Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Paris Accords anniversary

It was on Jan. 27, 1973 that the Paris Peace Accords to end the Vietnam war was signed. Le Duc Tho and Henry Kissinger were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (Tho refused to accept it) for the treaty. The treaty set up a framework for the peaceful reunification of Vietnam based on internationally supervised elections in the south, which in turn was based on the full enjoyment of democratic liberties; and the deescalation of military conflict between the two sides.

Unfortunately this did not happen. Instead, the subsequent two years marked a buildup of North Vietnamese forces in areas of the south, leading to the final military sweep of April 1975; officially to "enforce" the Paris Accords, but in reality intended to unite the country under one political party and to abolish all independent and opposition groups. The elections never happened, and Vietnam sunk into political totalitarianism and harsh poverty over the next decade.

With the economic reforms begun in 1986 Vietnam has developed into a more prosperous and open society than the first decade of reunification; but serious deprivations of human rights remain, and people are still imprisoned or in other ways persecuted for struggling for the basic human rights that were promised to them in the Paris Accords.

It might be argued that this treaty was actually just a fig leaf for the U.S. to justify its withdrawal and abandonment of a former political ally. Nevertheless, the treaty had created the possibility for a peaceful and democratic reunification of the country, and if it had been implemented milions of Vietnamese would have been spared the misery of re-educations camps, rigged politcal elections, big brother monitoring of their daily lives, political corruption and other problems that arise with the concentration of too much political power in the hands of a few people; along with the risks of death on the high seas for those who fled by boat.


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