Dear Ladies and Gentlemen
This is the first time I have attended the yearly Ancestor Commemoration Day and the National Mourning Day organised together; and because of that, my grief today is more pronounced than in previous years.
It is because the Ancestor Commemoration Day is to commemorate our forefathers for founding and developing our country, and yet today our country is slowly being lost to communist China, and Vietnam’s resources are being given away for free or traded off cheaply. While descendants like us are heavy-hearted on National Mourning Day, impious offspring like the Vietnamese Communist Party are continuing to fervidly squander away Mother Vietnam’s legacy.
Forty years ago, when sitting inside a helicopter flying out to the East Sea on the last morning, even though not being old enough to fully understand the monstrous disaster looming over the South Vietnamese people in particular and the whole of Vietnam in general, I was still old enough to know that this departure would be goodbye forever.
Goodbye forever to 15 years of my youth in freedom and peace under the protection of the soldiers of Republic of Vietnam, and goodbye forever to the Republic of Vietnam. The most painful feeling I had ever felt was to stand there and see the ship we were on being forced to lower the Republic of Vietnam flag and replace it with a USA flag in order to gain permission to enter a Philippine’s port. And I cried because I was fearful from that moment on that I would become a person with no country, and I was greatly distressed for the people who stayed behind, those who were trying to flee unsuccessfully, and most heartbreakingly for our soldiers who were still trying to fight until the last bullets and for our wounded soldiers still lying in the army hospitals. I wondered what would become of them, who would look after them, and who would look after their families.
We all know now what happened to those who stayed behind. The people of South Vietnam had to endure the most brutal and savage revenge in the country’s history by people of the same origin, those who earlier had proclaimed that they were fighting to liberate the South. I still remember the days after the 30th April 1975, when the Party announced that “only the American Empire is the loser. The whole people of Vietnam, including officials and soldiers of South Vietnam, are victors…”, and “our North Vietnamese people, and our blood-related South Vietnamese people will together re-build a powerful and capable Vietnam…”. Many people believed that the Party was sincere in its calling for “peaceful integration and resolution”, but they didn’t know that it was only the Party’s ploy to trick its victims into dutifully submission without any further resistance. After that, hundreds of thousands of those “blood-related South Vietnamese people” were swiftly executed. Several million people were sent to prison and more than a hundred thousand of those later lost their lives in those hard labour prisons called “concentration camps”. Those who were not sent to prison were then persecuted and robbed to their bare bones through a series of currency exchange campaigns and other ruthless operations organised by the government to strip people of their assets. Families were destroyed and dispersed, and many people were exiled to the so-called “new economic areas” where hundreds of thousands more innocent people eventually perished.
What about the North Vietnamese people and army personnel? At first they were astonished at the wealth of the South when faced with the very obvious evidence of a democratic and free society even though it had only been established 20 years earlier. One example being the significant legacy of literature, music and arts of South Vietnam. These people soon changed from being astonished to feeling angry because they then realised they had been deceived by the Party into sacrificing their lives to liberate a South Vietnam that did not need nor want to be liberated. Even worse, they then recognised that in fact they had been sacrificing their lives to plunder the South for the benefit of the Party. Once they were successful, the Party members then divided all the spoils amongst themselves and became red capitalists who frittered away the nation’s resources to enjoy their new lives. And those who in the past diligently made sacrifices for the Party to despoil the country remained poor and miserable, and then suffered the same fate as those innocent South Vietnamese people whose land and farms were taken away by the Party. Most bitter were those who had betrayed the Republic of Vietnam. These were the people who had been eating the rice of the Republic but at the same time worshiping the communist devil, or those eagerly supporting the so-called “The People’s Liberation Armed Forces of South Vietnam”. They thought they would be rewarded generously, but it turned out that they were then betrayed by the Party, and they did not get any share in power nor wealth. Those certificates of appreciation to praise their good work or to express gratitude for their sacrifices were just pieces of worthless paper. When they eventually woke up to that fact it was already too late.
While other Asian nations such as South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, etc. concentrated their efforts in advancing their countries, and bringing their homelands to various levels of prosperity within only a few decades, the Communist Party of Vietnam right from the day they overtook the South took the whole of Vietnam back some 50 years. I still remember after the 30th April 1975, all the commodities of a modern society in South Vietnam such as TV, fridges, telephones, etc. disappeared entirely. Vietnam is an agriculture country yet the people were forced to eat barley and sweet potatoes to substitute for rice. And then the Communist Party of Vietnam continued to serve their Russian master by involving themselves in two more wars with Cambodia and China, wasting a further few hundred thousand young lives, and destroying more of the people’s resources. Because of the actions of that ruthless and savage regime, millions of people had to cross borders, and risk their lives on open seas to flee the country. Based on the United Nation statistics, approximately 900,000 Vietnamese boat people made it to a free country and it was estimated that for each person who made it two others perished on the way to find freedom, which means approximately two million people lost their lives during that period.
Poverty and lack of education often lead to moral corruption, when people resort to any means to escape poverty and are willing to pay the highest price, especially when faced with the wanton and immoral opulence of the governing class displayed daily in front of them. And the social components bearing the heaviest consequences are always the weakest in society, which are the women and children. In the 4,000 years of our civilised history, there has never been a time when countless Vietnamese women and children were exported overseas as sex slaves, nor the distressingly shameful sights of young Vietnamese women lining up naked to be selected by foreign buyers in the same way they buy goods at the market. That is the story of the Vietnamese poor people. What about the story of the rich governing class? Their moral standards are even worse. When you go to a number of Asian countries that attract and receive a lot of Vietnamese tourists, there is nothing more shameful and humiliating than seeing signs written in Vietnamese warning these tourists about the consequences of stealing. One would have thought if someone had enough money to be a tourist then they would not be so poor or hungry enough to do such a risky thing.
How have we become like this? The Vietnamese people have so many times been conquered and exploited by foreign invaders. They have spent thousands of harrowing years under Chinese occupation, eighty years of torturous colonisation by the French, millions of people starved to death by the fascist Japanese, and yet we still maintained some degree of morality, and had never descended to the extreme ignominy like today. Vietnam is now a sovereign state, with the governing Party run by Vietnamese, and yet why has Vietnam been pushed into a dead end like this, why is the situation in Vietnam now even more dismal than when it was taken over by foreigners and why there is such an abysmal difference compared to when it was recognised as the Pearl of the Far East?
The answer is that during the last forty years, the communist government has never put in any effort to develop the country, nor given any attention to the welfare of the people, that’s why. Are they really Vietnamese themselves? Otherwise how come they act as if they were foreign colonisers, only concerned about snatching as much national resources as quickly as possible, disregarding long term damages in activities such as destroying the environment, denuding forests, stripping rare and precious timber, plundering historical heritage relics, etc. Not only do they not look after their own people, they are so depraved that their embassies would not intervene when Vietnamese workers exported to work overseas came to them to seek help when beaten up by foreign employers, nor would they take any action when Vietnamese fishermen were attacked by Chinese naval ships within Vietnamese waters.
And the most appalling and unforgivable crime committed by the Communist Party of Vietnam today is that because of greed and cowardice they have handed over land and sea to communist China in order to be allowed to strengthen their own positions by leaning on China’s power. At least 720 square kilometres of land along the Vietnam north border, including the Nam Quan Border Citadel and Ban Gioc Waterfalls and 10,000 square kilometres of Vietnam’s sea including the rights to harvest marine resources have now fallen into the hands of China, who did not need to use even one bullet. Not to mention the fact that they have allowed China to mine bauxite in the High West regions of Vietnam as well as to lease 300,000 acres of forest in the six northern provinces of Vietnam for 50 years. China is now free to bring its people as well as its army in to establish bases in these areas. In the future, if there is another war between Vietnam and China then the enemy is already within our own territory, and it would be so much more difficult to dislodge them.
Selling off the country, destroying the nation’s resources, extinguishing the patriotic spirit and national pride of the people, exploiting, oppressing, and terrorising the populace. Such an inhumane, barbarous red colonist government and leading party is a colossal disaster for Vietnam, and therefore the Vietnamese living overseas cannot cooperate or peacefully integrate or reach resolutions or do any such thing with them. I would like to take this opportunity to once again remind those who have had, or are having any intention to cooperate with the communist government, of the betraying, dishonest and deceitful nature of the Communist Party of Vietnam. The whole of North Vietnam has been deceived. There have been plenty of articles written by former party members and former officials to rebuke the Party out of resentment. The whole of the South was deceived when the Party pretended to appeal for peaceful integration and resolution in order to facilitate its full scale deadly revenge and to be able to muster millions of military personnel, officials and civilians of the South into prisons, when everyone thought they would be released home after a few days of education. The whole of the People’s Liberation Armed Forces of South Vietnam was deceived. These were the people who had risked and sacrificed their own lives to serve the Party only to have the Party turn around and betray them after they completed their jobs. So what are we, the Vietnamese living overseas, those who used to be condemned and maligned by the Party as criminal whores and pimps for having fled the country? Today, the Party has slyly changed its tune and calls us “the flesh and blood from afar” because it wants to transform us into gullible cows for the Party to milk. The Party calls for peaceful integration and resolution so that we will voluntarily become flunkies helping the Party enact Determination 36 for free. The Party puts up fake opposition leaders in order to play the game “Vietnam has multiple political parties”, to pull the wool over the world’s eyes, and to use those naïve enough to carry out its ploy. Once the Party has achieved its goal then its deceitful nature will reveal itself, and you will also become pitiful lemon pulps having been squeezed dry of juice and discarded by the Party without any hesitation.
We have just reviewed the tragic stories of the people who stayed back and of the country we left behind. What about the story of those who departed?
First of all, I would want to respectfully light incense in my heart for those who lost their lives on the way to find freedom, those who’d rather die than live as though already dead. And us, from being homeless and desolate country-less refugees of the past we have now become confident citizens living in some of the most democratic and free countries in the world. We have quickly overcome the initial economic difficulties and established resilient communities, prosperous commercial centres, multitudes of companies of all sizes owned by Vietnamese. We have been successful in all aspects, from military to science and technology, literature and arts, from Law, Medicine, Dentistry, to the Beauty Industry and Fashion. Our offspring are holding top grades at all levels from kindergartens to universities. While the Vietnamese people living in Vietnam feel shameful when going overseas and are being warned not to steal, we, the Vietnamese-Canadians, Vietnamese-Australians, Vietnamese-Americans, etc., are praised and respected wherever we go because of our significant successes and contributions to our new countries. This fact convincingly proves that if the Vietnamese living in Vietnam had the same conditions and opportunities as the Vietnamese living overseas then they could also build a prosperous life and a flourishing nation. Indeed it demonstrates that the governing Communist Party and red colonist gang in Vietnam are the factors hindering the development of the country and happiness of the people.
In the last forty years, the Vietnamese people living overseas have re-built their lives in their new countries. At the same time, we have continued upholding the righteous principles of the Republic, and kept on campaigning tirelessly for the 80 million people in the country, as well as critically condemning those hideous crimes committed by the Vietnamese Communists against the nation and the population. Please allow me to list out a few examples.
One example is in the late 70’s, when most of the refugees were still struggling to adapt and integrate into the new life, many worked two or three jobs at the same time in order to save enough money to send some back to Vietnam, others studied day and night trying to catch up with colleagues. However we still found spare time from working and studying to attend demonstrations campaigning for the Vietnamese boat people not to be pushed back out to the sea, to condemn the pirates for robbing and killing people on the East Sea, and to seek help from the United Nations Refugee Committee. I recall that back then my parents were very strict, and it was not at all easy for me to ask their permission to go out. Yet when I asked them if I might attend a hunger strike in front of the Malaysian embassy or to stay away from home overnight on a 30th of April for a Motherland Commemorating Sleepless Night, they granted permission to their daughter immediately without any question.
Another example is the campaign through a humanity program, abbreviated as HO, for former prisoners previously incarcerated by the communist regime to be sent to the US. The person who initiated and put most of the effort into this program was Ms Khuc Minh Tho. Without program HO, the number of prisoners dying within a few years after release would have been much greater. This was because they were tortured and mistreated in prison, and were forced to do extremely hard labour at the same as being starved continuously for months or years so that their bodies had become excessively weakened. After release, if they could drag themselves back to the family, they would also bring back hundreds of illnesses inside them.
Another example is about flying the yellow flag. Forty years ago there were organisations that would not fly nor salute the yellow flag at social events of the overseas Vietnamese. This was because they had adopted a non-political stance. We had to conduct a lot of heart to heart discussions before we could convince them to fly and salute the yellow flag. Compared to today, not only are we now able to convince our own people but can also convince other peoples. I want to mention the fact that all the cities and states of the US with big populations of Vietnamese have one by one recognised the yellow flag as a representation of Americans with Vietnamese origin. Because of that, our beloved yellow flag is flying proudly everywhere overseas and the Communist embassies cannot do a thing about that. Indeed the communities of our Republic Vietnamese have advanced by a huge leap. And one of the leading proponents in this persistent campaign was Ms Lu Anh Thu, a good friend and a comrade of mine. In a few moments, Ms Lu Anh Thu will talk more about the successes achieved by overseas Vietnamese youth during the last forty years.
Another significant success is the campaign to repay debts to the former soldiers. There have been efforts to raise funds to help former soldiers wounded in the line of duty and who had become disabled, as well as war widows and orphans of the Republic of Vietnam. Small communities put in small efforts, big communities put in big efforts. At places with high populations of Vietnamese such as California in the US, every year a great concert titled Thank You is organised with hundreds of artists performing outdoor from midday to evening, with more than 10 thousand tickets sold and the contributions always exceed more than half a million dollars.
We have been reviewing two stories, the tragic story of people who stayed behind and the proud story of people who left the country. With this background, the biggest question is what do the overseas Vietnamese need to do for the future of their people. And the future of a people always lies in the hands of its young generation. So the more accurate question is what do we need to do to encourage overseas youth to assist the youth living within Vietnam to protect the motherland and to continue fighting for freedom and human rights? Indeed, apart from helping your own offspring to prepare for their futures, we parents also need to help build a new generation for the future of the Vietnamese people.
Is this task a fantasy, when Vietnam is about to be lost to the hands of China? The answer is no, it is not a fantasy. Just look back at the whole length of our history. Vietnam was once occupied by China for a thousand years and yet over tens of generations one after another, the Vietnamese maintained an unwavering patriotic spirit and unyielding determination until the time we could eventually regain our independence. It was because our ancestors continually put effort into keeping that patriotic spirit alive within their offspring. Because of that, we are always mindful that we are Vietnamese and we are proud that we are Vietnamese, even if our civilisation has been appropriated by invaders to become theirs, even if our history has been eroded or distorted, even if our culture has been diluted in an attempt to destroy our national pride and to assimilate us into becoming Chinese. With these exemplary achievement by our forefathers, as long as we continue to put effort into keeping the patriotic fire burning within our offspring then we need have no fear of losing our country, and even if the country is lost we will still be able to reclaim it once the right time comes again.
If the question is that in the eyes of the Vietnamese youth living overseas, are these efforts to keep the patriotic fire burning realistic considering our offspring are born and grow up here, then the answer is that it may be difficult but it is not impossible. For the first time in our history, we have had to leave our motherland one after another because we did not accept communism. However we are not the only people being spread out everywhere over the whole free world. Take the people of Israel as an example. They have been nomadic everywhere yet they still haven’t lost their Israelite soul, and at the end they achieved the seemingly impossible task of convincing the whole world to allow them to have a country of their own. Today, they have taken advantage of their political and economic influence overseas to actively support the freedom and existence of their people living within Israel. If the people of Israel could do that then why can’t we? If generations of our offspring become prominent politicians, economists or business specialists, and always maintain their Vietnamese spirit, then regardless of where they were born and grow up, they will still naturally care for the country and the people of Vietnam.
I would also take this opportunity to express a very serious concern, not only from myself but from all of us, about the corruption of the Vietnamese spirit occurring within the country. We are a people with a heroic history and a rich civilisation, from the brass drum to the ancestor worship culture and the provincial self-administrative systems even within feudal times. Today, wanting to gain favour with China, the communist government has secretly deleted those valorous history pages of our resistance against China. Just last year, the government ordered to discontinue important commemoration days at the national level such as the Two Trung Ladies commemorating ceremony, and only allowed people to conduct the ceremony at the local district where the Two Ladies temple is located. Even more dangerous is that our cultural reasonings are now all borrowed from China, and there is a tendency to search outside our own country, the inclination to favour things of other people and to look down on our own. We will surely lose our country when we ourselves have lost our national spirit. Even though we still have our land and our seas but we lose our culture, our history, our national pride, and we replace them with a slavery outlook assimilated from China, then it is as if we had already lost our country. If we cannot keep our motherland inside ourselves then how can we keep our motherland outside us?
In this situation, the need to educate the Vietnamese youth in order to activate their national pride has become urgent. The first step is to teach our offspring a thorough and accurate history of Vietnam, and the heroes and heroines of our people. It is difficult that we parents do not have documents readily available for this purpose. Furthermore, if we want to target the overseas youth then we need to compile these documents in English, French, etc. In order to create a campaign of studying history within the young generation, we need to have concise and succinct articles to summarise important milestones in our history, and at the same time focus on the most valiant periods in history as well as mentioning as often as we can our heroic young Vietnamese of all generations. When talking about them, we need to emphasise their ages and their backgrounds, for example Hoai Van Hau Tran Quoc Toan who, when only 16 years old, had already led an army against the Mongolian raiders and distinguished himself in victory on many occasions.. Ly Dong A when only 15 years old had already joined the revolutionist Phan Boi Chau and when 22 years old became founder and general secretary of the Dai Viet Duy Dan Dang (The People of Great Viet Revolutionary Party) to fight against the French. Truong Tu Anh founded Dai Viet Quoc Dan Dang (The Great Viet National People Party) when he was only 25 years of age. Nguyen Thai Hoc also founded Viet Nam Quoc Dan Dang (Vietnam National People Party) at the age of 25.
In parallel to teaching history, we also need to equip our children with a basic understanding of Vietnamese culture, especially our quintessential traditional culture. We have to know what is ours, especially our good and beautiful characteristics before paying attention to learn and compare with other people’s good and beautiful characteristics. Then we will be able to choose wisely to advance ourselves and at the same time still maintain our representative features and our national pride. Then we will not be afraid of being transformed into Chinese, and afraid of losing our Vietnamese spirits. Then we can maintain firmly the Vietnam inside us to protect the Vietnam outside us.
Refugees and immigrants of the first generation always had to worry about finding food and clothes and a stable life. We have now completed those first steps and have established prosperous Vietnamese communities within many modern countries. Our children are leading in schools and progressing well with their careers.
Now is the time for us to realise the next step, which is pushing the Vietnamese youth into a process of re-building and advancing national spirits. In other words, having pulled ourselves together after being forced to leave our motherland, we now need to take the next step which is to nurture our own soul, especially considering the existing situation in Vietnam. I respectfully call for a joint effort from scholars and historians inside and outside the country regarding this rather urgent matter. We already have many organisations for the purpose of socialising, mutual assistance, and charity. This is the time we need to grow many more organisations (like mushrooms) to research our Vietnamese history, origin, culture, and custom.
My conclusion here is dedicated to the Vietnamese youth, and I am borrowing a book title of the late writer Duyen Anh which is “Dream of Becoming a Quang Trung”, one of the greatest heroes fighting against the Chinese aggressors in the history of Vietnam. Yes, all of us please dream of becoming a Quang Trung, and please become a Quang Trung.
Dương Nguyệt Ánh
Nguyễn Nhân Trí dịch qua Anh ngữ
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