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Vietnam - looking back and now

From an op-ed piece by an Australian lawyer (formerly from Vietnam) in Fairfax Press:

"April 30, 2013 will mark the 38th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, the annihilation of South Vietnam by communist forces in the North, or otherwise popularly known as the end of the Vietnam War. Without this day, there wouldn't be as many Vietnamese restaurants in your 'hood. And without this day I certainly wouldn't be where I am today.

Having spent nearly two decades abroad before returning to Vietnam in 2007, I am often asked about growing up in post-war Vietnam and how the country is faring 38 years after the communist takeover. What often strikes me is that when I ask what they already know about Vietnam, there are generally only two versions of the country's post-war experience.


The first is filled with horror stories and images of a ravaged land once torn by an American-led war. The second is of a new emerging Asian economic tiger and an exotic ''it'' destination for the young and famous."



****



"But its social and political systems remain unchanged. To this day all land still belongs to the state. Hundreds of dissidents still remain in prison for challenging the one-party rule of the Vietnamese Communist Party. Facebook and pro-democracy blogs and websites are banned, no independent media is allowed, protests are forbidden, and civil rights defenders face constant harassment and persecution.


Some activists have fled the country, seeking asylum elsewhere; others who have stayed have been imprisoned up to 16 years for their human rights and pro-democracy advocacy. The truth is that refugees continue to flee Vietnam. Neither peace nor justice has ever been achieved under communist rule.


I now often wonder where are all the well-meaning anti-Vietnam war protesters of the 1960s and '70s? Have they not cared to learn about what happened after the fall of Saigon and the withdrawal of US troops? What can they do now to help make Vietnam a better and freer place, like they had so passionately professed to care four long decades ago?"



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