The Rebirth of the Democratic Party of Vietnam and a basic principle of constitutionalism

Dang Van

Point of View

For Week Ending 4 June 2006

The rebirth of the Democratic Party of Vietnam (DPV) on 1 June 2006,
as eloquently announced in a formal declaration by its former
general-secretary Professor Hoang Minh Chinh, will go down in history
as a turning point in our struggle for democracy in Vietnam. Such
event has far more significance than a purely symbolic gesture as the
ruling Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) would like it to be. It is
more than symbolic because in 1944, together with the CPV and the now
defunct Socialist Party of Vietnam, it was legally sanctioned by the
state as a legitimate political force. Many of its members
participated in the struggle against French colonial powers and are
now in responsible positions within the current regime. Its open
adoption of the provisions of the United Nations Charter (1945), The
United Nations Declaration on Human Rights (1948), The United Nations
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) and the
Untied Nations Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966)
repositions it squarely in the 21st century?s trend for multi-party
democracy and human rights. It challenges thus the ruling communists?
monopoly of political power in Vietnam.
In a desperate move to counter this threat, the CPV fabricated a
statement by a Mr. Huynh Van Tieng, a former member of the Permanent
Bureau of the DPV (1944-1988), to declare on Vietnamnet that Mr. Hoang
Minh Chinh had been expelled from the DPV. We note that Mr. Huynh gave
no specific information on the date Mr. Hoang was allegedly expelled
or the circumstances leading to such act.
The issue of the constitutionality of political parties other than the
CPV has been earlier raised by Engineer Nguyen Phuong Anh in his
?Notice on The Establishment of the Bach Viet Democratic Party? on 9
May 2007 (which is supposed to be fictitious as that day is yet to
come in the future).
He refers to the current constitution of the regime and makes legally
very valid points:
?The 1980 constitution despite all its strict requirements does not
promote the one-party system. It only says other parties cannot
participate in leading society?but have the right to: advise the
ruling party, disagree with the governing measures of the ruling party
or organize the people, make people?s submissions to the ruling party
for consideration??
He then quoted article 4 of the 1980 constitution"
?The Communist Party of Vietnam, the vanguard of the Vietnamese
proletariat, the loyal delegate of the working class, the working
people and the whole nation, followers of Marxism-Leninism, is the
sole leading force of the state and the society: is the essential
element decisive for all victories of the revolution in Vietnam.?
The he reasoned with force:
?The reality is that article 4 states that the Communist Party of
Vietnam (CPV) is the sole leading force?but it there are no provisions
banning the operation of other political parties. The evidence is in
the existence of the two parties: the Socialist Party and the
Democratic Party during this period, and they only disbanded
themselves in October 1988. The disbanding of these two parties was of
their own decision and did not equate with the ?funeral? of the system
of multi-party democracy. The only reason was that there was no other
party established at that time. History and the Vietnamese people
themselves have given the Communist Party this privilege for a period
of time without competition.
The 1992 constitution is much more advanced than the 1980 one and has
opened the gate for other parties to lead, that is:
? Article 4: The Communist Party of Vietnam, the vanguard of the
Vietnamese proletariat, the loyal delegate of the working class, the
working people and the whole nation, followers of Marxism-Leninism and
the thoughts of Ho Chi Minh, is the leading force of the state and the
society. All party organizations operate within the constitution and
the law.?
Then he came to the crucial conclusion:
?The 1992 constitution (built on) the foundation of the 1980
constitution, but with more progressive reforms, opens the way for
other parties (if any) to lead society because the 1992 constitution
has given up the term ?sole? (before the word ?force?).
For the above reasons, the Bach Viet Democratic Party has been
The mere creation of a fictitious political party was enough to
trigger fierce reaction and outright repression from the regime. So
much so that Nguyen Phuong Anh had to issue an official heart-rending
plea for help from the international community. This plea is now
published in Doi Thoai.
It goes without saying that the rebirth of a real political force,
inside Vietnam, with real potential to challenge the dictatorship of
the CPV, the like of the DPV, has triggered an immediate and strong
All individuals involved were subjected to harassment and threats by
the security police: Professor Tran Khue, Professor Hoang Minh Chinh,
Engineer Bach Ngoc Duong, Colonel Tran Anh Kim, Lawyers Luong Duy
Phuong and Pham Sy Nguyen.
In particular Lawyer Nguyen Van Dai, who has the privilege to
represent Professor Hoang Minh Chinh and the DPV, had to issue a plea
for help from the international community too.
His plea for help outlines clearly the constitutional issue involved.
I quote his own words:
?Finally, they ask me what do you think about your works? I told him
that what I have been doing for Human Rights are legal and my legal
rights. But they said that: ?you violated the criminal law?.
Now, I decide that I will never work with them any more, and I never
answer them any question because they and I have very different
understanding about Constitutional and law. I believe that the
Vietnamese people can do what the Constitutional and law of Vietnam do
not forbid. But they suppose that the Vietnamese people can do only
what the Constitutional and law allow. So if I continue to work with
them, I will get the disadvantage.?(Emphasis is mine)
It is now clear to us that the Vietnamese people are most unfortunate
in that the current leadership of the CPV, besides extra-ordinary
greed, is grievously affected by stupidity. They fail to understand a
basic principle of the rule of law because they never had the need or
obligation to observe any laws. Of course they disagreed with Lawyer
Nguyen Phuong Dai because they know no other laws except to rule by
This basis of constitutional law has been laid down by John Locke
centuries ago.
In his ?The Second Treatise of Civil Government-1690?-chapter IV (Of
Slavery) Locke wrote:
"... Freedom of men under government is to have a standing rule to
live by, common to every one of that society, and made by the
legislative power erected in it. A liberty to follow my own will in
all things where that rule prescribes not, not to be subject to the
inconstant, uncertain, unknown, arbitrary will of another man,
...."(Emphasis is mine)
While extolling socialism as the highest form of democracy ever known
to humankind, and ?one thousand times more democratic than America?,
the Communist regime in Vietnam refuses to acknowledge that the
purpose of all laws is to restrict abuse of power by governments, not
to deprive citizens of their rights.
Of course Lawyer Nguyen Van Dai?s proposition (that a citizen is free
to do whatever is not forbidden by law or in Locke?s words: a liberty
to follow my own will in all things where the rule prescribes not) is
the one adopted by the rest of humankind, whereas the position taken
by the CPV (that a citizen can only do what is specifically allowed by
the law) is only enforceable by the regime in Vietnam against its
unfortunate citizens, and against the spirit of constitutionalism
If the CPV?s proposition was in any shape or form tenable, then all
life in Vietnam should come to a stand-still now. The reason being the
CPV-dominated congress has forgotten to legislate on how and when the
people of Vietnam should have their bowel motion, how and when to
urinate, how and when to make love etc?The congress shall meet, debate
and pass legislations and regulations specifically authorizing the
people to do so. Only then the people could legally proceed with
attending to their natural needs, and with their act of procreation,
strictly in accordance with party rules.
It appears that the CPV has blatantly violated the constitution and
laws written by them. For them constitutions and laws have no
intrinsic value in themselves. They are merely tools to enforce
There is now evidence that diplomats from the embassies of the
European Union, America, Great Britain, France and Australia have
visited leaders of the DPV and have lent their support. We can safely
conclude that these freedom fighters not only have the support of the
entire Vietnamese people, but also that of the rest of mankind.
Clearly in this epic struggle for democracy in Vietnam, the CPV has
been boxed into a corner and a new chapter in our history is in the
5 June 2006