Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Monday, November 20, 2006

Viet Nam's reality masked by economic summit

Viet Nam’s annual GNP growth stands at an astounding 7.5 percent. This extraordinary record, second only to China’s, has won Viet Nam widespread praise, membership in the WTO, and fortified trade relations with the US, along with the increased investment this will bring. However, as New America Media editor, Andrew Lam, puts it, the image of Viet Nam as a burgeoning global economic power belies the social and environmental problems that constitute reality for the population at large.

Lam laments the erosion of time-honored values such as modesty, frugality, and respect as the culture of capitalism and consumerism takes hold. What ensues, he warns, is the breakdown of the traditional social fabric leading to the rise in HIV infection, prostitution, and sex-trafficking. In its “Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000,” the US State Department classified Viet Nam as a “tier two” country, meaning that the government does not take full measure to protect its citizens from falling victim to trafficking rings.

Unprecedented population growth rates and overall disinformation about the environment has instigated rapid environmental degradation. Forest depletion is so drastic that annual floods turn deadly as a result of fewer trees in the central mountains absorbing the monsoon rain. According to the United Nations Development Program, one in three Vietnamese depend solely on forest products for their living. Mass deforestation casts doubt on whether the robust economic growth currently enjoyed by Viet Nam is indeed sustainable.

In order to bolster the misleading image of the “new and improved” Viet Nam, the government has toiled for weeks to prepare for the arrival of the international community at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Hanoi. The official policy decrees zero-tolerance of popular protests, and the military keeps consistent patrol of the homes of well-known political dissidents under house arrest. Unfortunately for Viet Nam, this curtails any democratic and citizen participation in the discussions to map out the future of the country.

For full article, click here.


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