Remarks on President Bill Clinton's Visit to Vietnam

Doan Viet Hoat
Washington, D.C.
Wednesday, November 15, 2000

On November 16, President Bill Clinton will visit Vietnam. This is the first visit by a President of the United States to the post-war Vietnam. In the contemporary perspective of an emerging global community of democracy and development, the visit will certainly bring about significant impacts on the bilateral US-Vietnam relationship, on the daily life of the Vietnamese people and on the development of a stable and democratic Southeast Asia.

Since the early 1990's, and the end of the bipolar world order, the communist party of Vietnam adopted the policy of renovation, doi moi, to save the regime from total collapse. A new stage has begun for the bilateral US-VN relationship. The United States began the policy of "positive engagement", a new type of involvement in Vietnam --the involvement in peace, and for a developed and free Vietnam, in a stable and modern Southeast Asia. The Vietnamese people have new expectations and challenges -expectations for the betterment of their lives, and challenges against the totalitarian policy of the communist leaders.

Nowadays, the regime remains communist and authoritarian, and the country continues to rank among the poorest nations in the world. Although improvements have been achieved in some economic and social aspects, market and free competition economic system has not been established. A new crisis has overshadowed the country since 1996, which has not only hampered economic development, but also threatened the stability and the sustainable development of the country. The people have expressed their frustrations more frequently in more violent protests both in rural areas and in the cities. Many intellectuals, religious leaders and veteran communists have raised their criticism against the corrupt and authoritarian Politburo.

I believe that the present crisis in Vietnam can not be solved if the people are not guaranteed basic freedoms, of which is freedom of choice, --economic, cultural and political. The people should have the right to choose their leaders and to make them accountable for their policies and decisions. Without those basic freedoms free trade can hardly take shape, and will benefit a privileged group of corrupt officials and not the people who live in poverty. As a result, continued economic reforms that benefit only the ruling class, will lead to social unrest and political upheaval, and not to free trade and economic development. Time is running out for a developed and stable Vietnam. Vietnam is urgently in need of a genuine renovation: renovation by the people and for the people, and not by the dictators and for the dictators.

The signing of the bilateral trade agreement in July, and the coming visit of President Bill Clinton culminate the first stage of the new US involvement in Vietnam in which the United States have supported the communist government in their economic transition. Time has come now for the United States to support the Vietnamese people to help firmly establish the market economic system and guarantee equal opportunity and freedom of choice for every body, regardless of their differences in religious, ideological and political beliefs. I also believe that it is time to promote the fraternal relationship between the Vietnamese overseas and the populace inside the country. This will result in opening for the Vietnamese people all the doors to the world -economic, cultural, educational, informatics--, strengthening the people's power, and thus, challenging the monopolistic policy of the present regime.

I uphold the principle that the United States should support the private and not the governmental sector in all aspects of daily life in Vietnam. They should help strengthen the people's power and not the privileged minority group in power. Therefore, I urge the President, in his visit to Vietnam, to disassociate himself from the authoritarian policy of the present leaders, and to send to the Vietnamese people a clear message of his support for freedom and respects of human rights. With this clear message, he will be welcomed by every one, both in Vietnam and around the world, as the champion of freedom, democracy and progress, and as a strong supporter for a New Vietnam -Vietnam of the Future, and neither of the past nor of the present.