2011-03-03 Rampant, nationwide corruption in Vietnam; how people fight back on the web

Systematic Corruption ruptures Vietnam with inequality

Since the mid-1980s, the time when Vietnam launched the ‘Doi Moi (industrialization)’ project to boost the national economy, Vietnam has recorded remarkable GDP increase rate, 7 to 8% a year. However, the economic inequality gap and government debts are huge, and show no sign of shrinking.

Primary reasons for the problems lie in the structure of the ‘industrialization’. The only legal political party, the Vietnam Communist Party, utilized state owned enterprises(SOE) as useful tools which enable the government to take a firm grip on the state economy. In a rare thesis discussing the privatization of the Vietnamese economy, Fredrik Sjöholm pointed out that it’s actually a state takeover of economy in disguise of ‘privatization’; about one-quarter of state revenues come from SOEs and the state can take control of any SOEs by having ‘minority state ownership share’(Sjöholm, 2006)

Commonplace collusion between politics and economy, interwoven through shares, squandered bailout money and venal practices in the name of ‘industrialization’, generated astounding breeding ground for corruption and rapidly increasing debts. The ‘industrialization’ process had few constructive plans behind it, which produced obfuscated ownership responsibility while working on ad hoc economic strategies. This opened the door for private, often political, actors to ‘hijack’ the real control of the firms.

This came into reality with the help of centralized economy which has kept the circles of corruption intact. The level of centralization is cited in the cable 09HANOI809 that high politicians in VCP have power over economy sectors equal to no one else; for example, the Prime Minister Ngyen Tan Dung has the only right to appoint the chairman of the board of directors. This collusion is also a major cause of immense gap in economic inequality; namely the gap between those who get both political and economic power and those who do not.

Vietnamese dissents fight back through web; a war against government-led cyberattacks

According to an article from AP news in 11th February, the Vietnam government went further after it blocked Facebook in November, 2010. At least two prominent dissident sites got attacked, one completely disappeared.

This strong reaction was followed after the ever-growing effects of both websites. One of them, blogosin.org, launched on 2008, focused on corruption and government incompetence. It was shut down early this February.

Another one was bauxitevietnam.info, started by a group of dissidents critical on the government-led bauxite mine development plan with Chinese company, in Vietnam’s sensitive Central Highlands. Lots of people worried about the possible environmental problem it might bring. The website already got 17 million hits, which denotes a striking level of attention considering that 20 million people in total use Internet in Vietnam.

According to an article from AFP, blogger Nguyen Hue Chi, who administered the Bauxite Vietnam website, he said in Jun, 2010 that he was under attack from unknown hackers, which he believed to be the government. Chi worried that the government now doesn’t just block access, but was trying to shut down the website completely. In 2010 alone, at least 24 websites had been disrupted in this style.

Would the web in Vietnam be kept silent? As many others try aiming to quell freedom of expression merely through stuffing technical ‘gates’, this doesn’t seem to be effective. Lots of Vietnam Internet users immediately started to teach themselves how to reach the blocked Facebook by simply Googling it. The Vietnam government must have one thing in their mind before going after the ‘China-like’ strategies – that the Internet is not a technology, but a spirit; a resistance. Want the most effective way of quenching the dissents in Internet? Act in a more just way, heading toward more open governance, where the very concept ‘dissent threatens national security’ doesn’t exist. The Vietnam government might succeed in closing the voices down; they would never be able to silence the spirit, the overwhelming desire toward truth.

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