Insight and analysis from around the world with Channel 4 News's team of international correspondents.
We don’t spend much time talking about Vietnam, other than its allure as a holiday destination. But the time has come to talk about politics in this sickle-shaped nation.
Overnight, an important piece of news emerged on various social media outlets: 61 senior members of Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party have written a letter openly denouncing the country’s leadership and accusing them of taking the “wrong path”. They also issued a series of demands including an end to the socialist system and a “decisive shift” from dictatorship to democracy.
Let’s just recap. A band of top communist party officials, including policy makers and former advisors to the prime minister, want to scrap communism. In one-party states like Vietnam, unsanctioned interventions of this variety are frowned upon. But the fact that an influential group have come forward to challenge their peers at the top says something important about discontent within the party and in the nation as a whole.
Public criticism of the Vietnamese establishment, including the Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung is unusual
There is of course, plenty to complain about in Vietnam. The country suffers from widespread corruption, a paucity of jobs for graduates, a wobbly banking sector and scores of over-leveraged state-owned companies. To top it off, there’s also China.
In May, the Chinese towed an oil rig into waters claimed by Vietnam and dispatched a flotilla of more than one hundred ships to protect it. Enraged, thousands of Vietnamese took to the streets, burning Chinese flags and several foreign-owned factories. Two Chinese workers were killed and more than one hundred injured.
The authors of the open letter say their own leaders are to blame, accusing them of weakness and collusion in their dealings with Chinese officials. They want the Vietnamese government to “come clean” about a secret summit in which Vietnam is alleged to have secretly handed over territory to its giant neighbour.
It is difficult to know where the open letter will lead but Hoi Trinh of advocacy group Voice, says it will encourage a small, growing and increasingly emboldened band of pro-democracy activists in Vietnam. “What is surprising about the letter is that it was made public,” says Trinh. “It’s not the way things are done in Vietnam. You can criticise the government within your family. You can even criticise them in the coffee shop. You don’t do it publicly – but these people did exactly that.”
The government will almost certainly use the state media to denounce those involved but where these well-known critics of the Communist regime go, many more may follow.
Lieutenant-General Nguyen Trong Vinh -former Vietnam ambassador to China
Nguyen Khac Mai – Dean of of Vietnamese Philosophy Institute
Dao Xuan Sam – former member of the Prime Minister Research Committee
Tran Duc Nguyen -former Chair of the Prime Minister Research Committee
Lieutenant-General Le Duy Mat
Vu Quoc Tuan- adviser to former Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet
To Hoa – former editor-in-chief of major Party paper Saigon Giai Phong
Ta Dinh Thinh – Bureau Chief – Central Party Head Office
Nguyen Ngoc – famous author, former Party secretary [of state-controlled Vietnam Writers's Association]
Nguyen Trung -former Vietnam ambassador to Thailand
Le Than- former CEO of state-owned company SG-Riversite
Ms Kim Chi – famous actress (recently expelled from the Party membership after her trip to the US to take part in a forum about freedom of expression)
Former editors-in-chief of major Party newspapers, magazines such as Song Huong (Perfume River), Thanh Nien (Youth), Lao Dong (Labour)…
[Note: journalist Pham Chi Dung, a leading member of the civil society movement, is also a former Party member]
A record of the main developments in Gaza since the crisis escalated at the end of June.
It was certainly clear when I met former Malaysia Airlines executive Abudul Aziz that he loves the company – it was equally clear that he is worried about it after the downing of flight MH17, the
At first glance, nothing at Kuala Lumpur’s impressive-looking airport seemed out of place. But there was a heavy feeling in the air.
Freelance photographer John Wendle describes the harrowing moment he arrived on the scene of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash.
In a mass demonstration in Hong Kong on Tuesday, protesters are hoping their Beijing-based masters get the “message” and leave them alone.
To me, it sounded like one of the best known fortune-tellers in south east Asia, Luck Rakanithes, believes he made his own luck.
Banned protests, free concerts and models… Thailand is changing under military rule – but how much did fortune-tellers have to play in the coup?
Pakistani officials say they are giving people a chance to escape before they launch a fully-fledged ground offensive.
The Taliban-claimed attack on an international airport in Karachi is an illustration of Pakistan’s inability to defend key installations – and a major blow to peace talks.