Even the worm will turn.
Yesterday, 23 March, 2016, Anh Ba Sam — a prominent Vietnamese blogger, a former police officer, and a son of a late government minister — was put into trial in Hanoi.
Anh Ba Sam, or Nguyen Huu Vinh is one of the earliest, the most famous bloggers and political dissidents in Vietnam.
Nguyen Huu Vinh started his first blog in 2007, under the name “Ba Sàm News” (“The Gossiper”). His first blog was a self-explanation on the reason behind his withdrawal as a police officer to be a small business owner. “The idea started from my uncomfortable feeling,” Vinh said in his blog, “I want to be useful for the society, I want follow my dream, and be able to earn ‘clean’ money.” (Anh Ba Sam’s blog). He goes on and analyses the way in which Vietnamese society is going against genuine Marxism. His blog posts later commented on social and political affairs, especially on Chinese-Vietnamese relationship.
He later launched two others — Dan Quyen, or Citizens’ Rights, in 2013, and Chep Su Viet, or Writing Vietnamese History, in early 2014. The blogs provided different links to political, social and economic news as well as issues from in and outside of the country.
Nguyen Huu Vinh was arrested for abuses of ‘democratic freedoms,’ which Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch called ‘a cynical and chilling move’ (Vietnam: Arrests of Internet Activists Escalate. Human Rights Watch) in 2014 and his trial was held yesterday in Hanoi City People’s Court.
Vinh was sentenced 5 years in prison. According to state-owned news paper Thanhnien online, the blogposts in Citizens’ Rights and Writing Vietnamese History had “untruthful and groundless content” that tarnishes “the country’s image,” damages the reputation of the Party, the government as well as “causes frustration within the mass, and destroy the trust of the people towards Communist Party.”
It wasn’t surprising that a number people, according to RFA’s news, including Martin Patzelt, a former mayor of Frankfurt and a member of German Bundestag, together with activists from different regions in Vietnam, gathered outside the court to protest against the trial.
There’s a saying in Vietnam: “Con giun xéo mãi cũng quằn,” which means ‘Even the worm will turn’ in English. Vietnamese people, especially those live towards the North, most of the time are docile. Due to harsh living environment, and heavy feudal mentality people are more likely to be obedient. Vietnamese society has stayed still and doused into the culture that is ruled by a force which Foucault described as ‘biopower’. According to Foucault, the resistance implies too little that an individual is already defeated before he even begins to think of himself as rebellious. People are subjected in the process — they were made passive; but they are also the subjects, who create their own identity in the power relation. It is like the cycle of implying power, where one exerts oppression once he has a little bit of power.
The world has moved forward to a different level of control — which is the control of category, of consumerism, but Vietnam stays the same. Only a small percentage of the population lives in big cities like Saigon, Hanoi and Danang is able to access to consumerism. The rest of Vietnam is stuck in the swamp with no escape. Poor provinces struggle with harsh weather for cultivation. Agricultural and fishery products find it hard to export due to the decline market in China. Why is that so? The economy, the government and greedy Vietnamese traders are too dependent on China. That’s why, the circle of power in Vietnam appears as a spinning cone, squeezing the people at the bottom of the power ladder. In this case, they are ordinary Vietnamese people, those who have to give up their farms in Quang Binh or Ninh Binh to work as factory workers or any low paid jobs in corporations. Or they are the fishermen and women in Thanh Hoa, Binh Thuan whose the sea has been bought by resorts. Or they are city people from the capital, the intellectuals who disagree with the absurdity of the system in Vietnam. Nguyen Huu Vinh is one of them. He used to be a member of the power ruling mechanism, but he decided to stand with the people, to tell the truth even it means risk of imprisonment.
And that is what Communist Party of Vietnam repays its supporters. This is nothing but a cowardly act of the government. The more they imprison their own people, the more they lose supporters. Although it’s slow, but Vietnamese people will start to have their awareness raised. The economy and political stance of Vietnam will be cornered, if they keep violating human rights and the only thing to solve the problem is to liberate the market, as well as adjust their constitution towards the people. This is, though, still a long way to go. Yet I believe no regime can last forever as no government can own a land, or a country. But in order to do that, Vietnamese people must accept they lack of democratic culture, and learn to love and protect their lands. Only then will they realise policies and laws are created as a social contract, where they have rights and obligations.
To me, that’s the only globalisation that young Vietnamese should embrace. Freedom doesn’t come as free cost.
Know more about Anh Ba Sam’s trial here: http://the88project.com/2016/03/23/protests-as-vietnamese-blogger-goes-on-trial-for-anti-government-posts/