Vietnamese journalist sheds fresh light on reunification

NorthVietnameseArmyNorth Vietnam’s capture of Sài Gòn during the tumultuous days of April 1975 is a pivotal moment in Asia’s post-colonial history, but the story of what happened next is relatively little-known, both in and outside the country.

Huy Đức, a veteran Vietnamese journalist, is aiming to shed new light on the reunification of Việt Nam and its aftermath in a new book called “The Winning Side.”

Now based in Boston, Mass., where he is a Nieman fellow at Harvard University, Mr. Đức spent 20 years working in Việt Nam, writing for local newspapers such as Tuổi Trẻ, Thanh Niên and Sài Gòn Tiếp Thị.

Huy ĐứcHe also published until 2010 the blogosin.org, which was ranked as the most popular blog in Việt Nam, according to his Nieman profile.

For the past three years, he has worked on bringing reunification-era Việt Nam to life through in-depth interviews with witnesses, including people who went on to become key post-war leaders in Việt Nam and shapers of what is now one Asia’s most promising emerging economies.

Among other things, Mr. Đức has detailed the often harsh treatment meted out to the country’s ethnic Chinese citizens, who, like today, are largely concentrated in Sài Gòn, renamed Hồ Chí Minh City after the takeover.

They accounted for a large proportion of the Vietnamese who sought to flee the country in the months following reunification.

Mr. Đức also focuses on the plight of the country’s intellectuals and their hardships in Communist-run re-education camps.

Winning sideDescribing why he wrote the book, Mr. Đức, who served eight years in the Vietnamese army, said many people in Việt Nam today believe that 1975 marked the North’s straightforward liberation of the South.

Instead, he said he sought to explore and explain subsequent conflicts with the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and with China, as well as the struggle of ordinary people to survive the upheaval.

Published as an e-book via Amazon, the Vietnamese-language “The Winning Side” combines two volumes — “Giải phóng” or “The Liberation,” and “Quyền bính” or “The Power” — and has already set alarm bells ringing in some quarters for its sensitive political content.

At present, only the first volume has been published.

At least two local publishers turned down the option to publish the book.

Chu Hảo, editor and general director of Việt Nam – based Tri Thức Publishing, said in a telephone interview that now is not the right time to publish the book in Việt Nam.

He describes the work, though, as “a true history of Việt Nam written through the perspective of a professional journalist.”

By NGUYỄN ANH THƯ 

Source:  The Wall Street Journal 14/12/2012

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