PROFILE : VIETNAM
Library of Congress
Federal Research Division
(Cong Hoa Xa Hoi
Term for Citizen(s): Vietnamese.
Major Cities: With 5.6 million people,
Chi Minh City
) is the most populous city.
has a population of 3.0
million. Other major cities are Danang,
and Can Tho.
declared independence from
remained under French control until the communist Viet Minh defeated
French forces at
Dien Bien Phu
Public Holidays: Official holidays are New Year’s (January 1), Tet or Lunar New Year (movable
dates in January and February), Liberation Day to commemorate the fall
(April 30), Labor Day (May
1), and Independence Day to commemorate
withdrawal following its defeat in World War II (September 2).
with a large yellow five-pointed star in the center.
Origins: The Vietnamese trace the origins of their culture and nation to the
fertile plains of the Red River Delta in northern
After centuries of developing a civilization and economy based on the
cultivation of irrigated rice, in the tenth century the Vietnamese began
expanding southward in search of new rice lands. Until the
mid-nineteenth century, the Vietnamese gradually moved down the narrow
coastal plain of the
ultimately extending their reach into the broad Mekong River Delta.
Vietnamese history is the story of the struggle to develop a sense of
nationhood throughout this narrow 1,500-kilometer stretch of land and to
maintain it against internal and external pressures.
was the chief source of
foreign ideas and the earliest threat to its national sovereignty. As a
result of a millennium of Chinese control beginning in about 111 BC, the
Vietnamese assimilated Chinese influence in the areas of administration,
law, education, literature, language, and culture. Even during the
following nine centuries of Vietnamese independence, lasting from the
late tenth century until the second half of the nineteenth century, the
Chinese exerted considerable cultural, if not political, influence,
and War: After 900 years of independence and
following a period of disunity and rebellion, the French colonial era
began during the 1858–83 period, when the French seized control of the
nation, dividing it into three parts: the north (
), the center (
), and the south (Cochinchina). In 1861
, and by 1883 it had taken control of all of
as well as
. French colonial rule was, for the most part, politically repressive and
economically exploitative. The Japanese occupied
during World War II but allowed the French to remain and exert some
influence. At the war’s end in 1945, Ho Chi Minh, leader of the
communist Viet Minh organization, declared
’s independence in a speech that invoked the U.S. Declaration of
Independence and the French Revolution’s Declaration of the Rights of
Man and of the Citizen. However, the French quickly reasserted the
control they had ceded to the Japanese, and the First Indochina War
(1946–54) was underway. French control ended on
May 7, 1954
, when Vietnamese forces
defeated the French at
Dien Bien Phu
. The 1954 Geneva Conference left
a divided nation, with Ho Chi Minh's communist government ruling the
and Ngo Dinh Diem's regime,
supported by the
, ruling the South from
Ho Chi Minh City
As a result of the Second Indochina
War (1954–75), Viet Cong—communist forces in
regular People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) forces from the North unified
under communist rule. In this conflict, the insurgents—with logistical
—ultimately defeated the Army of the
which sought to maintain South Vietnamese independence with the support
military, whose troop strength peaked at 540,000 during the
communist-led Tet Offensive in 1968. The North did not abide by the
terms of the 1973 Paris Agreement, which officially settled the war by
calling for free elections in the South and peaceful reunification. Two
years after the withdrawal of the last
forces in 1973,
, the capital of
fell to the communists, and on
April 30, 1975
, the South Vietnamese army
surrendered. In 1976 the government of united
Ho Chi Minh City
, in honor of the wartime communist leader who died in September 1969.
The Vietnamese estimate that they lost nearly 3 million lives and
suffered more than 4 million injuries during the
involvement in the war.
: In the post-1975 period, it was
immediately apparent that the popularity and effectiveness of the
Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP) policies did not necessarily extend to
the party’s peacetime nation-building plans. Having unified the North
and South politically, the VCP still had to integrate them socially and
economically. In this task, VCP policy makers were confronted with the
South’s resistance to communist transformation, as well as traditional
animosities arising from cultural and historical differences between
North and South. More than a million Southerners, including about
560,000 “boat people,” fled the country soon after the communist
takeover, fearing persecution and seizure of their land and businesses.
About a million Vietnamese were relocated to previously uncultivated
land called “new economic zones” for reeducation.
The harsh postwar crackdown on
remnants of capitalism in the South led to the collapse of the economy
during the 1980s. With the economy in shambles,
government altered its course and adopted consensus policies that
bridged the divergent views of pragmatists and communist traditionalists.
In 1986 Nguyen Van Linh, who was elevated to VCP general secretary the
following year, launched a campaign for political and economic renewal (Doi
Moi). His policies were characterized by political and economic
experimentation that was similar to simultaneous reform agendas
. Reflecting the spirit of political compromise,
phased out its reeducation effort. The government also stopped promoting
agricultural and industrial cooperatives. Farmers were permitted to till
private plots alongside state-owned land, and in 1990 the government
passed a law encouraging the establishment of private businesses.
Compounding economic difficulties
were new military challenges. In the late 1970s, two countries—
—posed threats to
Clashes between Vietnamese and Cambodian communists on their common
border began almost immediately after
reunification in 1975. To neutralize the threat,
in December 1978 and overran
the Cambodian capital, driving out the incumbent Khmer Rouge communist
regime and initiating a prolonged military occupation of the country.
In February and March 1979,
's incursion into
by launching a limited invasion of
but the Chinese foray was quickly rebuffed. Relations between the two
countries had been deteriorating for some time. Territorial
disagreements along the border and in the
South China Sea
that had remained dormant during the Second Indochina War were revived
at the war's end, and a postwar campaign engineered by
to limit the role of
ethnic Chinese community in domestic commerce elicited a strong protest
also was displeased with
because of its improving relationship with the
During its incursion into
’s international isolation extended to relations with the
, in addition to citing
minimal cooperation in accounting for Americans who were missing in
action (MIAs) as an obstacle to normal relations, barred normal ties as
long as Vietnamese troops occupied
also continued to enforce the trade embargo imposed on
at the conclusion of the war
in 1975. Soon after the Paris Agreement on
resolved the conflict in October 1991, however,
established or reestablished diplomatic and economic relations with most
and other Asian countries.
normalized relations with
in 1991 and with
in 1993. In February 1994, the
lifted its economic embargo against
and in June 1995, the
normalized relations. Relations with
took another step forward after the two countries settled their
long-standing border dispute in 1999.
is now a major trading partner, and
models its economic policies after
As of late 2004, a three-person
collective leadership was responsible for governing
This triumvirate consisted of the VCP general secretary (Nong Duc Manh,
April 2001– ), the prime minister (Phan Van Khai, September 1997– ),
and the president (Tran Duc Luong, September 1997– ). General
Secretary Manh headed up not only the VCP but also the 15 member
Politburo. President Luong was chief of state, and Prime Minister Khai
was head of government. The leadership is promoting a
“socialist-oriented market economy” and friendly relations with
the European Union,
, and the
Although the leadership is presiding over a period of rapid economic
growth, official corruption and a widening gap between urban wealth and
rural poverty remain stubborn problems that are eroding the VCP’s
authority. A major goal for 2005 is gaining full membership in the World
Trade Organization (WTO).
is located in
, bordered by the
South China Sea
to the east,
to the north,
to the west, and the
to the south.
is long and thin, with an area of 330,363 square kilometers.
shares land boundaries with
(1,281 kilometers), and
Disputed Territory: On
signed a treaty that settled disputes over the two nations’ common
border. However, the Paracel and
South China Sea
are still regarded as disputed territory.
also claim sovereignty over the
which are believed to be rich in oil and natural gas reserves. In May
2004, the government authorized 50 tourists and 40 officials to visit
by boat. The other nations staking claim to the islands protested what
they interpreted as an assertion of sovereignty by
In October 2004,
invited bids for oil exploration in the Spratlys, triggering a complaint
’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In November 2004,
retaliated by moving an oil-drilling platform into position to explore
for oil in the Paracels.
Length of Coastline:
coastline along the
South China Sea
, and the
measures 3,444 kilometers.
Maritime Claims: In June 2004,
’s National Assembly ratified an agreement originally reached with
in December 2000 that established an internationally valid maritime
border in the
The ratification delay was attributable to concerns that the government
had made too many concessions during negotiations. In addition, in April
agreed to a common fishing zone in the
claims an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of 200 nautical miles, the
approximate beginning of the continental shelf.
is a country of tropical lowlands, hills, and densely forested highlands,
with level land covering no more than 20 percent of the area. The
country is divided into the highlands and the Red River Delta in the
north, and the Giai Truong Son (Central mountains, or the Chaîne
Annamitique, sometimes referred to simply as the Chaîne), the coastal
lowlands, and the Mekong River Delta in the south. The highest point in
is Fan Si Pan, at 3,143 meters above sea level, in the northwest.
Principal Rivers: A relatively dense network of rivers traverses
The principal rivers are as follows: in the north, the Red and Thai Binh;
in the center, the Ca, Ma, Han, Thach Han, and Thu Bon; and in the south,
and Dong Nai.
climate is tropical and monsoonal; humidity averages 84 percent
throughout the year. Annual rainfall ranges from 1,200 to 3,000
millimeters, and annual temperatures vary between 5°C and 37°C.
main natural resources consist of coal, copper, crude oil, gold, iron,
manganese, silver, and zinc.
Land Use: In 2003
’s land use was distributed as follows: 21 percent, arable; 28 percent,
forest and woodland; and 51 percent, other.
Environmental Factors: The National Environmental Agency, a branch of the Ministry of Science,
Technology, and Environment, is responsible for environmental
protection. At the provincial level, the Departments of Science,
Technology, and the Environment bear responsibility. Non-governmental
organizations, particularly the
, also play a role. Urbanization, industrialization, and intensive
farming are having a negative impact on
environment. These factors have led to air pollution, water pollution,
and noise pollution, particularly in urban and industrial centers like
Ho Chi Minh City
. The most serious problem is waste treatment. Land use pressures have
led to significant environmental problems, including severe
deforestation, soil erosion, sedimentation of rivers, flooding in the
deltas, declining fish yields, and pollution of the coastal and marine
environment. The use of Agent Orange by the
military in the Second Indochina War (1954–75) has had a lingering
in the form of persistent environmental contamination that has increased
the incidence of various diseases and birth defects.
Time Zone: Seven hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.
Population: In 2003
’s population was 81.3 million, and it was growing at a rate of about
1.3 percent per year. The average population density was 246 people per
square kilometer, one of the highest levels in the world. The highest
concentration of people was in the Red River Delta, in the northeast
is located, and the lowest
concentration was in the northwest. The population, which traditionally
has been primarily rural, has become increasingly urbanized since 1986
when the Doi Moi economic renewal program began to boost income and
employment opportunities in the cities. In 2002 about 25 percent of
population was urban and 75 percent rural, down from 85 percent in the
’s net migration rate was estimated at –0.45 migrant(s) per 1,000
population in 2004. Consistent with the trend toward urbanization, urban
areas, such as
Ho Chi Minh City
, and the
, have attracted the most migrants. In addition, a steady stream of
migrants continues to move from the North to the South. As of 2002, the
two largest groups of refugees were Vietnamese and ethnic Chinese
and the indigenous Montagnards from the Central Highlands seeking asylum
Demography: In 2004
’s age distribution was estimated as follows: 0 to 14 years of age,
29.4 percent; 15 to 64, 65 percent; and 65 and older, 5.6 percent. This
age distribution signals slower population growth than in the past. In
birthrate was 19.6 per 1,000 people, and the fertility rate was 2.2
children born per woman; both rates were about average globally. The
infant mortality rate was 29.3 per 1,000 live births, and the death rate
was nearly 6.2 per 1,000; both rates were better than average. According
to 2004 estimates, life expectancy was 70.4 years for the total
population, almost 67.9 years for men and 73 years for women. Life
expectancy rates were about average globally.
Ethnic Groups: Vietnamese are the predominant ethnic group; they constitute 85 to 90
percent of the population. Chinese account for 3 percent of the
population. Other ethnic groups are the Hmong, Thai, Khmer, Cham, and
Montagnards, an indigenous group living in the Central Highlands.
Languages: Vietnamese is the official language of
The Vietnamese have adopted a Romanized script introduced by the French
during the colonial period. English is increasingly accepted as a second
language. Some French language influence persists. Other languages used
are Chinese, Khmer, and mountain area dialects.
Religion: With 7.6 million followers, Buddhism is the most popular religion. The
second most popular religion is Catholicism, with 6 million adherents.
Other faiths, with the number of followers indicated, are Cao Dai (2
million), Hoa Hao (1 million), Protestantism (500,000), and Islam
Education and Literacy: In 2003
’s literacy rate was 94 percent, including 95.8 percent for men and
92.3 percent for women. However, educational attainment was less
impressive. Although 92 percent of eligible children were enrolled in
primary school in 2000 and five years of primary school education are
considered compulsory, only two-thirds completed the fifth grade. The
cost of tuition, books, and uniforms and the need to supplement family
income were the two main reasons for dropping out. A huge disparity
exists in primary school enrollment between the cities and rural parts
. In some rural areas, only 10 to 15 percent of the children progress
beyond third grade, whereas almost 96 percent of pupils in
Ho Chi Minh City
complete fifth grade. In 2000 enrollment in secondary school was only
62.5 percent, much lower than in primary school. One of the
government’s goals is to expand access to secondary education.
overall quality of healthcare in 2003 has been characterized as “good,”
in view of such indicators as life expectancy (70.4 years), infant
mortality (29.3 per 1,000 live births), and physicians per capita (1.3
per 1,000 people). However, malnutrition is still common in the
provinces, and the life expectancy and infant mortality rates are
stagnating. In 2001 government spending on health care corresponded to
just 0.9 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). Government subsidies
covered only about 20 percent of health care expenses, with the
remaining 80 percent coming out of individuals’ own pockets.
In 1954 the government in the North
established a public health system that reached down to the hamlet level.
After reunification in 1976, this system was extended to the South.
Beginning in the late 1980s, the quality of health care began to decline
as a result of budgetary constraints, a shift of responsibility to the
provinces, and the introduction of charges. Inadequate funding has led
to delays in planned upgrades to water supply and sewage systems. As a
result, almost half the population has no access to clean water, a
deficiency that promotes such infectious diseases as malaria, dengue
fever, typhoid, and cholera. Inadequate funding also has contributed to
a shortage of nurses, midwives, and hospital beds. In 2000
had only 250,000 hospital beds, or 14.8 beds per 10,000 people, a very
low ratio among Asian nations, according to the World Bank.
has made progress in combating malaria, for which the mortality rate
declined sharply, to about 5 percent of the rate in the early 1990s,
after the country introduced antimalarial drugs and treatment. However,
tuberculosis (TB) cases are on the rise, with 57 deaths per day reported
in May 2004. With an intensified vaccination program, better hygiene,
and foreign assistance,
hopes to reduce sharply the number of TB cases and annual new TB
As of mid-2004,
had diagnosed 81,206 human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) cases, of which
12,684 developed acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) and 7,208
died. But the actual number of HIV-positive individuals is estimated to
be as high as 200,000. An average of 40–50 new infections are reported
every day in
hopes to contain the HIV infection rate at the current official rate of
0.3 percent, which is about average worldwide, by limiting the disease
as much as possible to sex workers and intravenous drug users. However,
if the current trend continues, the number of infected persons could
reach 1 million by 2010. One of the impediments to containing HIV/AIDS
is that the victims face discrimination and stigmatization that are more
severe than almost anywhere else in the world, according to a United
Nations official. In June 2004, the Bush Administration announced that
would be one of 15 nations to receive funding as part of a US$15 billion
global AIDS plan.
welfare efforts target victims of the Second Indochina War (1954–75),
such as individuals disabled in combat or by toxic chemicals and the
families of fallen combatants. About 5 million Vietnamese, corresponding
to more than 6 percent of the population, are disabled. The Ministry of
Labor, War Invalids, and Social Affairs administers welfare.
has legislated a social insurance system with provisions for old age,
disability, and death; sickness and maternity; and work injury. Coverage
is reported to be mandatory for state employees, non-state enterprises
with more than 10 employees, and foreign-invested enterprises. Special
programs are said to exist for government civil servants and armed
Overview: Beginning in the 1980s, dire economic conditions forced the government to
relax restrictions on private enterprise and sharply cut back on labor
camp prisoners, many of them entrepreneurs. In 1986
launched a political and economic renewal campaign (Doi Moi). Doi Moi
introduced reforms intended to facilitate the transition from a
centralized economy to a “socialist-oriented market economy.” Doi
Moi combined government planning with free-market incentives. The
program abolished agricultural collectives, removed price controls on
agricultural goods, and enabled farmers to sell their goods in the
marketplace. It encouraged the establishment of private businesses and
foreign investment, including foreignowned enterprises.
By the late 1990s, the success of the
business and agricultural reforms ushered in under Doi Moi was clearly
evident. More than 30,000 private businesses had been created, and the
economy was growing at an annual rate of more than 7 percent. During the
1990s, poverty declined from 50 percent to 30 percent of the population.
Poverty continued to decline between 1998 and 2002; the World Bank
estimates that 8 percent of
population moved out of poverty during this period, although progress
varied geographically. Most prosperous were the major cities, where per
capita income rose rapidly to reach about US$1,000 in 2002. In addition,
inflation declined from an annual rate of more than 160 percent in 1988
to only 3 percent in 2003, reflecting the success of economic
In 2001 the Vietnamese Communist
Party (VCP) approved a 10-year economic plan that enhanced the role of
the private sector while reaffirming the primacy of the state. In 2003
the private sector accounted for more than one-quarter of all industrial
output, and the private sector’s contribution was expanding more
rapidly than the public sector’s (18.7 percent vs. 12.4 percent growth
from 2002 to 2003).
Despite these signs of progress, the
World Economic Forum’s 2004 Global Competitiveness Report, which
reflects the subjective judgments of the business community, ranked
Vietnam 77th in growth competitiveness in the world (down from 60th
place in 2003) and 79th in business competitiveness (down from 50th
place in 2003), well behind its model China, which ranked 46th and 47th
in these respective categories.
sharp deterioration in the rankings from 2003 to 2004 was attributable
in part to negative perceptions of the effectiveness of government
institutions. Official corruption is endemic despite efforts to curb it.
also lags behind
in terms of property rights, the efficient regulation of markets, and
labor and financial market reforms. State-owned banks that are poorly
managed and suffer from non-performing loans still dominate the
economy, which continues to expand at an annual rate in excess of 7
percent, is one of the fastest growing in the world, the economy is
growing from an extremely low base, reflecting the crippling effect of
the Second Indochina War (1954–75) and repressive economic measures
introduced in its aftermath. Whether rapid economic growth is
sustainable is open to debate. The government may not be able to follow
through with plans to scale back trade restrictions and reform
state-owned enterprises. Reducing trade restrictions and improving
transparency are keys to gaining full membership in the World Trade
Organization (WTO), as planned in 2005. The government hopes to reform
the state-owned sector by partially privatizing various state-owned
enterprises, beginning with Vietcombank, a large state-owned commercial
Gross Domestic Product (GDP): In 2003
’s GDP was US$39.2 billion. Per capita gross national income was
US$480. However, based on purchasing power parity (buying power for a
basket of goods without regard for market exchange rates),
per capita GDP was US$2,500. In 2002 the contributions to GDP by sector
were as follows: agriculture, 23.0 percent; industry, 38.5 percent; and
services, 38.5 percent. Reflecting Vietnam’s hybrid economy, industry
ownership was mixed, as indicated by percentage of output, as follows:
stateowned, 40 percent and declining; privately owned, 25 percent, but
employing four times as many workers as the state-owned sector; and
foreign-owned, 35 percent.
Government Budget: In November 2003,
National Assembly approved a total state budget of about US$12 billion
for 2004, corresponding to about 26.5 percent of estimated gross
domestic product (GDP). The government’s budget deficit is expanding,
from 2.0 percent of GDP in 2002, to an estimated 2.4 percent in 2003,
and a targeted 5 percent in 2004.
Inflation: In 2003 inflation was a low 3 percent, down from 160 percent in 1988. The
decline reflects the beneficial effect of fiscal and monetary reforms
aimed at stabilizing the economy.
Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing: In 2002 agriculture and forestry accounted for 23 percent of gross
domestic product (GDP). However, agricultural employment was much higher
than agriculture’s share of GDP; in 2002 some 66.1 percent of the
employed labor force was engaged in agriculture, forestry, and fishing.
Rice is the staple crop, accounting for 4.3 percent of export earnings
in 2002. The relaxation of the state monopoly on rice exports
transformed the country into the world’s second or third largest rice
exporter. Other cash crops are coffee, cotton, peanuts, rubber,
sugarcane, and tea.
produced an estimated 29.5 million cubic meters of roundwood; about 90
percent was consumed as fuel. Production of sawnwood was a more modest
2,950 cubic meters. In 1992, in response to dwindling forests,
imposed a ban on the export of logs and raw timber. In 1997 the ban was
extended to all timber products except wooden artifacts. During the
began to reclaim land for forests with a tree-planting program.
’s fishing industry, which has abundant resources given the country’s
3,444-kilometer coastline and extensive network of rivers and lakes, has
experienced moderate growth overall. In 2001 the total catch was about 2
million tons. However, seafood exports expanded fourfold from 1990 to
2002 to more than US$2 billion, driven in part by shrimp farms in the
South and “catfish,” which are a different species from their
American counterpart but are marketed in the
under the same name. By concentrating on the
market for the sale of vast quantities of shrimp and catfish,
triggered antidumping complaints by the
which imposed tariffs in the case of catfish and is considering doing
the same for shrimp.
Mining and Minerals: In 2002 mining and quarrying accounted for an 8.6 percent share of gross
domestic product (GDP); in 2000 the sector employed 0.6 percent of the
workforce. Petroleum and coal are the main mineral exports, with crude
petroleum accounting for 21.1 percent of total merchandise exports in
2001. Also mined are antimony, bauxite, chromium, gold, iron, natural
phosphates, tin, and zinc.
Industry and Manufacturing: Although industry contributed 38.5 percent of gross domestic product
(GDP) in 2002, it employed only 12.9 percent of the workforce. In 2000,
22.4 percent of industrial production was attributable to non-state
activities. During 1990–2002, industrial GDP grew at an average annual
rate of 11.1 percent. Manufacturing contributed 20.6 percent of GDP in
2002, while employing 10.2 percent of the workforce. During 1990–2002,
manufacturing GDP grew at an average annual rate of 10.9 percent. The
top manufacturing sectors—food processing, cigarettes and tobacco,
textiles, chemicals, and electrical goods—experienced rapid growth.
Almost a third of manufacturing and retail activity is concentrated in
Ho Chi Minh City
is the main source of commercial energy, followed by coal, which
contributes about 25 percent of the country’s energy (excluding
oil reserves are in the range of 270–500 million tons. The World Bank
cites the lower bound of the range. Oil production more than doubled
from 1995 to 2001, when it reached 340,000 barrels per day. However, oil
production is believed to have peaked and is expected to decline
anthracite coal reserves are estimated at 3.7 billion tons. Coal
production was 12.6 million tons in 2001, up from 9.6 million tons in
potential natural gas reserves are 1.3 trillion cubic meters. In 2002
brought ashore 2.26 billion cubic meters of natural gas. Hydroelectric
power is another source of energy. In 2004
began to build a nuclear power plant with Russian assistance.
Crude oil is
leading export, totaling 17 million tons in 2002; in 2001 crude oil
represented 21.1 percent of all export earnings. Petroleum exports are
in the form of crude petroleum because
has a very limited refining capacity.
only operational refinery, a facility at Cat Hai near
Ho Chi Minh City
has a capacity of only 800 barrels per day. Several consortia have
abandoned commitments to finance a 130,000-barrel-per-day facility at
Dung Quat in central
. Refined petroleum accounted for 10.2 percent of total imports in 2002.
Services: In 2002 services accounted for 38.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).
During 1990–2002, GDP attributable to the services sector grew at an
average annual rate of 7.0 percent.
Banking and Finance:
first stock exchange, known as the
Ho Chi Minh City
was established in July 2000. In mid-2004, the number of companies
listed on the exchange reached 24, with a total market capitalization of
only US$250,000. This extremely modest figure reflects the fact that the
exchange remains a minor source of funding.
plans to boost the transparency of its financial system by establishing
a credit-rating agency and performance standards for joint-stock banks.
is a cash-based society, 300 to 400 automated teller machines (ATMs)
have been installed, and about 350,000 debit cards are in circulation.
Tourism: In 2003 the number of foreign visitors to
totaled 2.4 million, down slightly from the previous year as a result of
the impact of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic in
. However, the impact of SARS was
contained, as tourism was 35 percent higher in 2003 than in 1999. The
Vietnam National Administration of Tourism is following a long-term plan
to diversify the tourism industry, which brings needed foreign exchange
into the country.
2002 the unemployment rate in urban areas was 6.0 percent. In the
following years, the World Bank estimated that the unemployment rate
Foreign Economic Relations:
is an observer to the World Trade Organization (WTO), but it aspires to
full membership as early as 2005. The main impediment to joining the WTO
is legal and regulatory transparency. Specifically, Vietnamese laws
place foreign investors at a disadvantage, in violation of WTO rules.
Trade restrictions constitute a second impediment.
is considering the required changes to its laws and regulations, but
some observers are skeptical that the country will be able to follow
through with additional trade-related reforms in the form of reduced
tariffs and non-tariff barriers in time to join the WTO as a full member
in 2005. However, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum
prompt accession to the WTO at its 12th meeting held in
in November 2004.
Joining the WTO is vitally important
because membership will free
from textile quotas enacted worldwide as part of the Multifiber
Arrangement (MFA) of 1974. The MFA placed restrictions on the import by
industrialized countries of textiles from developing countries. For
and other WTO members, however, textile quotas under the MFA expire at
the end of 2004, as agreed in the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations in
faces the danger of losing market share in foreign markets in the
opening months of 2005 until it secures WTO membership.
Economic relations with the
are improving but are not without challenges. Although the
reached a landmark bilateral agreement in December 2001 that boosted
exports to the
disagreements over textile and catfish exports are hindering full
implementation of the agreement. Also disrupting U.S.-Vietnamese
economic relations are efforts in Congress to link non-humanitarian aid
human rights record.
rapid economic ascendancy,
economic relationship with
is of utmost importance. Following the resolution of most territorial
disputes, trade with
is growing rapidly, and in 2003
imported more products from
than from any other nation. In November 2004, the Association of
Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which
is a member, and
announced plans to establish the world’s largest freetrade area by
Imports: In 2003
’s imports were valued at US$26.5 billion, and growing rapidly.
principal imports were machinery (21.4 percent), refined petroleum (9.7
percent), material for the textile industry (8.2 percent), steel (6.6
percent), and computers and electronic goods (3.9 percent). The main
(10.7 percent), the
(5.6 percent), and
Exports: In 2003
’s exports were valued at US$23.4 billion, and, much like imports, were
’s principal exports were crude oil (18.7 percent), textiles and
garments (18.0 percent), footwear (11.2 percent), fisheries products
(11.0 percent), and rice (3.6 percent). The main destinations of
exports were the
(4.6 percent), and the
Trade Balance: In 2003
ran a trade deficit of US$3.1 billion, or 12 percent of imports.
Balance of Payments: The current account balance was negative US$1.85 billion in 2003. In the
previous two years, the current account balance registered a swing from
positive to slightly negative, and the statistic continued to
deteriorate in 2003.
External Debt: In 2003 external debt amounted to US$14.8 billion, or 38 percent of gross
domestic product (GDP).
Foreign Investment: From 1988 to May 2004, cumulative foreign direct investment (FDI)
commitments totaled US$43 billion. By May 2004, about 60 percent had
been dispersed. About half of FDI has been directed at the industrial
sector, with a rising tendency. Also about half has been concentrated in
Ho Chi Minh City
and the surrounding provinces. Despite rising investments, foreign
investors still regard
as a risky destination, as confirmed by a recent survey by the Japan
External Trade Organization of Japanese companies operating in
Many of these companies complained about high costs for utilities,
office rentals, and skilled labor. In 2002 new foreign direct investment
commitments were US$1.4 billion, down sharply from US$2.2 billion the
previous year. The largest sector by far for licensed FDI is industry
and construction. Other sectors attracting FDI are oil and gas,
fisheries, construction, agriculture and forestry,
transportation/communications, and hotels and tourism.
Foreign Aid: Since November 1993, the World Bank has committed US$3.8 billion of
interestfree loans to
. For 2000 international donors had pledged US$2.8 billion of credits and
Currency and Exchange Rate: As of December 2004, one U.S. dollar was equivalent to about 15,770
Vietnamese dong (D).
Fiscal Year: Calendar year.
transportation system is in need of modernization and expansion. Ports
are operating at only one-third of capacity. Roads are in generally poor
condition, and the underdeveloped railroad system carries less freight
than the inland waterways. Motorcycles are more popular than buses. In
an effort to improve bus service,
plans to invite private companies to bid for operating rights for six
municipal bus routes.
roads extend over 210,000 kilometers, implying a network density twice
as high as
’s. However, the condition of the roads is generally poor; only 13.5
percent of the roads are considered to be in good condition. Only 29
percent of the roads are tarred, and road access is cut off to more than
10 percent of villages for at least one month per year because of
monsoons. Despite government efforts to promote the use of buses,
motorcycles remain the preferred mode of local transport. There is one
motorcycle for every seven people.
has six single-track railroad routes with a total length of 3,260
kilometers. The network’s density is only about one-third of the
average for low-income countries. The longest railroad line measures
1,730 kilometers from
Ho Chi Minh City
and requires 32 hours to traverse with the Reunification Express. Of the
nation’s inventory of rolling stock, 25 percent is not operational.
Twenty-five percent of the nation’s operational rolling stock is more
than 30 years old. Freight traffic picked up in 2000 and 2001 following
five years of decline.
needs more than US$400 million between 2004 and 2009 to modernize its
railroads. The government plans to build two subway lines in
Ho Chi Minh City
by 2007. Project-related costs are estimated at US$800 million.
principal ports in
, listed from north to south, are
Quang Ninh, Danang, Qui Nhon,
Chi Minh City
, and Can Tho. Altogether
has seven international ports and five additional ports that specialize
in transporting oil and coal. The freight volume is about 14 million
tons annually, compared with only 4.5 million tons in 1993. However,
total traffic is only about one-third of capacity. Vietnamese ships
carry only about 20 percent of the country’s international trade,
although plans exist to expand the merchant fleet substantially.
inland waterways, primarily the
systems, carry more freight than the railroads, and the volume of
freight is rising slowly. According to the World Bank, transportation
productivity via the inland waterways is 40 percent below the system’s
potential, assuming proper maintenance, navigation aids, and dredging. Civil
Aviation and Airports:
Airlines, the national airline, has a fleet of 30 aircraft that link
with 19 foreign cities. In November 2004, Vietnam Airlines announced
that it would purchase 10 Airbus A310–200 aircraft and continue
negotiations for four Boeing 7E7 “Dreamliner” aircraft. Vietnam
Airlines’ goal is to expand its fleet to 73 aircraft by 2010. It also
hopes to inaugurate service to the
by the end of 2005. International airlines carry almost two-thirds of
operates 17 major civil airports, including three international gateways:
Noi Bai in the north, Danang in the center, and Tan Son Nhat in the
south. Tan Son Nhat is the largest, handling 75 percent of international
Pipelines: In April 1995, a 125-kilometer natural gas pipeline connecting Bach Ho
with a power plant near Vung Tau went into operation. With the
subsequent addition of compressors, the volume pumped rose to more than
1 billion cubic meters per year. In late 2000, the government approved
plans to construct a 399-kilometer underwater pipeline, the world’s
longest, to carry natural gas onshore from the Nam Con Son basin. The
pipeline’s anticipated capacity is 2 billion cubic meters per year,
while the basin has an estimated 59 billion cubic meters of natural gas
Telecommunications: The International Telecommunication Union rates
telecommunications market the second fastest growing in the world after
With rapid telecommunications growth leading to 4.9 million landline
telephones and 3.4 million mobile telephones as of mid-2004,
telephone penetration rate is still only 10 percent. As of mid-2004,
had 5.1 million Internet users, corresponding to 6 percent penetration.
had about 600,000 personal computers, or 7.35 for 1,000 people. In 2003
had 8.2 million radios, or 100.45 per 1,000 people. There were 65 AM
radio stations, 7 FM stations, and 29 shortwave stations. Also in 2003,
had 3.6 million televisions, or 43.73 per 1,000 people. Television
broadcast stations numbered at least seven in 1998.
Government Overview: The Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP) has a monopoly on power. A
three-person collective leadership consists of the VCP general secretary,
the prime minister, and the president. President Tran Duc Luong is the
chief of state, while Prime Minister Phan Van Khai is head of government.
General Secretary Nong Duc Manh heads up not only the VCP but also the
15-member Politburo. A decision by any member of the triumvirate is
vetted by the other two. As a result, policy announcements tend to be
bland and equivocal.
In July 2002, the National Assembly
voted to keep Prime Minister Khai and President Luong in office until
2007. Khai, who is the oldest member of the cabinet and is known for his
pro-reform policies, is believed likely to complete his 2002–07 term
because of the absence of an heir apparent, although if a successor is
found he may consider stepping down in 2005. The mechanism for transfers
of power suffers from a lack of transparency.
has had a series of constitutions, introduced in 1946, 1959, 1980, and
1992. As of late 2004, the Vietnamese constitution is regarded as the
1992 document, as amended in 2001 to continue the reform of the state
apparatus, to allow more leeway to the private sector, and to promote
progress in the areas of education, science, and technology. The
original 1992 constitution modestly downgraded the roles of the
Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP) and the government in favor of reform.
Instead of being authorized to do whatever was necessary to “build
socialism,” the VCP was subordinated to the constitution and the law,
while the government was assigned specific management functions under
the direction of a prime minister, whose powers were also defined. In
addition, the constitution called for a multisector economy. Although
the autonomy of state enterprises was recognized, a role was also
assigned to the private sector. Individuals were permitted to acquire
lengthy land leases. Foreign investors were granted ownership rights and
protection against nationalization.
In 2001 the constitution was amended
to increase the role of the National Assembly by giving it the authority
to decide budget allocations and to stage votes of no confidence in
office holders. Amendments also boosted the role of the private sector
by recognizing the right to operate of any businesses not explicitly
prohibited and lifting restrictions on their size. These revisions were
intended to encourage the development of a cottage industry of
individual traders and private enterprises. In the field of education,
amendments established the goals of universal secondary education, more
vocational and technical training, and easier access to education by the
poor and handicapped.
Branches of Government: The National Assembly, a 498-member unicameral body elected to a
five-year term, meets twice a year. The assembly appoints the president
(chief of state), the prime minister (head of government), chief
procurators of the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s
Office of Supervision and Control (the heads of the judiciary), and the
21- member cabinet (the executive). The constitution recognizes the
National Assembly as “the highest organ of state power.” Once a
rubber stamp, the National Assembly has become more assertive in holding
ministers accountable and amending legislation. Ultimately, however, the
Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP) controls the executive and the
electoral process. The VCP exercises control through the 150-member
Central Committee, which elects the 15-member Politburo at national
party congresses held every five years. Members of the party hold all
senior government positions.
The Vietnamese government has
ministers in the following areas: agriculture and rural development;
construction; culture and information; education and training; finance;
foreign affairs; industry; interior; justice; labor, war invalids, and
social affairs; marine products; national defense; planning and
investment; public health; science, technology and environment; trade;
and transport and communications.
Administrative Divisions: Administratively,
consists of 59 provinces and 5 municipalities. The provinces are An
Giang, Bac Giang, Bac Kan, Bac Lieu, Bac Ninh, Ba Ria- Vung Tau, Ben Tre,
Binh Dinh, Binh Duong, Binh Phuoc, Binh Thuan, Ca Mau, Cao Bang, Dac
Lak, Dac Nong, Dien Bien, Dong Nai, Dong Thap, Gia Lai, Ha Giang, Hai
Duong, Ha Nam, Ha Tay, Ha Tinh, Hau Giang, Hoa Binh, Hung Yen, Khanh Hoa,
Kien Giang, Kon Tum, Lai Chau, Lam Dong, Lang Son, Lao Cai, Long An, Nam
Dinh, Nghe An, Ninh Binh, Ninh Thuan, Phu Tho, Phu Yen, Quang Binh,
Quang Nam, Quang Ngai, Quang Ninh, Quang Tri, Soc Trang, Son La, Tay
Ninh, Thai Binh, Thai Nguyen, Thanh Hoa, Thua Thien-Hue, Tien Giang, Tra
Vinh, Tuyen Quang, Vinh Long, Vinh Phuc, and Yen Bai. The municipalities
are Can Tho,
, and Ho Chi Minh.
Provincial and Local Government: Provinces and municipalities are subdivided into towns, districts, and
villages. The provinces and municipalities are centrally controlled by
the national government. The towns, districts, and villages are locally
accountable to some degree through elected people’s councils.
Judicial and Legal System: At the apex of the judicial system is the Supreme People’s Court (SPC),
which is the highest court for appeal and review. The SPC reports to the
National Assembly, which controls the judiciary’s budget and confirms
the president’s nominees to the SPC and Supreme People’s Procuracy.
The Supreme People’s Procuracy issues arrest warrants, sometimes
retroactively. Below the SPC are district and provincial People’s
Courts, military tribunals, and administrative, economic, and labor
courts. The People’s Courts are the courts of first instance. The
Ministry of Defense (MOD) has military tribunals, which have the same
rules as civil courts. Military judges and assessors are selected by the
MOD and SPC, but the SPC has supervisory responsibility.
Although the constitution provides
for independent judges and lay assessors (who lack administrative
training), the U.S. Department of State maintains that Vietnam lacks an
independent judiciary, in part because the Vietnamese Communist Party
(VCP) selects judges and vets them for political reliability. Moreover,
the party seeks to influence the outcome of cases involving perceived
threats to the state or the party’s dominant position. In an effort to
increase judicial independence, the government transferred local courts
from the Ministry of Justice to the SPC in September 2002. However, the
Department of State saw no evidence that the move actually achieved the
judiciary is also hampered by a shortage of lawyers and rudimentary
trial procedures. The death penalty is often imposed in cases of
corruption and drug trafficking.
has universal suffrage at age 18. Elections for the National Assembly
are scheduled every five years. The last election was held on
May 19, 2002
. The next election is scheduled in 2007. In addition, elections to the
people’s councils (local assemblies) were last held in April 2004.
Although candidates are carefully vetted, about 25 percent of those
elected were not members of the Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP). By a
law enacted in 2003, each district has at least two more candidates than
the number of elected positions.
is a one-party state. The Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP) has a
monopoly on power.
mass media are supervised by the Ministry of Culture and Information and
communicate officially approved information. The government has shut
down noncompliant newspapers. Only senior officials are permitted access
to foreign television via satellite. Given
close supervision of official media outlets, dissidents have sought to
disseminate their views via the Internet, leading the government to
impose restrictions on Internet use and access. The regime controls
Internet access via
sole gateway, Vietnam Data Communications. In 2002 the Ministry of
Culture and Information began to block access to Internet Web sites it
considers “subversive,” such as the BBC’s Vietnamese language Web
site. Also in 2002, the government sent a warning by jailing activists
for publishing critical commentaries on the Internet. Altogether,
Reporters Without Borders documented seven cases of dissidents being
imprisoned or detained for illicit Internet use. The government also has
tightened controls over cybercafés. In 2004 the government reprimanded
65 cybercafé owners for violating restrictions on Internet access,
including the viewing of pornography.
Foreign Relations: During its incursion into
was isolated internationally. However, soon after the conflict was
resolved in the Paris Agreement on
in October 1991,
established or reestablished diplomatic and economic relations with most
, and other East Asian countries.
joined the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 1995 and
the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC) in 1998.
foreign policy is aimed at developing good relations with a diversified
mix of nations.
In February 1994, the
lifted its economic embargo against
and in June 1995 the
normalized relations. However, these relations remain somewhat volatile.
Full implementation of a bilateral trade agreement, which came into
effect in December 2001, is being held up by a dispute over catfish
exports. In July 2003, the International Trade Commission decided in
favor of the
in the catfish dispute.
’s government is also upset with a bill introduced in the U.S. Congress
in July 2004 to link non-humanitarian aid to
human rights record.
Ideological affinities are driving
improved relations with
, and trade between the nations soared more than fortyfold during the
1990s to reach US$3 billion in 2002. But despite improved relations,
remains suspicious of
’s intentions. In January 2000,
signed a treaty defining a common land border. However, the countries
both claim sovereignty over the Spratly and
South China Sea
, and this dispute is a potential source of renewed tension.
enjoys a good political and economic relationship with
At a meeting in
in July 2004, foreign ministers from the two nations pledged to
strengthen the partnership. Already a major trading partner and investor,
promised to boost direct investment in
also offered support for
bid to join the World Trade Organization (WTO).
’s predecessor state, the
, was a longstanding ally and a major
investor. Following the break-up of the
reduced its investments in
Trade also suffered as a result of a dispute over the large debt that
. This debt has been restructured to
benefit so that
now must repay only 15 percent, with payments stretched over two decades.
Part of the debt is repayable in commodities such as rice and coffee.
Membership in International
is a member of the Asian Development Bank, the Asia-Pacific Economic
Cooperation forum, the International Monetary Fund, the United Nations,
and the World Health Organization. Reflecting
recognition of its place in the global economy, in 1995
joined the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Now an
observer at the World Trade Organization (WTO),
hopes to become a full member of the WTO in 2005, but opinions diverge
about whether accession will be possible on schedule.
Other memberships include the Colombo
Plan for Cooperative Economic and Social Development in Asia and the
Pacific, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations,
International Atomic Energy Agency, International Bank for
Reconstruction and Development (World Bank), International Civil
Aviation Organization, International Development Association,
International Fund for Agricultural Development, International Finance
Corporation, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent
Societies, International Labour Organization, International Maritime
Organization, Interpol, International Olympic Committee, International
Telecommunication Union, Nonaligned Movement, Organisation for the
Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, United Nations Conference on Trade and
Development, United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural
Organization, United Nations Industrial Development Organization, World
Confederation of Labor, World Customs Organization, World Federation of
Trade Unions, and World Intellectual Property Organization.
Major International Treaties: With the
reached the following agreements: Normalization of Relations (1995),
Bilateral Trade (2001), and Counternarcotics, Civil Aviation, and
Textiles (2003). With
reached a Land Border Agreement (1999), an Agreement on Borders in the
(2000), and a Declaration on
the Conduct of Parties in the
agreed to a Strategic Partnership (2001).
Aside from these bilateral
is a signatory to numerous international agreements on civil aviation,
counterterrorism, diplomatic immunity, the environment, nonproliferation,
and war crimes. Notable agreements include the following, organized by
subject. Civil Aviation:
is a signatory to various agreements to protect civil aviation from
hijackings, including the Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts
of Violence at Airports Serving Civil Aviation (1989). Counterterrorism
and Non-Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction: Vietnam has
signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (1970),
Treaty on the Prohibition of the Emplacement of Nuclear Weapons and
other Weapons of Mass Destruction on the Seabed and the Ocean Floor and
in the Subsoil Thereof (1972), Convention on the Prohibition of the
Development, Production, and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological)
and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction (1975), Protocol for the
Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases,
and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare (1975), Convention on the
Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of
Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction (1997), and International
Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings (2001). Diplomatic
is a signatory to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of
Crimes against Internationally Protected Persons, Including Diplomatic
Agents (1977) and the Convention on Privileges and Immunities of the
United Nations (1970). Environmental Protection: Vietnam has
signed the Convention on the Prohibition of Military or any other
Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques (1978), Convention
on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident (1986), Convention on
Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency
(1987), Convention for Protection of the Ozone Layer (1988), Montreal
Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (1989), and United
Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (1994). War Crimes: Vietnam
is a signatory to the Geneva Conventions for the Amelioration of the
Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field, Relative
to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, and the Protection of Civilian
Persons at a Time of War (1950), and the Convention on the Prevention
and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1951).
Armed Forces Overview: Since
fought against the Khmer Rouge regime in
in 1978–89, it has demobilized about 500,000 troops and cut military
has one of the region’s largest and most powerful militaries.
Furthermore, the People’s Army of Vietnam remains politically
influential, and many senior officers have obtained leadership positions
in the Central Committee and Politburo of the Vietnamese Communist Party
(VCP). The military’s prestige stems from its formidable track record
against such major world military powers as
and its deep roots in society.
Foreign Military Relations:
cooperates militarily with
on how to combat guerrilla warfare.
’s MiG fighter planes and helps
manufacture small- and medium-sized weapons. In 2001
bolstered its military cooperation with
has reduced its military presence in
since it abandoned control over the Camh Ranh Bay Naval Base in 2001
because it could not afford the expense.
External Threat: Despite having fought a border war with
does not face an identifiable military enemy. However, sovereignty over
the Spratly and
South China Sea
remains in dispute with
and several other nations. In addition,
have protested incursions by Vietnamese squatters.
Defense Budget: In 2003
’s defense budget was estimated at US$2.3 billion.
Major Military Units:
active-duty military consists of a 412,000-member army, a 42,000-member
navy, a 30,000-member air and air defense force, and a 40,000-member
paramilitary border defense corps. The army, which is deployed in nine
military regions (including Hanoi), consists of headquarters, 58
infantry divisions, 3 mechanized infantry divisions, 10 armored
battalions, 15 independent infantry regiments, special forces and
airborne brigades, 10 field artillery brigades, 8 engineering divisions,
10 to 15 economic construction divisions, and 20 independent engineering
brigades. The navy, including naval infantry, is deployed in four naval
regions. The People’s Air Force consists of three air divisions, each
with three regiments.
Major Military Equipment: The army is equipped with 1,315 main battle tanks, 620 light tanks, 100
reconnaissance vehicles, 300 armored infantry fighting vehicles, 1,380
armored personnel carriers, 2,300 towed artillery, and more than 30
self-propelled artillery. The army also has an unspecified number of
combined gun/mortars, assault guns, multiple rocket launchers, mortars,
surface-to-surface missiles, antitank guided weapons, recoilless
launchers, air defense guns, and surface-to-air missiles. The navy has 2
Yugo-class submarines, 6 frigates, 1 corvette, 12 missile craft, 10
torpedo craft, 19 inshore patrol combatants, 10 mine warfare ships, 6
amphibious ships, and at least 30 support craft. The People’s Air
Force has 189 combat aircraft (53 Su-22, 12 Su-27, and 124 MiG-21) and
26 Mi-24 armed helicopters.
Military Service: Military service is compulsory, usually for two years. In late 2001,
reinstated the requirement that women register for military service.
However, barring an emergency mobilization, they are unlikely to be
called up. Mandatory military service for women had been abandoned in
1975 at the end of the nation’s civil war.
has a 4-million to 5-million-member paramilitary reserve force,
consisting of the People’s Self-Defense Force and the rural People’s
Ministry of Public Security controls the police, a national security
investigative agency, and other units that maintain internal security.
Internal Threat: The government seeks to prevent the expression of views critical of the
government and non-sanctioned religious worship. When some dissidents
sought to evade official media controls by using the Internet to
disseminate their views, the government responded by introducing
Internet restrictions. Although dissident activity generates substantial
press commentary, it does not pose a threat to the regime’s stability.
The Montagnard ethnic minority represents a special case. This
group is seeking a return of its ancestral lands in the Central
Highlands. The Montagnards, who traditionally have opposed the communist
government, receive support from overseas Vietnamese, particularly the
U.S.-based Montagnard Foundation. After a violent clash with
demonstrators in April 2004, the government boosted its security
presence in the region.
Terrorism: Following al Qaeda’s attack on the
expressed sympathy for the victims and qualified support for the war on
urged that any steps taken against terrorists be consistent with
international cooperation within the bounds of the United Nations
Charter, target the culprits, and avoid larger-scale warfare.
In April 2004, the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) issued a draft
decree to combat money laundering as a source of terrorist financing.
This move followed pressure from the
which denied requests by the Vietcombank and the Vietnam Bank for
Investment and Development to set up representative offices on the
grounds that they could be used to finance international terrorism.
Human Rights: In its 2003 report on Human Rights Practices, the U.S. Department of
’s human rights record as “poor” and cited the continuation of
“serious abuses.” According to the report, the government has
imposed restrictions on freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom
of assembly, and freedom of association. Citizens are denied the right
to change their government. The government continues to hold political
prisoners who have expressed views at odds with government policy.
Prison conditions are generally harsh; in fact, some prisoners are
subject to beatings.
has no independent judiciary, and there is no right to a fair and speedy
trial. Human rights organizations are not permitted to operate.
Discrimination against women and ethnic minorities, child labor, and
prostitution are serious problems.
The government is attempting to
address the child labor issue. The government officially provides for
freedom of religion and recognizes Buddhist, Roman Catholic, Protestant,
Hoa Hao, Cao Dai, and Muslim denominations. However, non-sanctioned
groups, including branches of even the recognized denominations, face
harassment. Furthermore, the government insists on supervising the
clergies of the sanctioned groups (by approving appointments, for
example) in the interest of “national unity.”
In April 2004, 20,000 to 30,000
members of the Montagnard ethnic minority gathered to protest for the
return of their ancestral lands in the
and an end to religious repression. Human Rights Watch alleges that
hundreds of demonstrators were wounded and at least 10 killed in a clash
with Vietnamese officials and civilians. The Vietnamese government is
concerned that the Montagnards are seeking an independent state. 20