Vol. 21, No. 3
July - September 2005
Juillet - Septembre 2005
Vietnamese Canadian Federation Fédération vietnamienne du Canada
Vietnamese Canadian Federation
Fédération vietnamienne du Canada FEDERATION NEWS
249 Rochester Street, Ottawa, ON K1R 7M9, Canada
Tel: (613) 230-8282, Fax: 230-8281
Website: http://www.vietfederation.ca Helping Victims of the Katrina Hurricane
Em ail: email@example.com
Council of Presidents In an effort to alleviate th eplight of the
Representa tive: Dr. Ho V . Thua, Toro nto victims of the Katrina Hurricane in Southern
Deputy Representa tive: M r. Nha V . Tran, Sherbro oke
U.S. in August, the Vietnamese Canadian
Advisory Com mittee: Dr. Uyen Tu, Montréal Federation urged its member associations
Mr. Diep V. Trinh, Ottawa across Canada to make contributions in a
fund-raising campaign initiated for this
Executive Comm ittee
President: M r. Ut V. Ngo, Edmonton purpose.
Vice-President: Mr. Danh T. Nguyen, Ottawa
Treasurer: Mr. Thuong Q. Duong, Ottawa
Below is the Press Release issued by the
Internal Auditors Federation.
M r. Binh N. Tran, Vancouver
M r. Hung Tran, Halifax
Aud itor: M s. Brigitte Bonneville, Ottawa
Helping Katrina Victims
Com m issioners
External Affairs: Dr. Can D. Le, Ottawa
Cultural Affairs: Dr. Tung N. Pham, Ottawa Responding to the appeal of the Boat People
Social Affairs: Ms. Thanh Dung T. Nguyen, Ottawa SOS Committee in the U.S. (BPSOS), the
Finances: Ms. Thanh Hoai T. Nguyen, CA Vietnamese Canadian Federation is calling
upon its member associations and other
Vietnam ese Canadian Centre:
M r. Tri Q. Le, Ottawa , General Manag er
Vietnamese organizations in Canada to
M r. Phu Dang, Ottaw a, Treasurer contribute to the efforts currently undertaken
M r. Tue Huy Ngu yen, Memb er, Board of Directors by this organization in providing urgent help
to the victims of the hurricane Katrina in
Office C oordinator: Ms. Thi M. Nguyen, Ottawa southern U.S.A.
Vietn am ese B ulletin vietnamien, Vol. 21 , No.3 1
According to BPSOS, among the victims of settled in the familiar climate of the Gulf
this calamity, there are thousands of Coast region after the upheaval of two wars
Vietnamese - - many of whom don’t speak in their homeland. Hurricane Katrina
English - - who lost all their assets and uprooted them again at the third mass
documents and are having difficulties in evacuation in a collective memory of loss.
applying for government assistance. Quan Hong Huyn first learned what it meant
Consequently, the BPSOS office in Houston, to lose a home and escape near-certain
TX, with the support of its headquarters in destruction when he was sent to a "re-
Virginia, has organized teams of volunteers education" camp in his native Vietnam in
to help these victims. 1975 and when he fled to the United States
In the spirit of “helping one another in times
of need”, the Federation urges all members of "We have experience about escape, about
the Vietnamese community in Canada to evacuation," Huynh, 55, said outside the
contribute to BPSOS’ efforts in alleviating Houston church where he was among
the plight of the victims of this horrendous hundreds of Vietnamese-Americans being
natural disaster. sheltered. Their homes 300 miles to the east
were damaged or destroyed.
Please send your donations to the Vietnamese Vietnam's history is marked by two
Canadian Centre, a registered charity of the milestone evacuations when millions were
Federation, at the following address, for uprooted at first by the war against the
forwarding to BPSOS: French that ended in 1954 and then in the
Vietnamese Canadian Centre Because of Katrina, about half of Louisiana's
Vietnamese population of 30,000 have taken
249 Rochester Street, Ottawa, ON K1R 7M9. refuge in Houston, already the adopted home
to one of the largest groups from the
Southeast Asian country. Others from as far
All contributions over $5.00 will be issued a away as Mississippi and its devastated
receipt for income tax purposes. shrimping community also may be coming
-30- Most were staying at church shelters in
Houston or with friends or relatives, and
For immediate release: September 8, 2005 most appeared to have heeded the early
Tel. (613) 230-8282 warnings to leave before Katrina hit.
"We thought when we evacuated it would be
MEDIA REVIEW like before, a couple days and back," said
Liem Le, 39, a manager at a Kenner, La.,
Katrina has uprooted Vietnamese people plant that manufactures plastic bags.
Along with his wife and four children, they
By MICHAEL GRACZYK, Associated Press
packed only a few pieces of clothing for
Writer Mon Sep 5, 3:56 PM ET
what they thought would be a short trip.
"Now we don't have anything," said Le, who
HOUSTON - Thousands of Vietnamese
Vietn am ese B ulletin vietnamien, Vol. 21 , No.3 2
came to the United States in 1980. "We don't "It's very different," said Sister Bernadette
know what to do." Nguyen. "But this was an opportunity for us
They spotted their house on television. The to serve our people in a very tangible way."
water was up to the roof.
Huynh, president of the Vietnamese In Mississippi, where like in Texas many
American Community in Louisiana, sent his Vietnamese work the gulf for shrimp, 13-
wife and three children to Houston in year-old Nick Luong told of how his family
advance of the storm while he stayed behind lost their home in Biloxi but saved their
"to help my people." He learned before he boat. It's where they rode out Katrina,
fled that only the tip of his roof remained moored hours away, and where they sleep
above the rising waters. now.
"It looked like bombs from a B-52," he said, "We may have lost everything, but we're
describing the damage he saw from Katrina. going to rebuild everything," the boy said,
For 39-year-old Peter Hoang, confined to a speaking for his father, Non, who came to
Mississippi about seven years ago and
shelter with his wife and five children, it was
speaks no English.
the second time he has been a refugee: "The
first one was from the war."
We'll probably go to Texas or something,"
"The war was worse," he added. "But this Nick said. "We'll go for a couple months or
was like the war. When you watch people on so, 'til we can rebuild a couple of houses so
TV killing, looting." we can live there. Then we can build more."
Texas has about 134,000 Vietnamese, second The family of Viet Thu Linh, 55, wasn't as
most behind California, according to U.S. fortunate. Linh has lived in Biloxi since he
Census figures, which put the total was 5 and now works at an oyster plant. His
Vietnamese-American population at around son has a fleet of fishing boats. He believes
1.2 million. all six sank.
A Houston shopping mall that caters to Linh and his dog survived the storm and now
Vietnamese is serving as a staging area for sleep in the rubble of what was once a large
many refugees, who started showing up a home just steps from Biloxi Bay. He has
week ago to find an air conditioned haven. food, water, a hammock and a chair, but not
That drew the attention of Radio Saigon much else except resolve.
Houston, a Vietnamese station, that began
organizing some of the relief efforts. "I build again," he promised.
"People wanted to help," said Thuy Vu, one
The Long Road Home
of station owners.
By Daisy Nguyen, The Associated Press
About 200 Vietnamese were at St.
Catherine's Catholic convent, normally home Published: September 30, 2005
to 50 Vietnamese Dominican nuns, where a ANAHEIM, Calif. —Sanh Nguyen and his
gym-sized hall reserved for prayer on family had packed everything from their past
Sundays is filled for the first time in its 20- life in just a few bags.
year history with chatter and children's
laughter. What they received when they arrived in
Southern California instantly became their
Vietn am ese B ulletin vietnamien, Vol. 21 , No.3 3
most prized possession. No country was eager to take them. Nguyen
It’s called an I-94, the government form that said his family had little luck in interviews
proves they came here legally and the ticket with immigration officials from several
to obtaining a green card next year. It’s also Western countries because their Vietnamese
the first document they’ve possessed in 16 translators, also refugees, couldn’t clearly
years proving they belong anywhere at all. convey their story.
Sanh, his wife and teenage daughter were So they lingered in the camp with several
among 229 stateless refugees from Vietnam thousand fellow refugees, sharing tight
who finally landed in the United States after a quarters and living on less than a quarter
journey that began when they fled the pound of meat, plus rice, per day.
communist nation by boat, hoping to follow Sanh’s wife, Nhi, gave birth to their
hundreds of thousands of other Vietnamese daughter, Truc, but was too weak to feed the
who immigrated to the United States. Due to girl. They spent the little money they had on
a quirk of timing, their journey would require powdered milk. When the money finally ran
years in a refugee camp in the Philippines. out, they gave her sugared water.
“For so many years we tried to get out, it’s “She always cried,” Nhi, 42, recalled. “It
hard to believe we are here,” Sanh, 44, said was very difficult, very painful to see that
Wednesday, his second day after arriving at and not be able to do anything.”
Los Angeles International Airport.
They lived this way until 1996, after the
The detour began June 6, 1989, when Sanh United Nations cut funding for Vietnamese
and his wife, then 4 months pregnant, arrived camps throughout Asia and some countries
on Palawan Island in the Philippines after began forcible repatriation back to Vietnam,
seven days at sea with 45 other refugees. a policy greeted by hunger strikes and
They made it, he said, after several failed rioting.
escape attempts _ one of which cost him two
years in jail. The Philippines closed the camp where the
Nguyens were staying, but then-President
“When you’re an ex-convict in Vietnam, it’s Fidel Ramos let the remaining Vietnamese
very tough to make a living because no one stay indefinitely under the supervision of the
wants to have anything to do with you, so we Roman Catholic Church, though they were
had to leave for the sake of our family’s not given residency status or legal rights.
future,” he said.
The Nguyens moved to an island southeast
They soon learned that they had arrived at the of Manila, where they carved out a black-
camp three months too late. market living selling perfume, flip flops and
In March 1989, 14 years after communists other sundries _ work they could not legally
completed their takeover of Vietnam, the do.
United Nations stopped recognizing “After a certain time, of course I thought
Vietnamese as political refugees, saying most there’s no other way out, it’s over, the world
were leaving Vietnam for economic reasons. has forgotten us,” Sanh said.
The thousands who remained in refugee
camps throughout Asia had to apply for But it was around that time that activists
asylum in various countries and undergo began rallying behind the Vietnamese boat
rigorous screening. people stuck in the Philippines. Some
Western-educated Vietnamese lawyers took
Vietn am ese B ulletin vietnamien, Vol. 21 , No.3 4
up their cases and lobbied the governments of people here ready to help you find a job,”
their adopted countries. Nghia Trung Huynh, 68, told them. “If you
Small numbers of stateless refugees were want to learn English, sign up for our ESL
resettled in nations including Australia over
the years, but the largest number were The Nguyens appeared overwhelmed.
granted asylum last year after the United “There’s much to learn about American
States adopted a generous interpretation of culture,” Nhi said. “Everything is new.”
refugee laws to qualify 1,855 Vietnamese in
the Philippines for resettlement. Huynh, who has helped resettle refugees for
22 years, said he expects the Nguyens and
Last Monday, the Nguyens were among the
the other refugees to become self-sufficient
first batch arriving on a chartered flight from quickly _ they’ve learned how to survive
Manila to Los Angeles. with much less.
Their arrival was a “triumph” for the “When I think about what they went
Vietnamese overseas community everywhere, through, I get very emotional,” Huynh said,
according to Lan Quoc Nguyen, director of his eyes welling.
the California-based Legal Assistance for
Vietnamese Asylum Seekers. “I was stuck in a camp for eight months and
have painful memories of that time.
“Their arrival marks the beginning of the end
Everyday I wondered ‘When will I get out?’”
of our 30-year saga as boat people,” the he said. “They had to ask that question for
lawyer said. 16 years."
They were greeted at the airport by friends,
relatives and supporters who burst into wild Vietnamese Immigrants Give $1
cheers. Amid the chaos, the Nguyen family Million to College
· Donation by developer, restaurateur
They’re now staying temporarily in an bolsters Little Saigon's growing sense of
Anaheim apartment with friends who once philanthropy.
lived in the same refugee camp but made it
here four years ago.
By Mai Tran, Times Staff Writer
On their first day they toured Little Saigon,
the Orange County enclave that’s home to the A pair of immigrant businessmen announced
largest Vietnamese population outside of Monday that they would give $1 million to a
Vietnam. community college campus near Orange
“I can’t get over the fact that you can walk County's Little Saigon, a gift experts say
entire blocks and see only signs in underscores the growing level of
Vietnamese,” Nhi marveled. philanthropy in the Vietnamese community.
Sanh was surprised to find herbs he hadn’t The campus, near Westminster City Hall and
seen since he boarded that boat 16 years ago. a statue that honors American and South
On their second day, an Episcopal church Vietnamese soldiers, will be named for
employee showed the couple how to apply benefactors restaurateur Chieu Le and
for welfare and housing. developer Frank Jao.
“If you want to work right away, we have
Vietn am ese B ulletin vietnamien, Vol. 21 , No.3 5
pay forward after they have made it," said
Some observers see the donation to Coastline Ding-Jo H. Currie, president of Coastline.
Community College as a sign of a maturing
in Orange County's Vietnamese community, Coastline offers classes throughout Orange
which was formed by refuges in the 1970s at County in rented offices, industrial parks and
the end of the Vietnam War. several small satellite campuses. Many
classes are aimed at fundamental vocational
The Vietnamese have a record of helping in training, an educational staple that intrigued
emergencies, such as Hurricane Katrina and Le and Jao.
last year's devastating Indian Ocean tsunami.
But individual acts of philanthropy on such a Jao, who has prospered as a developer, took
large scale are still considered relatively rare, real estate classes through Coastline. Le,
said Thu-huong Nguyen-vo, an assistant who owns a restaurant chain, started as a
professor at UCLA's Department of Asian catering truck employee in San Jose.
Le and his wife, Yen, immigrated to San
"We haven't had a long time to accumulate Jose in 1980. As a college student studying
enough wealth in the United States in order to English, he bought lunch from a catering
do a lot of philanthropic work," said Nguyen- truck and eventually took a job as a helper
vo. "We're not a rich community, but on the truck. In 1981, he bought his own
cumulatively, it has been huge." catering truck, gradually expanding his
business until he and his brother operated a
Others believe the college donation is the fleet of nearly 500 catering trucks that served
beginning of a greater philanthropic effort in Vietnamese sandwiches known as banh mi.
Little Saigon, home to the largest Vietnamese
population outside of Vietnam. Le and his wife later opened a sandwich
shop in San Jose, Lee's Sandwiches — a
"As the community establishes itself in the name they believed would be an easier sell
United States, the leadership becomes more in America. They now own 25 shops in
philanthropic," said Jeffrey H. Brody, a Cal California and Arizona.
State Fullerton professor who teaches about
the Vietnamese American experience. Le and "This is an opportunity to benefit the
Jao "are spearheading that effort." community for years to come. We are so
proud to do a little something," said Yen Le.
The Le-Jao Center will open next month. The "We worked hard to achieve the American
donation will help fund a variety of dream, and we just wanted to give back."
programs, from biotechnology to English-as-
a-second-language courses. The $11-million For Frank Jao and his wife, Catherine, the
facility, financed and operated by Coastline, donation was more personal. The Jaos
will include 21 classrooms, three computer immigrated to the United States in 1975 and
labs and a science lab. stayed at Camp Pendleton.
"They are role models, not only for our Jao was a door-to-door vacuum salesman but
students, many of whom are immigrants eventually took real estate classes at
themselves starting new lives here, but also Coastline in the mid-1970s. He now owns
for those who understand what it means to Bridgecreek Group Inc., a real estate
Vietn am ese B ulletin vietnamien, Vol. 21 , No.3 6
company responsible for building the Asian 1995.
Garden Mall, a cultural and commercial
landmark in Little Saigon. He is also a In the 50’s and 60’s South Vietnam was
member of the Board of Trustees at Coastline. c o n s i d e r e d b y su ccessive U.S.
administrations -- from Eisenhower to
At a news conference Monday, the two Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon – as the last
families shook hands and had pictures taken line of defense against the spread of
next to a rendering of the 33,000-square-foot Communism in Southeast Asia. Still, partly
college facility to be named for them. due to Nixon’s preoccupation with the
Watergate affair which eventually forced
"Thirty years ago, this country gave us an him to step down in 1974, and partly due to
opportunity of new hope. The county gave us mounting domestic pressure, the Americans
a new home. Westminster has given us a new finally lost the will to support its ally and
chance to build a new life," Jao said. "We South Vietnam fell the following year.
went into a joint venture to give back to the
very community that has given us what we China and the former Soviet Union were
have today." North Vietnam’s strongest allies in during
the Vietnam War. Yet, in 1979, China
But he acknowledged that it was not enough. invaded several Vietnamese northern
provinces “to teach Vietnam a lesson” for
"We hope this gift would encourage and sending its own soldiers to Kampuchea to
inspire others in the community," Jao said. overthrow the murderous Pol Pot regime.
The disintegration of the Soviet Union, and
COMMENTARY the fall of Communism throughout Eastern
Europe in 1989 forced Vietnam to rely on
China as its last ideological lifeboat.
Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Van However, this hasn’t been easy.
Khai’s visit to the U.S. and Canada:
in search of a new strategy ? According to the memoirs of Tran Quang
Co, a former Deputy Minister of External
by Can D. Le Affairs of Vietnam, Pham Van Dong -- the
late and longest-serving Prime Minister of
Prime Minister Phan Van Khai of Communist Vietnam -- once said at a
Communist Vietnam is visiting the U.S. and meeting of its Politburo in 1990: “After
Canada this month. His trip takes place thousands of years, China is still China, we
against the backdrop of a country in search of shouldn’t be gullible. We should probe and
a new strategic alignment, and ideas to push, but should beware and avoid
develop an emerging economy with all its miscalculations”.
teething pains and associated socials ills.
Given its precarious position, Vietnam
On the political side, Khai’s visit to the U.S. doesn’t dare to upset China. Still, this
is a historical political event, since the U.S. -- obedient policy isn’t always sufficient. In
together with its South Vietnamese ally -- and 1999, under China’s pressure, Le Kha Phieu,
Communist North Vietnam were at war until General Secretary of the Communist Party of
1975, and only normalized their relations in Vietnam (CPV), signed a secret agreement
Vietn am ese B ulletin vietnamien, Vol. 21 , No.3 7
to concede large tracts of Vietnam’s land and performance is also very poor on freedom of
sea, including the historical Nam Quan Pass the press (100th); irregular payments
(Ai Nam Quan) and the Ban Gioc Falls at the (meaning bribery) in loan applications
border. (102nd), in exports and imports (100th), and
in tax collection (97th).
Despite being officially described as
Vietnam’s “best ally”, China doesn’t hesitate On the social side, the situation is not much
to take better. The United Nations’ Human
matters in its own hands when dealing with Development index, which focuses on three
Vietnam. On January 9, 2005, Chinese navy dimensions of human development -- living
police opened fire on two Vietnamese fishing a long and healthy life, being educated, and
boats in the Gulf of Tonkin, killing nine having a decent standard of living – places
Vietnamese fishermen, wounding seven, and Vietnam 112th out of 177 countries in 2002.
detaining eight other for alleged “piracy”. Vietnam’s neighbours ranks much higher,
All the detained fishermen were eventually for example, Malaysia at 59th, Thailand at
found not guilty by Chinese authorities and 76th. Transparency International, a non-
allowed to return home. The Vietnamese profit organization which tracks corruption
government only produced a meek protest in around the world placed Vietnam 75th out of
response. 91 countries in 2001, in the same league as
Zambia, and worse than Zimbabwe,
Prior to Khai’s trip to the U.S. and Canada, Romania, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan.
he has visited Australia. Among his
colleagues in Vietnam’s ruling triumvirate, The serious problems faced by Vietnam are
State President Tran Duc Luong has also well known. A candid assessment was
gone to China, and CPV’s General Secretary recently provided by Le Dang Doanh, an
Nong Duc Manh, to France. The purpose of economic adviser to a succession of
these trips is either to get ideas for a strategic Vietnamese Communist leaders, including
re-alignment or to allay the fear that China the late Prime Minister Pham Van Dong and
and France may have for a possible former General Secretary Nguyen Van Linh.
rapprochement between Vietnam and the In a secret 32-page briefing to a top-secret
U.S. meeting of Party leaders on November 2,
2004, he admitted that the current
While the political posturing is going on, Communist regime is unable to find
Vietnam has to struggle with its own solutions to the fundamental and long-term
economic and social problems. problems faced by the people and the
country. He pointed out the most serious
On the economic front, with an annual per flaws of this regime: it is controlled by the
capita Gross National Income of around Communist Party of Vietnam, it is
US$480 (2003), Vietnam has a lot to catch up authoritarian, and it is undemocratic.
with other countries. According to the
Global Competitiveness Report of 2004- The above bleak picture doesn’t do justice to
2005, Vietnam ranks 77th in terms of global Vietnam’s potential, with its vast natural
competitiveness index out of 104 countries resources, fertile land, industrious people,
assessed. But this overall ranking doesn’t tell young workforce, and high literacy rate.
the whole story. Other indices reveal a more This “performance gap” is due many
disturbing picture. For example, Vietnam’s reasons, including: the lack of dynamics in
Vietn am ese B ulletin vietnamien, Vol. 21 , No.3 8
the political system in which the Communist June 2005
Party of Vietnam has the sole and supreme
power in the country and no political BOOK REVIEW
opposition is tolerated; lack of mutual trust
between the government and the people; non- A book non-Vietnamese speaking
existent freedom of the press; a burdensome Americans of Vietnamese descent should
and secret bureaucracy; a weak governance read:
structure with a cumbersome legal system
and a lack of transparency in the application WHENCE…WHITHER…
of the laws; and rampant corruption. It’s no VIETNAM?
wonder that this environment is not A New Assessment of Vietnam’s
conducive to innovation and the traditional Predicament
entrepreneurial spirit of the Vietnamese
people is prevented from having its fullest Author: Nguyen Gia Kieng. Translator:
impact on the economy. Nguyen Ngoc Phach
Reviewer: Ton That Thien
Much progress has been made since the
adoption of the “Reform” (Doi moi) policy in Canh Nam Publishing House, Arlington, Va,
the 80’s, but by far the real benefactors have USA, 2005, 336 pages1
been the Party’s elite who are able to amass
tremendous wealth while the majority of the It is a well known fact that most, if not all,
population is still condemned to abject young Americans of Vietnamese descent,
poverty. The gap between the rich and the born or grown up in America, have
poor is widening and this can’t go on for experienced animated debates with their
long. In fact, it has resulted in social unrest parents on the subjects of anti-communism,
in several places such as the Thai Binh preservation of Vietnamese “fine customs”
Province in the Red River delta and some and “traditional values”, and what kind of
northwestern provinces. This is a time bomb government system would be best for
that the government just can’t ignore. Vietnam.
In the above context, Vietnam needs a lot of Quite often, the debates turned into angry
help to improve its political and economic altercations. Usually, the children did not
systems. Canada and the U.S. -- with the share the visceral, unconditional, anti-
largest overseas Vietnamese communities in communism of their parents, paid little
the world, including many young attention to their persistent exhortations to
professionals in all major fields -- can do everything possible to overthrow the
certainly provide resources and expertise in present Hanoi regime, and failed to
this endeavour. It remains to be seen whether understand their repeated calls for the
there’s the political will within the current preservation of Vietnam’s “fine customs”
Vietnamese Communist leadership to take and “traditional values” in a modern
bold steps to make Vietnam a free, American environment. As regards the best
democratic, and prosperous country in the system of government for Vietnam, it is the
21st century. parents’ fear of too much democracy and
____________________________ their unbending insistence on the exclusion
Can D. Le is a past President of the of communists, against the rejection of such
Vietnamese Canadian Federation a view by their children.
Vietn am ese B ulletin vietnamien, Vol. 21 , No.3 9
It is natural that the children should seek to Vietnamese . But there was no book written
understand the reasons which had led their in English by a Vietnamese dealing with the
parents to hold such strange views. On the above kinds of problems, and in the novel
other hand, they acutely realized that they manner described.
knew little, if anything, about their country of
origin, and felt the need to remedy this The situation was thus blocked.
situation. But in this, they were greatly
handicapped by their inability to read But no more.
Vietnamese. They naturally had to read books
on Vietnam written in English. Non-Vietnamese speaking young Americans
now have at their disposal a book written by
Here, there was another great handicap: most, a Vietnamese, but available in English,
if not all, the books on Vietnam in English though in translation, which deals precisely
were written by American journalists, with the kind of questions which have
academics, or politicians, and they were agitated their minds over the years. The book
essentially military and political analyses of is Whence…Whither…Vietnam? It is by
the war, with focus on America. Furthermore, no accident that the book carries the sub-
American writers, in their majority, were title: A NEW Assessment of Vietnam’s
sympathetic to the communist side, and put Predicament.
the blame on what went wrong on the anti-
communist – their parents’ – side. Obviously, Whence…Whither… Vietnam? is the English
truth and balance of views did not obtain. translation of To Quoc An Nan
The Vietnamese side of the story was not (Remorseful/repentant Faherland), a book in
told. Yet, the failure in Vietnam was also a Vietnamese written by Nguyen Gia Kieng,
failure of Vietnam, and the Vietnamese and translated into English by Nguyen Ngoc
wanted to know where and why Vietnam had Phach.
failed, and not only before 1975, but more
particularly since then, under communist Kieng is an engineer graduated from the
unfettered rule. French prestigious Ecole Centrale, now
living in Paris. Nguyen Ngoc Phach is a
To ensure balance and reliability, one would journalist as well as professor (of languages)
need a book dealing with the Vietnamese side and translator now settled in Australia.
of the story, based on serious researches,
exploring the subject in depth, and explaining The book seeks to answer the question: why
Vietnam’s failure in terms of Vietnamese Communism has conquered Vietnam with
endogenous factors, especially bringing into such great ease, and why Vietnam has
play the whole gamut of Vietnam’s historical, consistently failed to become a free society
political, social, cultural and psychological and achieve economic development, and the
backgrounds, and covering the whole span of Vietnamese had to constantly suffer
Vietnam’s history, past and present; in other oppression and poverty. It uncovers the
words, a study broader in scope, more connections between Vietnam’s cultural
searching, using a new approach. heritage and its sorry state. It shows that the
weight of Vietnam’s heritage is very heavy
The natural thing for non-Vietnamese and inhibitive, and that an effective
speaking young Americans to do would be to reconstruction of Vietnam must begin with a
turn to books written in English by full reassessment of its cultural values
Vietn am ese B ulletin vietnamien, Vol. 21 , No.3 10
leading to changes of certain of them to allow 2/ They will acquire an extensive knowledge
Vietnamese society to modernize itself in of Vietnam’s history, politics, society,
order to move forward and achieve freedom economy, culture, at very little cost in terms
and prosperity. of time and effort, the book being the result
of extensive researches and meditations by
In the process of elaborating on his main Nguyen Gia Kieng, and reading it will spare
thesis, Kieng has been led to discuss the them the trouble of searching for relevant
major problems of Vietnam – lack of material in libraries.
freedom and democracy as well as economic
development -- , against the cultural 3/ The readers who are particularly
background of Vietnamese society, and the interested in the problems of political and
various options available in the world, past social changes, and economic development,
and present. After studying the cases of the will find a frame, as well as the concepts and
various countries which have achieved terminology for thinking about those
spectacular success, as well as those which problems.
have failed, he came to the very firm
conclusion that freedom and democracy are 4/ The last benefit derivable from this book
the preconditions, and not the consequences, is a really unexpected one: it can be used as
of economic development, and that pluralistic a perfect textbook for the study of
democracy is the system of government the Vietnamese or English. Taken together,
Vietnamese should adopt if it they want to Whence…Whither…Vietnam? and the
achieve modernization to move forward and Vietnamese original To Quoc An Nan2
get the freedom and prosperity to which they would make an ideal bilingual textbook:
are entitled as hardworking and intelligent those learning English can use the WWV as
people. This should be done democratically, a reader and TQAN as control book, and
through national reconciliation, and non- those learning Vietnamese can use TQAN as
violence. reader and WWV as control book. This
would be a very good arrangement, as the
Those who are interested in development, translation is very accurate, and the English
especially in the economic development, or used is of very high quality.
rather lack of economic development, of
Vietnam, will find the book very enlighening, Ottawa, September 2005
especially when they read the pages in which
Kieng discusses at length the inhibitive (1 ) Nam C anh Publishing House, 2607 M ilitary
effects of Confucianist culture on Road, A rlington, Va. 2 220 7, USA.
Vietnamese society throughout its history. Also availab le through Internet, from Amazon. Price:
$ US 35.
Non-Vietnamese speaking Americans of
Vietnamese descent will derive four major (2) Nguyen Gia K ieng, To Quoc An Nan, 2004,
benefits from this book. availab le at major bookstores in Westminster, Ca,
USA; or at: Nguyen Gia Kieng, 11 Mail Le
Corbusier, 77185, Lognes, France. Price: $ US 35.
1/ They will gain valuable insight in their
search for answers to the questions which
have weighted heavily on their minds, as
pointed out above.
Vietn am ese B ulletin vietnamien, Vol. 21 , No.3 11
The Vietnamese Bulletin vietnamien is a
quarterly newsletter published by the
Vietnamese Canadian Federation.
The Federation welcomes contributions to
this publication from its member
associations and from the public, as well as
suggestions or comments that may help
improve its format or enrich its content.
Additional copies can be obtained by
Vietnamese Canadian Federation
249 Rochester Street
Ottawa, ON K1R 7M9
Tel.: (613) 230-8282
Fax: (613) 230-8281
Vietn am ese B ulletin vietnamien, Vol. 21 , No.3 12