01/09/2011

An Open Letter to the Leaders of Vietnam on Foreign Threats and National Strengths

Respectfully addressed to:

President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam

Chairman of the National Assembly of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam

Chief Justice of the Supreme People Court of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam Prime Minister and the Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam General Secretary of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of Vietnam.

Gentlemen,

We, the undersigned, a number of intellectuals who are now residing outside of Vietnam, are sending you this letter to express our honest and constructive thoughts on the critical situation facing Vietnam at the present time.

First of all, we would like to show our support for the “Declaration” of June 25, 2011, signed by

95 personalities and intellectuals living in Vietnam, that exposed and condemned the repeated threats against and violations of the territorial integrity of Vietnam by China’s authorities. We also support the “Appeal” of July 10, 2011, signed by 20 personalities and intellectuals, which called on the National Assembly and the Politburo to make public the realities of the China- Vietnam relations and which also emphasized the need for changes in the political system as well as respect for the democratic freedoms of the people so as to allow them to successfully carry out their duties in defending and developing the nation.

Both the Declaration and the Appeal represent the courageous and honest voices of patriotic intellectuals that we have had the opportunity to be in touch with, either directly or indirectly, over the years. Although we have been residing outside of our native country for a long time, we have always paid attention to the difficulties and opportunities facing Vietnam whether we are still holding Vietnamese citizenship or are naturalized citizens of other countries. Therefore, we are supporting the legitimate concerns of personalities and intellectuals in Vietnam and are

hereby offering a few brief observations to complement the concerns raised.

Foreign Threats

After the border war in the northernmost region of Vietnam in 1979, the documents that the Government disclosed showed that China-Vietnam relations had not been as rosy as many had mistakenly thought. Because more than 30% of the inhabitants of Vietnam are now using the Internet, this information is no longer the exclusive province of anyone. By putting together

various sources of information one could also see why the leaders of China reached the conclusion that “Vietnam is an important opponent to be subdued and conquered.” (The Truth about Vietnamo-Chinese Relations over the Past Thirty Years, SRV Ministry of Foreign Affairs,

1979, p.5 - English version).

The above view is indicated clearly through a consistent strategy by China for nearly 60 years now, although the tactics did vary from period to period: betraying Vietnam at the Geneva Conference in 1954, preventing the negotiation for a peaceful settlement between Vietnam and the United States in 1968, taking over the entire Paracel Islands by force in 1974, conducting a border war in 1979, and taking over part of the Spratly Islands by force in 1988. After the normalization of relations between the two countries in 1991, China has methodically undermined the economy of Vietnam, sucked up its natural resources, violated its territorial integrity, treated its fishermen on the Southeast Asian Sea with cruelty, and carried out various schemes to Sinicize its population.

National Strengths

Vietnam has a history of opposing foreign aggression, the majority of which came from the Northern direction, for many centuries. Vietnam also has many natural resources, among them are 20 million hectares of forest land and 3,200 kilometers of coastline. Amongst its population of close to 90 million, there are three million with higher education levels. And, as a result of political changes, there are presently three million persons of Vietnamese ethnic background who are living outside of Vietnam. Among them there are more than 300,000 with higher education levels, many of whom are experts and professors in top corporations and universities in the world.

The Position of the Government

After leading a unified nation for more than 35 years the current leaders certainly understand more than most the ulterior motives of China and the dangerous situation facing Vietnam. However, the policies and programs that the government has implemented in dealing with domestic and foreign issues have been haphazard and contradictory, inconsistent with the expectation of the national community. This situation has naturally sapped the strength of the national community and has thereby raised the demand that the government need to make complete changes in institutions and policies in hopes of successfully defending the sovereignty of the nation and promoting its development.

Things that need to be done

Unlike past invasions, China in the 21st century has more reasons and better opportunities to “subdue and conquer” Vietnam without having to use weapons or lose human lives. Although weaker than China economically and militarily, Vietnam has a favorable position unprecedented in its entire history: No free and democratic nation in the world wants to see an authoritarian

state like China violate the interests and rights to self-determination of another country and threaten the stability of the region and the world. However, no country or alliance could come to the aid of Vietnam if, first and foremost, the Vietnamese government does not show that it has the will and the ability to defend its own people and nation.

Once again we are reaffirming our strong support for the legitimate concerns that personalities and intellectuals inside the country expressed recently. We hope that you take into account those important contributions and promptly create a concrete roadmap for reforms that will gain the trust and support of the national community. We suggest focusing on the following main points in the process of determining the roadmap:

1. As far as China is concerned, the position of Vietnam on the sovereignty of the Paracel and Spratly archipelagos and on the Southeast Asian Sea must be publicly and clearly stated. Solutions to all disputes in these matters must be based on international laws and historical evidences. China-Vietnam relations in their entirety

must be reexamined, and all previous erroneous decisions that caused Vietnam to lose its balance and become dependent on China in various fields must be corrected. Emphasis must be placed on the peace-loving tradition between the Chinese and Vietnamese peoples, especially amongst progressive intellectuals, so as to marshal their support in the common struggle for justice and equality in the relations between the two countries.

2. With regards to ASEAN and other countries there is a need for reinforcing and developing cooperative relations, especially with key countries. There needs to be a consensus in rejecting the demand of more than 80% of the Southeast Asian Sea by China as well as in supporting the position of multilateral negotiation with China on the Spratlys. Efforts should be made to gain the support of ASEAN and the international community for a solution to the Paracel situation based on international laws and historical evidences. There should be a push for an ASEAN consensus on changing the name South China Sea to Southeast Asian Sea partly in order to negate China’s illogical sovereignty demands and partly in order to eliminate the confusion of different countries in the region calling this common sea by different names.

3. In terms of domestic governance there is a need for changes to the Constitution in order to strongly push the process of democratization with the establishment of three separate and independent institutions: The National Assembly and a system of representative organizations at lower levels, a judicial system, and a governmental system. Processes for free elections should be established. Democratic freedoms of citizens as determined by the Constitution and by international treaty laws and agreements should be respected. A concrete example is the freedom to express oneself through demonstrations in protesting the violent activities of China in the Southeast Asian Sea. Citizens who have been arrested and jailed for having peacefully struggled for freedom, democracy, sovereignty, and national unity should be released. Changes should be made to legal, economic, financial, educational,

health and other systems so as to push back on corruption, decrease injustice, increase

potentials, and protect national resources. Consultations with independent research organizations (such as the Institute for Development Studies [IDS] that was disbanded in 2009) should be carried out in the process of formulating national and

international policies.

4. Regarding Vietnamese communities outside of Vietnam, there is a fundamental need to promote their cooperation in the tasks of defending and developing the nation. There must be an unconditional rebuilding of the ARVN cemetery in Bien Hoa, help with the project on finding the remains of those who lost their lives in the re- education camps, and non-intervention in the construction of memorials in Southeast Asian countries for boat people who lost their lives at sea. These are necessary first steps in the process of seriously carrying out national reconciliation and concord.

Although for many years the government has called for intellectual contributions by the Vietnamese communities abroad, the numbers of specialists and intellectuals who returned to Vietnam to “transfer technology” have remained quite small: around 500 annually out of a total of over 300,000.

There are two main reasons for this: (1) Present governmental institutions have not only forsaken the trust of people living inside the country but have also created obstacles for those living

outside who want to contribute to the goal of making “the people rich, the nation strong, the

society just, democratic and civilized” that the government itself has proposed. (2) Within the leadership there is still widespread suspicion and distrust of the goodwill of intellectuals.

Vietnamese communities abroad have the facilities for doing research and for rallying support

for solutions advantageous to Vietnam from foreign governments and international communities. In reality, specialists inside and outside the country have cooperated on a number of activities to this end and have achieved certain successes on the issues of the Southeast Asian Sea and the Mekong River.

In face of the consistent strategy of China towards Vietnam and China’s expansionist and hegemonic ambitions that have become increasingly clear, the country and people of Vietnam are demanding that their leaders promote national strengths and unity amongst the entire people, inside and outside the country, to meet the present dangers. We hope that you have the courage

to take advantage of this unique opportunity to bring about a thorough revolution and to establish

a government that is truly of the people, for the people, and by the people so as to raise Vietnam to its rightful place in the region and in the world community.

Respectfully yours, August 21, 2011

Signees:

Name Profession Country

1 Doan Quoc Sy Professor USA Writer

2 Dinh Xuan Quan Doctor of Economics, International Development Consultant USA

3 Doan Thanh Liêm Attorney at Law USA

4 Ho Bach Thao Educator USA History Researcher

5 Le Thanh Minh Chau Assistant Vice President for Advanced Studies: Graduate Instruction, University of Notre Dame, Indiana

USA

6 Le Xuan Khoa Former Vice Rector, University of Saigon USA President Emeritus, Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC)

7 Le Trong Quat Attorney at Law France

8 Nghiem Phuong Mai Biologist Canada

Educator

9 Ngo Dinh Long Former Director, Dalat Nuclear Research Center USA Former Vice Dean, School of Business and Government, University of

Dalat

Professional Engineer, Nuclear Reactor Operation Group, Bechtel

Corporation

10 Nguyen The Anh Former Professor at Faculty of Letters, University of Saigon France

Distinguished Professor, Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Paris- Sorbornne

11 Nguyen Quoc Dung Attorney at Law USA Member of New York Bar Association

Member of American Bar Association

12 Nguyen Pham Dien History Researcher Australia

13 Nguyen Thi Ngoc Giao President, Voice of Vietnamese Americans USA

14 Nguyen Duc Hiep Ph.D., Environmental Science Australia

Senior Atmospheric Scientist, Department of Environment and

Conservation, New South Wales

15 Nguyen Ngoc Linh Former Professor, University of Dalat and Mekong University USA

16 Nguyen Phuc Que Doctor of Medicine France

17 Nguyen Thai Son Science and Diplomacy Advisor, Academy of Geopolitics, Paris France

18 Nguyen Huu Xuong Professor Emeritus of Physics, Biology, Chemistry & Biochemistry, University of California, San Diego

USA

19 Pham Hong Cong Pharmacist Canada

20 Pham Phan Long Professional Engineer USA

21 Pham Xuan Yem Director of Research, National Center of Scientific Research and

University of Paris-VI

France

22 Phan Tan Hai Buddhist Scholar USA Writer

23 Phung Lien Doan Ph.D., Nuclear Engineering USA Trustee, Center for the Encouragement of Self Reliance

24 Ta Van Tai Attorney at Law, Massachusetts USA Former Professor of Law, Vietnam

Former Lecturer, Harvard Law School

25 Tang Thi Thanh Trai Professor of Law, University of Notre Dame Law School USA

26 Thai Van Cau Specialist, Space Systems USA

27 Thai Cong Tung Advisor in Integrated Rural Development Canada

28 Tran Dinh Dung Professional Engineer, Environmental and Chemical Engineering

Executive Director, Viet Ecology Foundation

USA

29 Trieu Giang Journalist USA

30 Trinh Hoi Attorney at Law USA

31 Truong Huu Luong Attorney at Law France

32 Truong Hong Son Ph.D. USA Former Scientist, National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Writer and Artist

33 Truong Bon Tai Doctor of Management USA Professor, University of Phoenix, California

34 Vu Gian Specialist, Finance and Banking Switzerland

35 Vu Khanh Thanh, MBE Managing Director, An Viet Foundation England

Member of the Order of the British Empire

Former Councillor for the London Borough of Hackney

36 Vu Quoc Thuc Former Director School of Law, University of Hanoi France

Former Dean, School of Law, University of Saigon

Former Professor of Law, University of Paris-XII Email Contact: thungo2108@gmail.com