Category Archives: Blog Away

Let’s reach out beyond the shadow of fear and find the light of freedom!


Trần Quốc Việt (Danlambao) On July, 1988 Tuoi Tre newspaper published a letter from student Le Vinh Nguyen in Nha Trang:

I feel betrayed and I want to know why …

We were told that once liberated, we would build a country ten times as prosperous and beautiful. So why are our citizens still so poor? Why do they not have enough to eat? Why are students rejected from colleges because their of parents’ history?

Innocent people in Vietnam can only look upon the sky for answers. In other countries, officials must be held accountable for any mistakes. When will Vietnam learn this lesson?

This regime is proud of defeating the U.S powerhouse yet it cannot repair potholes on its own roads.

At that time, Vietnam’s population was at 65 million people. Currently Vietnam’s population is at about 90 million people, mostly young people. In this age of information, these young people are more politically aware than their parents were, and they want to step out of the government’s enslavement. They want freedom. They have the courage to act, but do not have enough patience to wait as long as the previous generation. This is a generation of maturity with the ability to decide and act for the future of his nation.

The time from Le Vinh Nguyen’s letter to Nguyen Dac Kien’s courageous article spans one generation.

We went from demands for pothole repairs to demands for the removal of Article 4 of the Constitution (which states that the Communist Party remains the sole guiding party of the country).  This proves how far we’ve come and it shows that fear is giving way to freedom.

We can now hope. But we need a lot of people, especially the younger generation, to work together to build the future of the country for ourselves and our children.

Writer Victor Hugo once said “Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come.” Today, those thoughts are expressed through thousands of signatures supporting Statement of the Free Citizens.

History is an extension of tragedy when we choose to exist in fear. But history is hope when we live and act out the call of freedom and conscience.

So those who have not signed for their future please do so now because time does not wait. We will never see the future we desire if we do not act together collectively.

Take a look back at the history of the Soviet Union when communism collapsed from within. From October 1988 to October 1989, four million communist members relinquished their membership. And in early 1990 about 200,000 to 300,000 protesters in Moscow demanded the removal of Article 6 of the Soviet Constitution which is similar to Article 4 of the Constitution of the Vietnamese Communist Party.

If we see all the corruption of the regime but choose to remain silent, then we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Let’s reach out beyond the shadow of fear and find the light of freedom!


Sad On A Happy Day

Tran Quoc Viet (Danlambao) – The United Nations announced that March 20th 2013 will be the first International Day of Happiness around the world. So everyone’s happiness can be based on a common platform. This platform, after all, is Freedom.  Freedom provides wings for humans which they then can chase their own dreams of happiness.

The people living in totalitarian regimes can not be happy because they do not have true freedom. Thus the first International Day of Happiness is a sad day in their lives when they compare themselves to free citizens in democratic countries. Has anyone dared to assert that the people of North Korea are happier than the people of South Korea or the Vietnamese are happier than the Thai?

Only totalitarian regimes are happy on this day because they are still able to rule their citizens through imprisonment and violence.  Sadly, this is the happiness of animals practicing cannibalism.  Somewhere in the fully-equipped, air-conditioned room, they are toasting wine to this happy happy day, while citizens will continue to suffer.

For reasons mentioned above, we the slaves in Vietnam, would like to ask the United Nations not to rub salt into our wounds by naming this day International Day of Happiness Of Free Citizens in the coming years.

Without freedom, our lives are just sad named and unnamed days.


What would you do in my situation?

Phạm Thanh Nghiên  Translated by Lê Anh Hùng (Defend the Defenders) – When I pose that question to you, I don’t mean that I expect you or any other Vietnamese to go through what I have experienced. It is simply that I expect your sympathy. I believe that life will be very interesting and lively when we imagine ourselves in other peoples’ circumstances and think and feel what is in their hearts. The circumstances I suggest here may make you feel bad and think, “Wow, that is so unlucky.” If so, just stop reading. However, I still want you to take part in this “funny test” in order to let me understand you more. Just let me know your feelings so that we could come closer together. Below are the situations that you would encounter if you were me.

In just nearly 6 months after your release from prison, you received more than ten summonses from the local authorities. Repeatedly, they came to your home to annoy you for various reasons: checking registered residence, questioning, or just paying a visit. These self-proclaimed people’s police would knock strongly on the door if you did not let them in. It was no pleasure at all when they visited while you were away to terrify your almost eighty-year-old mother time and time again. Even more, late at night and during power outages, they opened your house gate arbitrarily and forced your mother to open the door to let them “check registered residence.” A whole pack, uniformed or not, searched all over the house by torchlight, from private rooms to toilets.

You came back from prison in exhaustion; you needed to go to the hospital for treatment but the local authorities kept thwarting you. You asked, “What if unfortunately, I had a severe disease which needed emergency aid, and the hospital was located in another ward or district?  According to ‘your laws,’ I would still have to write a petition to submit to you at the ward level, and then wait for you to submit it at the district level, and continue to wait until you reply, before I am permitted to save my life myself. What happens if, unfortunately, I die then?” And you would receive the answer from the mouth of the Vice-Chairman of People’s Committee of the Ward, “When it comes to laws, it must be enforced. No other way!”
Your private residence was always blocked, guarded and surrounded by the police in order to terrify your mind and hinder your freedom to travel. Moreover, they caused public tumult at night, affecting your family’s as well as your neighbors’ sleep.
On 5th day of the Lunar New Year, the police came to your home to “recommend” that you do not go anywhere and then guarded your house right away, making your guests and friends anxious and scared.
When you paid a visit to one of your acquaintances, you fall victim to a sudden raid by the police. They then took you to several public buildings at their fancy and questioned you for hours. After all, you would be “granted” a fine worth 1.5 million VND for the so-called “breach of regulations on obligations of persons under surveillance punishment.”
And the story I want to share with you is as follows.

I have endured four years in prison under the laws of the “Socialist Republic of Vietnam” and returned home in very poor health. Never have I accepted the sentence as well as other illogical laws that the authorities foisted upon me. This means I will face many difficulties, even accepting those risks that I cannot anticipate. Anxiously, my mother advised me to “write a petition” to inform the authorities of my trip to Hanoi for a medical examination. Previously, she had been “reminded” by the police that if I went on my own free will, they would bear no responsibility if I experienced any “incidences” during the trip. I then wrote a petition, informing them of every necessary detail they required. And the answer was: At 23h30 on 3rd October 2012, a group of policemen (Dong Hai 1 ward) rushed to my house to “check registered residence”, just several hours after I submitted my petition. They gave me an “oral command” that I stay put at home. Additionally, they told me that my petition was “wrong” because there was no “DON XIN” (a humble word asking for favors) as well as no “Socialist Republic of Vietnam/Independence – Freedom – Happiness” at the head of the petition letter.

Finally to exercise my apparent right, I had to manage the trip myself, considering every possible way to get to the hospital unscathed. The doctors at the Viet Tiep Hospital concluded that I only had a sore throat, with no risk at all, whereas I frequently had a slight fever. They failed to give an explanation for this. An opthamologist diagnosed me with papilloedema and degeneration of purpurogenous membrane. He gave me a prescription. However my illness didn’t ease up but instead got more severe. I then went to a very well-known and prestigious doctor in Hanoi. She diagnosed me with aesthenopia and “optic atrophy at temple’s side.” Following her method of treatment, I felt my illness easing up. Nearly two months later, however, I felt the pain again. Time and again, I felt my eyes were about to blow up, very uncomfortable. Worse yet, this was accompanied by slight fever that persisted from day to day. I was really worried. I needed to go to Saigon for medical examination and treatment.
Again, for the second time, I wrote a petition. It was not that I acquiesced with that “lawless law,” but that I did not want them to take my absence as a pretext to terrify my mother. Moreover, the right to medical services is self-evident for anyone to exercise (without permission). No normal government or state would want their citizens to be ill or sick. With that in mind, I was sure that they would let me go. I was wrong!
On 19 February 2013, I submitted my petition to ask for permission to go for medical examination.
On 22 February, I felt unwell and had to go to a clinic for a tonic injection. The doctor asked me to go on treatment the following days.
On 23 February, the police began guarding my house. The treatment was then disrupted.
On the morning of 24 February, the police came to my house to give me a summons which required that I go to the headquarters of the People’s Committee of the Ward to hear “the answer for your petition.” In the afternoon, unable to go to the former clinic, I had to go to a smaller one near my home. My blood pressure as checked here did not reach 80/50 levels. While I was in bed for a tonic injection, the police stood guard outside the room.
On 25 February 2013, while I was in bed for a tonic injection, the policeman in charge of my neighborhood went right to the spot for “inspection” and then called his superior to report the situation.
In the morning of 26 February, I went for working sessions with the local authorities. The police at ward, district and municipal levels all informed me that they had received my petition and promised to address it. I requested that they reply in written form as stipulated by the law. Both Mrs La Thi Thu Thuy, representative of the Hai Phong Municipal Public Security, and Mr Nguyen Van Ky, Vice-Chairman of the People’s Committee of Dong Hai 1 Ward, promised me to reply in written form.
At 10am on 28 February, the police of the ward came to my home to give me a summons, requesting my presence at 10h15am the same day to hear their official answer. I asked them to cite whatever legal stipulations which authorizes the police to summon a citizen in just 15 minutes (the time to open the gate and listen to their explanation alone already exceeds 15 minutes). They got back to their office and minutes later came back with another summons, which requested me to go to the headquarters of the People’s Committee of the ward the next day “for a working session.”
On 1 March 2013, I went for a “working session” with “authorized agencies”, which include:
1) Mr Nguyen Van Ky, Vice-Chairman of the People’s Committee of Dong Hai 1 Ward;
2) Lieutenant Colonel Luu Van Thi, Deputy Head of Dong Hai 1 Ward Public Security;
3) Mrs La Thi Thu Thuy, Team Head, Political Security Department (PA67), Hai Phong Municipal Public Security;
4) Captain Nguyen Manh Tung, Head of Criminal Sentences Enforcement Team, Hai An District Public Security, Hai Phong;
5) Lieutenant Colonel Mac Tu Khoa, Team Head, Criminal Sentences Enforcement Department, Hai Phong Municipal Public Security;
6) Do (or Dinh) Van Thuan, Head of Dong Hai 1 Ward Public Security;
7) A policeman not in uniform and not introduced himself;
8) A policewoman from An Hai District Public Security, not in uniform, named Nga.
These “authorized agents” orally replied me as follows, “You are not permitted to go (for medical examination); if you go deliberately, you will be arrested.” The justification for them to prohibit me was that I was a “special target,” quoting Mrs La Thi Thu Thuy’s words verbatim. When I asked them to deliver their promise and also to abide to (their own) laws by replying to me in writing, Captain Tung answered, “We have explained very clearly, you can remember yourself. No need for written documents.”
Mr Luu Van Thi asked me to pay “the debt” (fine) worth 1.5 millions VND. He also said that, because I did not go to the ward authorities to “show up and report [my] observance of regulations of surveillance” every month, even tore a summons before the police. So from April 2013 on, even if I want to go to the headquarters of the People’s Committee of the ward, I have to call to “ask for permission” in advance and wait for their assent before “showing up”. Otherwise, I just wait for their summonses to arrive home and go as specified by the summonses. He did not forget to “reprimand” me for daringly using the word “Don yeu cau” (Letter of Request) instead of “Don xin” (letter asking for permission) when writing the petition.
I don’t want to tell more about the conversation I had with these people. But I remembered telling them before going home that, “You do not give me any reason to respect you. If you want others to respect you, respect yourself first.” Glancing up at certificates of credit (which state “heroic forces…”) hung on the wall, I said: “Hanging these certificates of heroism doesn’t turn you into heroes right away. Rather, getting them down will make you feel less ashamed.” I then stood up, pushed the chair aside forcefully, and left through the door. The policewoman named Nga rushed after me and offered, “Let me take you home, sister Nghien.” I reluctantly expressed my gratitude and went home on foot. It wasn’t until 5 March 2013, after 12 days guarding my house, that they quit.
When I type these letters, my eyes are still awfully painful. Slight fevers still follow me persistently, and how awfully I wish one day I could get rid of these chronic, constant headaches!
Thank you so much for your patience in reading my incoherent and uninteresting story. And, after all, just let me know: What will you do to remain a free man?

A Most Unwelcome Birthday

Tran Quoc Viet (danlambao) This year marks the eighty second anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of Vietnam. We might not know the date of birth of our parents, but it is impossible to forget the birth of the Party when every year the occasion is highlighted by constant media broadcasting of the endless celebrations, including the display of banners hung across the street in the country.

So unless you have been deaf or blind since birth, or have barely started learning to walk, you are sure to know of this birthday.

This is first misfortune of people living in a communist society: at least one part of your memory must belong to the Party.

The Party never “dies” once it is born.  On October 1, 1949, half a million people gathered in Tiananmen Square and chanted loudly: “Long live Chairman Mao!” On September 2, 1945, a sea of Vietnamese also chanted “Long live President Ho Chi Minh!” If the founder lives forever, then so must the Party.

This is the second misfortune of people living in a communist society: after those chants were echoed, the history of the country and its people became merely the extension of the history of the Party.

Thus began the domino effect of social regression. We gradually lost language, morals, culture, and traditional identity. We are constantly under the shadow of the Party from the time of our birth to the time of our death. Our lives are shrouded in pretense, fake reality, education, literature, history, religion, military, journalists, writers, poets, authors, historians, intellects and even fake nature, with the slogan, “Celebrate the Party, celebrate Spring.”

This is the third misfortune of people living in a communist society: our lives are blanketed in falsehood.

Poet Boris Pasternak wrote:  “I was the only one; while all around me are immersed in a lie:
Life is not a walk across a field. ”

Under communist rule, the green field has been paved over with cement and thus, grass, plants, and any signs of life have been destroyed.  In turn, we use the concrete as stage where we act under the guidance of the Party, and like it or not, we relinquish our individualism and ethics. We are both victims and perpetrators of this great tragedy that is taking place on that cement floor.

This is the fourth misfortune of people living in a communist society: we cannot be ourselves. In the name of a utopian paradise, the Party encourages animal instincts while ignoring human civility.

Today we are finally seeing some cracks in the concrete ground, and through these cracks the sun is shining through and giving life to the seeds of the human spirit that is desperately trying to rise once again.

Let us hope for and act towards the ultimate goal: power in the hands of the people.

But the Party will live on if we stand on the sidelines waiting to history to happen. Let us proceed on down the road and build churches and temples to nurture our spirituality and faith.  Let us mend the broken pieces of our culture, of civil society. If we can do these things, we will be able to minimize the influence and control of the Party, and more importantly, we will once again find the meaning of life; the first step on the difficult road to regain our character.

Russian protesters have chanted, “We exist!” in the bitter cold of winter. Tunisian voters joyfully shouted, “We vote, we exist!” while standing in line for hours to vote freely for the first time.

Someday we will loudly chant as they have: “We exist!” We are not invisible, faint shadows of the Party. Our most effective weapon is hope and courage.

When that day comes, when control of the government returns to the hands of the people, we, with our wounded bodies, will help each other build a future together.

It has been eighty-two years since the birth of the Communist Party of Vietnam.  The Party is like a dinosaur on its last breath but still clinging onto life by sucking on the blood of the country of Vietnam.  Its long tail is that of “socialist orientation”, its giant belly is filled with greed, and its little brain lies in its small head in comparison to its giant body.  That little gray matter does not have the ability to see a future beyond the next year.  How can we trust our fate and the fate of our country to this gray matter?

If we do not do anything, our children will continue to count the Party’s birthdays, and the body of the dinosaur will continue to damage generations to come.