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In a scene from Satyajit Ray’s film Pratidwandi when the protagonist is asked to define the most miraculous evebt

of our generation he chooses to point out the Vietnam war as opposed to man landing on moon. To explain this
further he says that the mass uprising by the commoners against US forces is the most extraordinary story of
resilience exhibited by the poorer mass of the Vietnamese society which no one knew they had it in them.
This reflects a perspective believed by a lot of people in the Vietnam war who joined the revolution. It was a war of
the just against the unjust as much as it was a war of the rich against the poor. However today more than 33 years
after US troops pulled out of South Vietnam completely, it is a debate whether the vision shown to the mass who
played a key role in the uprising has been fulfilled or not. Communism in Vietnam has been “imperfectly
understood, when it is not simply denied”
To understand why has communism failed to fulfill its promise one need to look at certain events which are an
essential part in shaping a society.

Obliteration of History:

In the year of 1986, early one morning a group of South Korean soldiers entered the village of Ha My an hour
outside the city of Danang. These soldiers were working alongside the US to curtail the communist uprising and
they saw the villagers as the food and shelter supply for the guerillas. In the village comprising paddy fields and
shaky huts the methodically rounded up the villagers opened fire to kill 136 of them, burnt their housed and
dumped them in a mass grave. For years this incident did not see the light of the day. Years later a memorial of
grief was built at the expense of the blue dragon soldiers who came back to express genuine remorse over the
The monument stands high as a memorial to the massacre, its ornamented roof shades the two mass tombs and a
gravestones bear names of the adults and children who were killed. However this structure bears no explanation of
the incident which had led to their deaths.
According to the villagers when the monument was built it bore an account of the incident through a poem
inscribed on it.
“How painful to see fathers and mothers collapse into pieces beneath the flames … How terrifying to see children
and babies screaming and crying, reaching out, still suckling on the breasts of dead mothers … ”
However when South Korean official complained about the poem on its inauguration instead of standing up to
them the Vietnamese officials got it covered by lotus tableau. One villager has stated this incident as “the killing of
the memory of killing”

Centralization of Economy:

The communist party believes in centralization of economy rather than a free market. This leads to a stagnated
economy and localization of profits to the ones in power. Fair distribution is an inherent quality of the free market
which is crucial to the development of a developing country. However such policies followed for North Korea from
1954 - 1975 and for South Korea from 1975 - 1986 caused increased starvation amongst the locals, corruption sky
rocketed. Although the government later had to change its policies it still owns 50% of the economy. High level of
corruption and high taxes cause underdevelopment of the private business sector. A country which was seen as the
centre for cheap labour has now been discarded due to its high level of corruption and low productivity as
compared to countries like China, Malaysia and Thailand.

Religious Intolerance

Vietnam has had a long history of religious influence on their culture. The majority of their citizens following
Mahayana Buddhism, minority population following catholic as well as protestant Christianity and local religions of
Hoa Hao and Cao Dai. However in the communist regime their has been conscious efforts to control all sorts of
religious activities by the goverment. After the war, strong restraints were imposed on practicing of all religious
activities this included ban on all religious organisations, confiscation of religious properties, imprisonment of
religious leaders and persecution of their followers. Christians were seen as a representation of the western world
while local religions were targeted for having fought on the opposite side of the regime. Years later in present times
the situation although much better, religion has never again regained the naturality that is inherent to most
cultures around the world. Viewed with skepticism by the government the situation is perturbed under the surface
if not above it. The Law on Belief and Religion, which was passed by the National Assembly on Nov. 18 bears
testimony to this. The first ever law to be introduced since the reunification of Vietnam in 1975 which dictate the
rules and regulations to be followed by religious groups and legal procedures in such cases. Like all things intended
to be controlled these laws have been kept ambiguous enough to be flexed by the authorities as and when
“ This law requires, all faith groups to register with authorities and inform them of their activities with authorities
having the right to approve or refuse.
The law allows for detainees and prisoners to "use scriptures and show their faith." Religious organizations may
also engage in education, vocational training, health care, charitable works and publishing.
Religious activities banned include those that infringe on national defense, harm social ethics and disunite the
This law although propagated as a means to increase “management” scope of the different religious communities
and to keep out threats which might use religion against national security has been highly controversial. It was
refused support from within and outside the party. More than 15% of the assembly refused to extend support, an
unheard of situation in a country like Vietnam. Many human rights organizations termed it as a free pass for
oppression and persecution of religious groups.
Various comments by members of different religious group on conditions of anonymity reflect the concerns of the
“A Catholic priest in Ho Chi Minh City said the law "aims to help the government administer religious activities.
Religious followers are not different from other citizens and should have the same rights as guaranteed by the
constitution. A specific law on religion is not necessary and shows clear discrimination as if religion is an enemy that
needs to be controlled,"“

“It’s isolated and people who belong to a religion must deal with local police and the authorities who don’t like them
very much and can act with impunity,” said a parishioner.

“However, these improvements, and the inclusion of basic guarantees of the right to freedom of religion or belief,
were undermined by onerous registration requirements and excessive state interference in the internal affairs of
religious organizations.”

Incrimination of Civilians

Immediately after the reunification of Vietnam the communist government tread cautious steps. They did not want
to directly actualize the predictions of the blood bath by the US government. Instead on May, 975 they called for
reeducation of all members under armed forces of the earlier South Vietnamese government and civil servants of
all rank and order. They were allotted time shifts and were allowed to go back after the specific time.
Subsequently in the month of June“all senior officers of the former army, all police officers, and “personnel of the
puppet administration in various branches belonging to the legislative, judiciary, and executive systems of the
United States and its puppets,” as well as members of “reactionary political parties” holding any official title within
those parties, were called again to regather for what was seen as a brief educational period. However although
ordinary soldiers were allowed to go back, most of the senior officials and civil servants were deported to the
countryside and some directly to North Vietnam. Reports have been doing rounds of the inhuman situations of the
“reeducational” camps, of forced labour and insufficient rations. The inmates who comprise the military, police, and
intelligence officers, former government officials, and staff of non-Communist political parties, but also, it appears,
the entire membership of the elite ARVN units (the Marines, the Rangers, paratroopers, and Green Berets),
participants in the Phoenix program, and village chiefs have never been charged with any crime and and the whole
procedure lacks any legal basis.

Fragmentation of Society

The Vietnamese society worked on the base of interdependent tight knit family, importance of certain moral values
like honesty, honour and generosity defined its structure. However communist regime proved to destroy such
values through their principles and policies. During the land reform people were encouraged to accuse their family
members, friends and neighbors of being land owners and the state enemy and openly insult them for it. Children
were brainwashed against their parents, this broke the core structure of the family oriented Vietnamese life.
Agitation during the land reform period led to the death of about 13,500 landowners. Honour of an individual had
become occupation specific, communists believed that only workers and farmers were worthy of respect this
discredited the businessmen and intelligentia of the society and hence the Vietnamese society actually lost a large
portions of those members of their society who support the economic base and the brains who could question the
future consequences of the controversial policies being imposed by the government. This system directly led to
people being evaluated not on the basis of their merit but background. The poorer a person was the more worthy
he was considered, this led to rise in incompetence, reduction of work quality and also localization of employment
as jobs would be offered more through contacts than through merit. Party workers were given first preference
under all circumstances. The breakage in the society and can be understood by the following quotes:

“In mid-1976 a young Northern soldier came to my house in the conduct of a military census. He entered the
front door without knocking, went through the living room and into the dining room. My nine-year-old
daughter, playing at the foot of the stairs, called out that someone was there. As I went down the stairs, I
saw him already sitting at the dining table as casually as though he were in his own home. I was startled, but
this young man’s conduct brought me face to face with habits that have developed from many years of life
under a collectivist regime, which condemns individualism and cares nothing for privacy. ”

“ In the Vanguard Children’s Association (equivalent to the Soviet Young Pioneers), children meet once a week
under the supervision of cadres:
At the Vanguard meetings children were asked to talk about their parents, their brothers and sisters, living
conditions at home, and what the family had done during the week.”

It is understood that the natural honesty, trust and comfort required in a family life was compromised and it is
ironical to note that the policies introduced by the communist government in turn became the reason for its