By John E.
Carey / Honglien Do
October 26, 2006
plans to attend the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference Nov.
17-19 in Vietnam. We applaud this effort by Mr. Bush to make this historic trip
to help foster what we call the "Vietnam Economic Miracle."
Vietnam's entry to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the granting of
Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) by the U.S. are virtually assured in the
next month or two, or, for PNTR, sometime next year. We support the president
and congratulate Vietnam on these successes in bringing the government of
Vietnam into the greater world of economic cooperation and prosperity.
But we also urge the president and the American people to remain mindful of the
human rights abuses in Communist Vietnam -- abuses that have lessened somewhat
in recent years but still paint a troubling picture.
The economy in Vietnam is starting to rumble and many want to participate in the
anticipated new prosperity and wealth. Tourism is exploding in Vietnam along
with the associated hotels, restaurants and other businesses. Tourist arrivals
to Vietnam have grown on average 20 percent yearly over the last 15 years,
shooting up from 250,000 in 1990 to 3.5 million last year. First-quarter 2006
saw more than a million tourists visit Vietnam, on pace to hit the government's
target of hosting 4 million tourists this year. Some industry analysts
optimistically estimate tourist arrivals will double to 8 million in Vietnam by
2010. The industry's positive cash flow to Vietnam is estimated in the billions
of dollars yearly.
But many other industries and ventures currently thrive in Vietnam.
Vietnam's textile industry is such a potent force it threatens to destroy what
still remains of clothing manufacturing in the United States. So the Bush
administration promised Sens. Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina and Lindsey
Graham of South Carolina in October that it would closely monitor textile and
clothing imports from Vietnam after that country joins the World Trade
Organization and the United States is required to drop import quotas.
This small promise by the president set off a fire storm among retailers anxious
to sell inexpensive clothing from Vietnam without any restrictions.
There are at least 600 software companies in Vietnam. Computer chip
manufacturing is huge and growing. Both Japan and China have recently announced
huge investments in Vietnam's computer industry.
Vietnam expects to be responsible for 10 percent of Japan's $3 billion offshore
software industry by 2010.
Bill Gates visited Vietnam earlier this year because he doesn't want Microsoft
left out of the "Vietnam Economic Miracle" many have predicted.
Some other aspects of "Vietnam's Economic Miracle" trumpeted recently by the
communist government-controlled media in Vietnam include:
• Vietnam's three major telecom companies are expected to be partly
privatized next year with the majority of the stakes remaining under government
control, officials said.
• Authorities in Vietnam have fined an affiliate of South Korea's Daewoo
Corp. for using pirated software, the first time a corporate user of illegal
software has been targeted in the Southeast Asian country, officials said on
• Intel has a new $300 Million microchip assembly and test facility in Ho
Chi Minh City. It will open later this year, with as much additional investment
money expected in the next two years. Canon has three printer factories near
Hanoi, Canon's largest manufacturing facility in the world.
• Vietnam, Laos and China signed a border treaty last month; a breakthrough
that will hopefully increase commerce and trade.
• Vietnam announced last month it is firmly committed to "the promotion of
gender equality and the advancement of women" and gives enhancing women's roles
and status a top priority in national socioeconomic development programs. This
was a new and breathtaking announcement, just a month ago.
• Under a draft decree, Vietnam will permit transgender people to undergo
gender reassignment surgery starting next January, according to local newspaper
Saigon Liberation. This shows how eager Vietnam is to display openness and a
liberalism in attitude.
In early September, Vietnam released prominent dissident and pro-democracy
activist Pham Hong Son. Mr. Son was originally sentenced to five years in
prison. His crime? He translated articles from the U.S. State Department Web
site for an online journal in Vietnam. The articles were titled "What is
Cong Do, an American citizen, was also falsely imprisoned earlier this year by
Vietnam. He has now been released and advocates return from Vietnam of another
U.S. Citizen: Thuong Nguyen "Cuc" Foshee.
Mrs. Foshee, a U.S. citizen, was taken into custody Sept. 8, 2005. She was not
charged, not allowed to post bail, denied an attorney and put in a prison in Ho
Chi Minh City. Her crime? While in the United States, she did business with an
organization the government of Vietnam terms "seditionist."
The Vietnamese people have no free elections. In Vietnam, the Communist Party
chooses all candidates prior to an election and no person excluded by the
communist system can run in an election. Since all candidates are nominated by
the party, there is no legitimate "voice of the people."
The communist government of Vietnam, like that of China and North Korea,
controls and monitors all media including the internet and e-mail. Along with
the U.S. Department of State Web site, the Web site of The Washington Times is
not available to readers in Vietnam. The Washington Times is also too
Although Vietnam has more than 600 newspapers, all are owned and controlled by
the party. No private newspaper has ever been allowed to be published. Song
lyrics are monitored and must be approved by the government in Vietnam.
Vietnam has one of the world's strictest systems of control over public use of
the Internet. Many Web sites with information on freedom and democracy are not
available in Vietnam.
The Vietnamese people do not have freedom of religion and worship. In its annual
report on religious freedom, the U.S. State Department listed Vietnam among its
top eight "Countries of Particular Concern."
So we applaud and thank the president of the United States on his planned trip
to Vietnam. And we want the U.S. economy to share in all the benefits of
Vietnam's anticipated growth.
And Mister President: Please bring home Mrs. Foshee.
And let's all remain mindful of our American commitment to human rights and our
American values in the process of expanding the "Vietnam Economic Miracle."
John E. Carey is the former president of International Defense Consultants,
Honglien Do escaped from Communist Vietnam and is now a U.S. citizen.