, the French imperialists, abusing the standard of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity, have violated our Fatherland and oppressed our fellow-citizens. They have acted contrary to the ideals of humanity and justice.

In the field of politics, they have deprived our people of every democratic liberty.

They have enforced inhuman laws; they have set up three distinct political regimes in the North, the Center and the South of Vietnam in order to wreck our national unity and prevent our people from being united.

They have built more prisons than schools. They have mercilessly slain our patriots; they have drowned our uprisings in rivers of blood.

They have fettered public opinion; they have practiced obscurantism against our people.

To weaken our race they have forced us to use opium and alcohol.

In the field of economics, they have fleeced us to the backbone, impoverished our people, and devastated our land.

They have robbed us of our rice fields, our mines, our forests, and our raw materials. They have monopolized the issuing of bank-notes and the export trade.

They have invented numerous unjustifiable taxes and reduced our people, especially our peasantry, to a state of extreme poverty.

They have hampered the prospering of our national bourgeoisie; they have mercilessly exploited our workers.

In the autumn of 1940, when the Japanese Fascists violated Indochina’s territory to establish new bases in their fight against the Allies, the French imperialists went down on their bended knees and handed over our country to them.

Thus, from that date, our people were subjected to the double yoke of the French and the Japanese. Their sufferings and miseries increased. The result was that from the end of last year to the beginning of this year, from Quang Tri province to the North of Vietnam, more than two million of our fellow-citizens died from starvation. On March 9, the French troops were disarmed by the Japanese. The French colonialists either fled or surrendered showing that not only were they incapable of “protecting” us, but that, in the span of five years, they had twice sold our country to the Japanese.

On several occasions before March 9, the Vietminh League urged the French to ally themselves with it against the Japanese. Instead of agreeing to this proposal, the French colonialists so intensified their terrorist activities against the Vietminh members that before fleeing they massacred a great number of our political prisoners detained at Yen Bay and Caobang.

Notwithstanding all this, our fellow-citizens have always manifested toward the French a tolerant and humane attitude. Even after the Japanese putsch of March 1945, the Vietminh League helped many Frenchmen to cross the frontier, rescued some of them from Japanese jails, and protected French lives and property.

From the autumn of 1940, our country had in fact ceased to be a French colony and had become a Japanese possession.

After the Japanese had surrendered to the Allies, our whole people rose to regain our national sovereignty and to found the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.

The truth is that we have wrested our independence from the Japanese and not from the French.

The French have fled, the Japanese have capitulated, Emperor Bao Dai has abdicated. Our people have broken the chains which for nearly a century have fettered them and have won independence for the Fatherland. Our people at the same time have overthrown the monarchic regime that has reigned supreme for dozens of centuries. In its place has been established the present Democratic Republic.

For these reasons, we, members of the Provisional Government, representing the whole Vietnamese people, declare that from now on we break off all relations of a colonial character with France; we repeal all the international obligation that France has so far subscribed to on behalf of Vietnam and we abolish all the special rights the French have unlawfully acquired in our Fatherland.

The whole Vietnamese people, animated by a common purpose, are determined to fight to the bitter end against any attempt by the French colonialists to reconquer their country.

We are convinced that the Allied nations which at Tehran and San Francisco have acknowledged the principles of self-determination and equality of nations, will not refuse to acknowledge the independence of Vietnam.

A people who have courageously opposed French domination for more than eight years, a people who have fought side by side with the Allies against the Fascists during these last years, such a people must be free and independent.

For these reasons, we, members of the Provisional Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, solemnly declare to the world that Vietnam has the right to be a free and independent country—and in fact is so already. The entire Vietnamese people are determined to mobilize all their physical and mental strength, to sacrifice their lives and property in order to safeguard their independence and liberty.

This speech was given on 2 September 1945 at Ba Đình Square by Ho Chi Minh, leader of the Viet Minh, who declared Vietnam’s independence under the new name of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRVN) in a speech that invoked the United States Declaration of Independence and the French Revolution’s Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.

Source: Ho Chi Minh, Selected Works Vol. 3, (Hanoi: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1960–62), 17–21.

Shalom (שלום), MAA

“TPP: Americans and Vietnamese lose. Big corporations win.”

TPPThe title of this post and the bilingual document on which it’s based, drafted by Chuck Searcy and Lady Borton, pretty much sums it up.  Chuck is a Vietnam veteran; Lady worked with all sides during the war. Both have worked in Vietnam since before normalization of US-Vietnam diplomatic relations 20 years ago.  Follow this link to download the PDF document in Vietnamese and English.  (The bold below is mine.)

Lady and Chuck speak with great authority and credibility, as well as heartfelt concern about the impact of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) on the Vietnamese and American people.  Educate yourself.  Speak out.


Dear Friends,

We are concerned about the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) Agreement, which will benefit only large corporations at significant costs to ordinary Americans and Vietnamese. This agreement threatens Vietnam’s sovereignty as an independent nation, with its own laws and regulations.

If Vietnam ratifies the TPP, Vietnam will begin to lose elements of its national sovereignty in five years. Laws and regulations enacted by the Government of Vietnam may be overpowered, overridden, and replaced by provisions of the TPP.

The TPP has been so secret that even members of the U.S. Congress were not allowed to see the agreement, except for small sections shown to certain members, who could see only a few pages, alone, in a locked room.

As U.S. citizens living and working in Vietnam, we believe this process has been a violation of the ideals that Americans consider very important: truth, integrity, and openness.

We do not like it when our country behaves this way.

We do not want the United States, again, to take unfair advantage of Vietnam as has happened too many times in the past. We urge Americans and citizens of signatory countries – the very people who will be most affected – to scrutinize this agreement and to speak out.

The PDF file, TPP: Americans and Vietnamese lose.  Big corporations win., which you can download here, is a public-domain document. It includes Vietnamese translation, paragraph by paragraph.  Feel free to distribute this message and/or document widely.

Chuck Searcy & Lady Borton


Subject: Still Lucid at 97: General Vo Nguyen Giap Talks Education

This is the title of a fascinating diplomatic cable from the US Embassy-Hanoi, about Ambassador Michael Michalak’s 25 April 2008 meeting with the legendary General Vo Nguyen Giap at the latter’s home in Hanoi.   This unclassified document appears on the Wikileaks Cable Viewer website.  It’s one of several devoted to education in Vietnam and US-Vietnam educational exchange.   I expect to see quite a few more.  Note:  The cable was created on 5.5.08 and released on 26.8.11.

Clarification:  While the cable notes that “Giap is the hero of Vietnam’s 1954 victory over the French at Dien Bien Phu,” it’s worth pointing out – for the sake of historical accuracy – that he was also instrumental in the defeat of the US in what the Vietnamese call the “American War.”  I guess the target audience had something to do with this sin of  omission.

Võ Nguyên Giáp celebrated his 100th birthday on 25 August.


R 050947Z MAY 08 ZDK





¶1. (SBU) On April 25, the Ambassador and General Vo Nguyen Giap discussed efforts to increase educational exchanges between the United States and Vietnam.  After imploring the Ambassador to work to bring the overall relationship to an even higher level, Giap echoed the Ambassador’s desire to see more Vietnamese study in the United States.  Giap also pleaded for the Ambassador’s help in getting a U.S. university to open a branch in Vietnam.  While the General repeated himself a few times during the 40 minute conversation, he left no doubt he is a fan of U.S. educational institutions.  Giap is the hero of Vietnam’s 1954 victory over the French at Dien Bien Phu and an icon in Vietnam who has remained somewhat politically active despite his 97 years of age.  End Summary.


¶2. (SBU) On April 25, the Ambassador met Vietnamese national hero and Ho Chi Minh’s chief military strategist, General Vo Nguyen Giap, at the General’s Hanoi home.  Due to his age and frail health, Giap receives visitors only infrequently.  In seeking this meeting with the General, our note underscored the Ambassador’s desire to discuss bilateral educational exchanges.  Giap has been outspoken about the need for reform of Vietnam’s educational system, most recently last year issuing a public letter calling for systemic reform (Reftel).

¶3. (SBU) When the Ambassador and Poloffs arrived, Giap, his wife and son, and a few Party officials were waiting in a living room of the General’s home.  Giap, who did not get up from his seat, was dressed in military uniform.  No press representatives were present.  On the table in front of where the Ambassador and the General sat was a tape player that recorded the conversation — perhaps indicating Party officials still feel compelled, despite Giap’s advanced age, to keep tabs on what the General tells his foreign interlocutors.  (Note: After sidelining Giap, then removing him from the Politburo in 1982, reportedly for his opposition to the invasion of Cambodia, Party rivals continued to monitor the General’s activities and conversations.  End Note.)

We Are Now Friends

¶4. (SBU) The General began by noting that the United States and Vietnam are enjoying peaceful relations, with Vietnam now hosting a fourth post-war American ambassador.  Giap relayed that he met with most of the Ambassador’s predecessors, who “demonstrated goodwill” towards Vietnam.  Giap implored the Ambassador to bring the overall relationship to an even higher level.  He said the GVN has achieved a lot of late and is “trying hard” in all areas.  The Ambassador responded that he shares the General’s desire for better relations and pointed out that he is committed to doubling the number of Vietnamese students who study in the United States.

Zeroing In On Education

¶5. (SBU) The GVN is focused on improving its educational and scientific capabilities so the country can join the ranks of the developed countries, Giap said.  Hanoi has progressed in the education area, but much needs to be done, he added.  The increase
in the number of Vietnamese exports heading to the United States is just an “initial development” in the relationship and economic ties are bound to grow, he offered.  Giap said the most important thing — pointing his finger in the air for emphasis — is the “human element.”  The Communist Party has made improving Vietnam’s educational system its number one priority, he stated.

¶6. (SBU) The United States and Vietnam could talk a lot, but “deeds are more important than words,” the General continued.  He asked that the Ambassador pay special attention to education because what has been done so far to get Vietnamese students to study in America “has not been sufficient.”  Although a large number of Vietnamese students are enrolled at U.S. educational institutions, this is just a start, he added.  He averred that a U.S. university should establish itself in Vietnam. Perhaps it could be a joint U.S.-Vietnamese university, he said.

¶7. (SBU) The Ambassador responded that we have heard that Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung also wants a U.S. university to set up in Vietnam.  “You must have talked to him about this,” the Ambassador said, which elicited laughter.  The General replied that, from time to time, he does talk to the PM about education issues in Vietnam. Giap added that, on many occasions, he has made public his points on science and education.

Comment: Approaching 100 But Still Lucid

¶8. (SBU) Giap repeated himself a few times during the 40 minute meeting, but spoke with clarity about the importance he attaches to education.  With a doctorate in economics and as a former high school teacher whose daughter and grandchildren have studied at American universities, the General made clear that he sees U.S. educational institutions as important to Vietnam’s future.


Policy Guidance for EducationUSA Centers on Commercial Recruitment Agents

This policy guidance (PDF) from the U.S. State Department’s states that all (EducationUSA) centers “must adhere to the following ethical standards as a condition of their centers’ voluntary association with, and continued support from, ECA (Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs).  We understand that many advisers have been approached by commercial recruiters who have requested their assistance and support. We believe it is important to establish a uniform, worldwide policy to ensure that agents receive a consistent message from all EducationUSA centers.”

ECA’s Office of Academic Programs does not permit advising centers that receive support from ECA to become involved with commercial recruitment agents for the following reasons in bold.  I present – in italics – another perspective, additional information and/or a counterpoint. 

A. Commercial recruitment agents represent only those universities that pay them a fee, and commercial agents recruit exclusively for those universities. These commercial agents do not represent the breadth of the U.S. higher education system, nor can they represent U.S. universities equitably.

Not necessarily true.  Some commercial agents charge differential fees – a lower fee for clients who are admitted to and attend a partner school and a higher rate for those who attend non-partner schools.  “Double-dipping” (taking both a commission and a high fee) is not considered ethical.  Other companies only charge their clients (students/parent) for the service and take no commission. 

B. Commercial recruitment agents restrict the options available to foreign students in the U.S., a restriction that may lead students to choose a college or university that will not meet their needs. As a result, these students may have a less than satisfactory experience in the U.S., with lifelong  ramifications for their educational and professional activities and views of the United States.

Commercial agents that engage in ethical business practices will strive to find the best possible match between a client’s qualifications, goals, preferences, ability to pay and an appropriate short list of schools.  Anyone could have a “less than satisfactory experience” studying in the U.S.  I’m not sure how that would affect their “views of the United States.”  My hope is that wherever they study, they learn as much as they can about all facets of the host country’s society and culture:  the good, the bad, etc.

C. Commercial recruitment agents understandably direct their services to students with the ability to pay. EducationUSA center association with commercial agents would undermine our public diplomacy message of outreach to well-qualified students from throughout society, including underserved sectors.

U.S. higher education is one of the most expensive in the world.  Therefore, the overwhelming majority of international students who study in the U.S. are individuals “of means,” sons and daughters of their respective countries’ elites, including many who receive merit-based scholarships.  While there are some inspirational “rags-to-riches” stories of extremely bright, highly motivated and hard-working poor students who are able to reap the benefits of a U.S. higher education, the reality is that most “well-qualified” students are well-qualified because they have had the advantages of tutoring, extra classes, etc., all of which cost money.  To claim otherwise is disingenuous at best.  Many of those from “underserved sectors” need the type of remedial training that programs such as the Ford Foundation International Fellowship Program and similar programs offer.  Well-known U.S. government scholarship programs such as Fulbright and Vietnam Education Foundation (VEF) do not target “underserved sectors.”  Compared to its friendly competitors, Australia and the UK, the U.S. has relatively few scholarships available for Vietnamese and other international students.  Last year, for example, there were 39 VEF Fellows and 28 student Fulbrighters.   

D. Since EducationUSA centers benefit from U.S. taxpayer funds, they should avoid activities that may favor, or create perceptions of favoring, one U.S. institution over another. We can offer specific services either free or for a reasonable fee, but these services must lead to access to the full range of accredited institutions.  Partnering with commercial agents would limit us to representing only those institutions with which the agents have a commercial arrangement.

The “specific services” that EducationUSA centers are permitted to offer “for a reasonable fee” could be misconstrued as an endorsement of those institutions benefiting from those specific services.  This includes “affiliate programs” that some EducationUSA centers offer to U.S. schools in exchange for a fee.  (The Malaysian-American Commission on Educational Exchange Friends of MACEE affiliate program comes to mind.)   While I don’t see a need for EducationUSA centers to partner with commercial agents,  I do believe that they could play a positive role – as their Australian and British counterparts have – in helping to professionalize this nascent industry in Vietnam and other countries.   

E.  By adhering strictly to the ethical standards of providing information that is unbiased, objective, and comprehensive, EducationUSA centers equip foreign students to find the U.S. institutions that are right for them while enabling the full range of U.S. institutions to enroll qualified foreign students. Our goal is to invest in long-term relationships with students and institutional partners.

The service that EducationUSA centers provide is valuable but very basic; the amount of time advisers are able to spend with any one student or parent is necessarily limited.  (In Vietnam there are a total of three advisers – one in the Embassy in Hanoi and two in the Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City.)  The reality, anathema to those who take a black/white view of a rather complex and  strategically important issue, is that the overwhelming majority of students and parents in Vietnam and elsewhere turn – not to EducationUSA advising centers – but to education consultancies, or agents, for information and assistance. 

Disclosure:  I served as country director of the Institute of International Education in Vietnam from 2005-09.  During that time, IIE-VN administered EducationUSA advising centers on behalf of ECA, US State Department.  MAA

Wikileaks & Vietnam

Many people with a personal and professional interest in Vietnam are patiently waiting to see if any nuggets of gold can be mined from the ore that is the 2325 US Embassy-Hanoi documents that will be trickling out on the Wikileaks Cable Gate website

Areas of interest include all of the “usual suspects” such as war legacy issues (e.g., unexploded ordnance and Agent Orange), HIV/AIDS, adoption, human rights, bilateral trade, human trafficking, “good governance,” and the much discussed concept of a strategic partnership between the two countries. 

Another issue that has been at the top of the State Department’s Vietnam agenda in recent years is (yes, you guessed it) education.  In a speech entitled A Review of 15 Years of U.S.-Vietnam Relations and a Look to the Coming Years, delivered on 26 May 2010 to the Vietnam Business Club in Hanoi, Ambassador Michalak had this to say about education:  “I’d also have to say that American education, which for us is a U.S. service export, is my favorite U.S. export sector because of the significant and long-lasting benefits it yields for all involved.” 

One of the documents likely to be uploaded to the Cable Gate site is a leaked April 2008 cable known as the US-Vietnam Education Memo.  Its 4330 words and eight pages, chock-full of optimistic references to seizing opportunities and capitalizing on the admiration of Vietnamese for the U.S. higher education system, contain a Chief of Mission’s well-documented, cogently argued and passionate appeal for additional resources that would enable the US, or so it was thought, to “reshape this nation in ways that guarantee a deep, positive impact for decades to come.  If we want the Vietnam of 2020 to look more like South Korea than China, now is the time to act.”  The “Memo” offers telling examples and revealing insights into the use of education as a tool of soft power.  Stay tuned…

English version

Vietnamese version from Sunflower Mission, “a 501(c) 3 organization committed to improving the lives of the people in Vietnam, mainly through educational assistance programs. We are a U.S.-based, non-profit, non-political, non-governmental organization,” according to its website.)

SEVIS By The Numbers: September 2010 Snapshot

This quarterly report (PDF) is a statistical breakdown of the system’s performance and trends in foreign student representation in U.S. academic and exchange programs. 

As of 30 September 2010, SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) contained records for 1,164,691 active nonimmigrant students, exchange visitors, and their dependents.  The total number of records for all F-1, M-1, and J-1 visa holders is now 7.8 million.

The U.S. is now the world’s leading host of Vietnamese students with 17,563, followed by Australia with 16,300, according to a July 2010 Austrade update.  A reminder:  In contrast to the annual Open Doors 2010 report on international student mobility, which will be released on 15 November 2010, the SEVIS numbers are up-to-date and include international students at all levels of the education system.  The Open Doors stats reflect data snapshots from the previous fall semester and are for those enrolled in regionally accredited institutions of higher education. 

Some highlights from the September 2010 quarterly snapshot:

  • Vietnam ranks 8th with more students in the US than Mexico (9th) or  Nepal (10th)
  • China has the highest number of active students (158,501, up from 118,506)
  • Business continues to be the leading major for international students  (173, 014, up from 151,433)
  • 69% of active students are enrolled in bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral programs
  • California, New York, Texas, Massachusetts, Illinois, Florida and Pennsylvania host 55% of all active students
  • Of the top five F-1 and M-1 approved schools three are community colleges (Houston Community College System with 3,640 active students, Santa Monica College with 3,425, and Northern Virginia Community College with 2,064)


If you look at the breakdown among the top ten countries, you’ll see that there are three discernible “tiers.”  The second ranges from 28,700 (Saudi Arabia) to 32,687 (Canada) students.  Vietnam is poised to ascend into the 2nd tier in the next few years, assuming the current rate of sending.

A notable and noticeable fact, which I intend to explore in a future post, is that two of the top ten countries, Vietnam and Nepal, are low-income countries with a GDP of 92.6 (2009) and 12.69 (2008) billion dollars, respectively. 

Building Partnerships in Higher Education: Opportunities and Challenges for the U.S. and Vietnam

Below is an excerpt from the report of the 3rd Education Conference, held on January 14–15, 2010 at the Melia Hotel in Hanoi.  Follow this link to download the conference report. (689 KB, PDF)


This Education Conference – organized by the U.S. Mission in Vietnam, Vietnam National University, Hanoi and the Ministry of Education and Training – brought together more than 600 American and Vietnamese educators from more than 250 educational institutions and companies with education programs in Vietnam for discussions on ways to reach key goals identified in the Final Report released by the U.S.-Vietnam Education Task Force. Those goals included systemic reform of the Vietnamese educational system, especially at the tertiary level, establishing an American-style university in Vietnam, creating more and deeper linkages between American and Vietnamese universities, and increasing the number of Vietnamese studying at American universities and colleges. The Education Conference was one of several initiatives the Mission is implementing to support those goals.

The Conference included 15 breakout sessions focused on those same goals: “Creating American-Style Universities in Vietnam;” “Promoting Development of Vietnamese Universities and Colleges – How the U.S. Can Help”; and “Increasing the Number of Vietnamese Studying in the U.S.”

The Conference also included a Plenary Session on “The Impact of Vietnamese and American Collaboration on the Development of Higher Education in Vietnam” and another dozen breakout sessions designed to promote more and deeper joint programs between American and Vietnamese colleges and universities in areas such as information technology, economics, and the environment.

U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam, Michael W. Michalak, Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan, Minister of Education and Training, Pham Vu Luan, President of Vietnam National University Mai Trong Nhuan and Deputy Consul General Angela R. Dickey offered remarks during the Opening Ceremony. Standing Vice-Minister for the Ministry of Education and Training, Pham Vu Luan, offered remarks during the Plenary Session. As during the previous two conferences, which took place in December 2007 and January 2009, representatives from all major universities in Vietnam as well as more than 130 American universities and companies participated:

                                American                     Vietnamese           Total  
Universities and Colleges 77 104 181
NGO’s 21 4 25
Companies 35 30 65
Officials 5 5 10
Misc. 21
Grand Total 138 143 302