NEWS ANALYSIS, NOVEMBER 25, 2000

 

ABOUT CLINTON'S VISIT TO VIETNAM

The Clinton's historic visit to Hanoi and Saigon left undeletable imprints on the mind of millions of Vietnamese.

According to reports from many correspondents, the foreign media were surprised at the sight of thousands of Vietnamese especially the youth in the two cities flocking along sidewalks and roadsides to welcome the American President. The correspondents also reported that the top Communist leaders shows their concerns about the fact that there are too many American sympathizers, more than they expected.

It has been clear that Hanoi welcomed President Bill Clinton with limited friendly gestures. Clinton was greeted at Noi Bai Airport by Hanoi officials of the ministerial rank. The next morning, official welcoming ceremony was conducted at the Hanoi Presidential Palace, solemn but without thousands of people attending by order of the authorities as usually seen in similar visits of foreign Communist magnates.

People could notice easily that the Vietnam Communist Party and its government were trying to play down Clinton's visit. Probably only because of the fact that Hanoi could only rely on Washington help to survive numerous troubles they are facing that they had to receive Clinton. But they also had to calm down the hardcore, old and dogmatic party members who are always greatly concerned for the existence of party's ruling power. Without their support, party top leaders' positions would be challenged.

Le Kha Phieu's speech responding to that of Clinton was raking enmity. Phieu reminded Clinton of Communist victories over South Vietnamese and American armies.

However, other Communist personages reacted differently. After Clinton left Vietnam, Vo Nguyen Giap, a retired general, Phan Van Khai, current prime minister, and Nguyen Dy Nien, the foreign affairs minister, all highly appreciated the US President's visit. These big wheels might have reacted by request of the VCP Politburo to cool down the American side after Phieu's speech, which seemed have gone too far.

Some said Phieu was overreacting partly because of his complex of inferiority from failures of his recent visit to France. French media and most members of President Chirac's government ignored his presence in Paris. His visit was covered only in news in brief of all TV networks and largest newspapers in France.

Those who are familiar with Communist leaders' behavior sometimes were surprised at their unpredictable and unreasonable reactions. In the case of Clinton's visit, their reactions also proved that they are still in favor of guerrilla tactics, such as when their uniformed and plain clothes police searched the airplane whose passengers were mostly journalists accompanying President Clinton.

The Public Security officers and agents got aboard, checked passengers' ID and searched every nook for the two Radio Free Asia correspondents, whose visas of entry had been denied but Political Security services must have suspected that the two might be mingling with the White House press corps. The search was a failure.

Guerilla tactics that Hanoi put in use during Clinton's visit are infantile, short-sighted, inappropriate to the dignity of the national leaders and only courting foreign public antipathy.

In Clinton's speech at Hanoi National University, when he talked about freedom, democracy and human rights broadcast live on Hanoi TV, the translator voice faltered and he botched up the translation. The incident occurred right at the most important parts of the speech. So many among TV watchers became angry and they had to buy printed copies of the text at a price.

The American side acknowledged that the translator was employed by the US Embassy. Obviously the translator is incapable at such a job. His Vietnamese vocabulary might be rather poor. Moreover, his substandard southern accent was unintelligible to the northern ears. If he had spoken standard southern accent, the Northerners would have very little difficulty to grasp every detail of the speech.

The question is why the American State Department has trained many hundreds of fluent bilingual officials who could speak Vietnamese just like an educated Vietnamese, and some of them might be working in the US Embassy in Hanoi. Why the embassy wasted its time and money to give such important task to that incapable translator instead?

Many anti-Communist Vietnamese are somewhat pleased with Clinton speech. He not only openly raised the issues of human rights, democracy and freedom of religions, but also honored the sacrifice of the Americans, the South Vietnamese and the North Vietnamese soldiers. Moreover, he asserted that the war was over what freedom, independence and self-determination for the Vietnamese people really meant and that Vietnam is moving along a virtually irreversible trend towards a free society after Le Kha Phieu accused "the (American) Imperialists."

However, the Vietnamese émigrés are still feeling that President Clinton was not going far and strong enough. Nothing has been heard from him concerning the fate of political and religious prisoners.

Consequently, President Clinton has achieved limited success for himself and for the United States, but little for the Vietnamese people. He is not strong enough to meet with some famous peaceful dissidents himself. His State Department and the American Embassy in Hanoi were doing nothing to help Loretta Sanchez, D-Garden Grove, CA, when she went to meet some leading dissidents in Hanoi and Saigon.

To most Vietnamese émigrés, it is reasonable to say that a visit by an American president to Vietnam when the Communist rulers have showed not much goodwill, is not timely.

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