Friday, May 18, 2007

The Viet Tan - Vietnam Reform Party

We are reprinting the following article with the permission of its author, Carlyle Thayer.

Background Brief:
Viet Tan -
Vietnam Reform Party
Carlyle A. Thayer
April 10, 2007

Both the Vietnamese official media and Viet Tan are in agreement about the basic history of Viet Tan. Hoang Co Minh, a former Republic of Vietnam Navy Admiral, founded the National United Front for the Liberation of Vietnam (NUFLV) on April 30, 1980. He later founded the Vietnam Reform Party or Viet Tan (Viet Nam Canh Tan Cach Mang Dang) on September 10, 1982. The NUFLV and the Viet Tan aimed to overthrow the Vietnamese communist government.

Both Vietnamese authorities and members of the NUFLV agree that the NUFLV carried out acts of armed violence (or armed subversion) in Vietnam by infiltrating its members through Laos and Cambodia. A member of the Vietnam Reform Party has also indicated that during the period of clandestine activity (1982-94), members of Viet Tan living in Vietnam carried arms. Vietnam charges that Viet Tan created an armed force in late 2002 and also hired criminals to assassinate government officials; and later killed these hired assassins to hide their connections with the Viet Tan.

The Vietnam Reform Party went public on September 19, 2004 and at that time announced the dissolution of the NUFLV. The program of the Viet Tan and statements by its leaders stress that the Viet Tan will employ peaceful means to achieve democracy in Vietnam in cooperation with other like-minded groups.

[On October 28, 2003 ABC TV Foreign Correspondent program (Australia) aired an interview with a member of the Vietnam Canh Tan Cach Mang Dang and claimed this was the first public acknowledgement of the group in Vietnam.]

The Viet Tan has been publicly active lobbying members of parliament in Australia and Europe as well as congressmen in the United States. Viet Tan has staged peaceful rallies in a number of western capital cities including Washington, D.C.

Details of Viet Tan activities in Vietnam released by the official Vietnamese media in March-April 2007 do not establish that the Viet Tan has been engaged in violent activities. Rather the Viet Tan is charged with setting up law firms, businesses, and micro-credit programs to generate funds to finance Viet Tan's activities in Vietnam. Viet Tan is also charged with calling for a peaceful boycott of Vietnamese commodities and air services.

The official Vietnamese media has gone into hyper-drive in its propaganda campaign to charge that Viet Tan is a terrorist organisation. Since September 2004, as far as I can determine, no members of Viet Tan have been arrested or brought before a court in Vietnam on charges of terrorism or armed subversion. It is also unclear when Vietnamese authorities designated Viet Tan as a terrorist organisation.

The raft of anti-Viet Tan newspaper articles that appeared in the Vietnamese press and media in late March and early April 2007 charging that Viet Tan is a terrorist organisation are based on activities carried out by Viet Tan and the NUFLV prior to September 2004. The historical record indicates that armed subversion directed against the Vietnamese government by the NUFLV-Viet Tan was largely a product of the 1980s and came to an end with the death of Hoang Co Minh.

Vietnam experienced a number of acts of political violence throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Its security forces have also uncovered groups of anti-communist activists allegedly plotting to carry out acts of political violence during the same time period. While there may be personal connections or associations between Viet Tan and the individuals and organisations involved, existing evidence does not provide any substantiation that Viet Tan directed these acts of violence or plots.

Since 9/11 Vietnam has begun to employ the term terrorist in its propaganda. Initially the U.S. Government was put in a difficult position because Vietnam charged that Vietnamese-Americans in the United States were plotting and carrying out 'terrorist acts' against the Vietnamese Government. The Free Vietnam Movement/Government of Free Vietnam has come under scrutiny as a result and it would appear that the FBI and perhaps other agencies are taking steps to curtail and prevent such activity from taking place.

Vietnamese security officials have deliberately conflated all acts of political protest against the Vietnamese state, including peaceful protest and political violence, and labelled it terrorism.

Viet Tan was active in the U.S. in the final quarter of 2006 in lobbying the Bush Administration to raise human rights issues at the APEC Summit in November. A member of Viet Tan addressed the Congressional Human Rights Caucus. Viet Tan also lobbied international donors in November 2006 to link transparency and accountability with their aid programs in Vietnam. In March 2007, Viet Tan organised international rallies to protest the current wave of political repression in Vietnam.

The Viet Tan is not included on the UN list of terrorist organisations.

The Viet Tan maintain a website in multiple languages:


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home