Đoàn Viết Hoạt

And the Roadmap to Democracy for Vietnam in the 21st Century


Trinh Do


     As one of Vietnam's most prominent prisoners of conscience, Professor Đoàn Viết Hoạt was imprisoned for nearly 20 years in various re-education camps after April 30, 1975.  His tireless activism for democracy and human rights in Vietnam for the past 30 years had attracted world attention and contributed to mounting pressure on the Vietnamese government.  Honored by many international press organizations, Dr. Hoạt received the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Press Freedom Award in 1993, the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award in 1995, the World Association of Newspapers’ Golden Pen of Freedom in 1998, the International Press Institute’s World Press Freedom Hero in 2000, Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation’s Truman-Reagan Freedom Award, in 2000.  His fight for freedom and democracy for Vietnam cost him 20 years of imprisonment in Vietnam, the first time from 1976 to 1988, the second time from 1990 to 1998. He was editor of a clandestine news letter promoting human rights and democracy in Vietnam –Freedom Forum.  Due to intense efforts of his family, friends, and the Vietnamese communities abroad to secure his release, and the intervention of international community and organizations, Dr. Hoạt was released in September 1998. Finally agreeing to his family and friends' request, he accepted political asylum in the United States and was reunited with his family on September 3rd, 1998, after 20 years of separation.

Upon arriving in America, Professor Hoạt immediately continued his activism for democracy in Vietnam.  In October 1998, he became a visiting scholar in democracy and human rights at Catholic University in Washington D.C. Since then, he had traveled to many countries and met with political leaders and human rights activists in America, other countries, and overseas Vietnamese communities to continue pushing for a free Vietnam. He had also lectured at Harvard, Berkeley and many other universitites to promote human rights and democracy in Vietnam.

At the beginning of 2005, Hoạt published the book "Hành Tŕnh Dân Tộc Trong Thời Đại Toàn Cầu Hóa” (Our People's Journey In The Age Of Globalization), a compilation of the articles he had written about the movement for freedom and democracy for Vietnam in the past 20 years.  In the book, he proposed a strategy to promote democracy and to gradually dismantle the Communist regime through "pushing for increasing freedom in all aspects of Vietnamese society, building internal pressure and conditions functional to eventually democratizing the government, either through peaceful transformation or socio-political upheavals." 

This approach will have three stages: (1) institutionalizing market economy system and integrating Vietnamese economy to the regional (ASEAN) and world economies, (2) developing civil, non-governmental organizations and activities so that the people can gain more control over their own lives and become more independent of the government, and (3) lastly, accelerating the democratization process toward the establishment of a democratic regime and the rule of law.  The three stages currently proceed in a slightly sequential fashion, with the next stage starting when the previous one is already well under way.

To accelerate the development of these three stages to dismantle the Communist regime, Prof. Hoạt also proposed that Vietnamese overseas need to pursue three inter-related efforts.

The first effort is to help improve the lives of people in Vietnam in all aspects, economically as well as culturally.  Only then can the Vietnamese people become more independent as well as a credible opposing force to the government.  Until now, external pressure, from foreign countries, Vietnamese overseas, and the changing geopolitical conditions, had forced the Communist government to liberalize the economy.  To increase internal pressure and force the government to also ease their control on cultural and political activities, Vietnamese overseas need to push for more freedom in other areas such as the arts, education, the media, religion, and humanitarian activities.

The second effort must aims at uniting all the progressive and pro-democratic groups inside and outside of Vietnam. The fighters for Vietnam's democracy need to agree on a vision for our people in this new age of globalization and a strategy for the democracy movement.  A consensus on national vision and democracy strategy is necessary condition for the democrats inside and outside of Vietnam to become a force powerful enough to openly oppose the Communist party and to seize the initiatives in the campaign for democracy.


The third effort aims at winning the support of foreign governments and international organizations for the two efforts mentioned above.  The campaign for international support will help increase external pressure on the Communist regime to loosen their control of the Vietnamese society.  As a result, the Vietnamese will become freer and regain more control of their own lives in an accelerated speed.


Trinh Do, Nha Magazine, March 2005