Nguyen Quang A, CSF, Vietnam*
(The Official Launch of FORSEA, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia February 16, 2019)
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is great privilege for me to participate in the official launch of Forsea and have an opportunity to talk to you on a strategy for democratization in Vietnam.
Maybe you have never heard of Phan Châu Trinh. He was born on 9th September 1872, and passed away on 24th March 1926. From 1905 to 1907 he developed his ideas of non-violent struggle for democracy and popular rights (now human rights) in Vietnam to which I’ll return later on. The tax-protest riots erupted in central of Vietnam in 1908. In spite of the fact that Phan Chau Trinh insisted on non-violent methods, he was accused of inciting the public to join in the revolt and he was arrested and condemned to death. Due to the intervention of the Ligue des Droits de l’Homme the death sentence was changed to life imprisonment and later on to house arrest in a village, then he was released in 1910 and deported to France. From April 1911 he spent fourteen years in exile. He returned to Saigon in 1925 and died on 24 March 1926.
Phan Chau Trinh’s ideas to fight for democracy and human rights can be summarized concisely in his 5 slogans (policies) which we, the Civil Society Forum (CSF), adopted as ours:
- (A strategy to) Building Democracy (composes of):
- Exercise the People’s Rights
- Invigorate the People’s Spirit
- Broaden the People’s Mind
- Enrich the People’s Well-being
Phan Chau Trinh was an astonishing modern thinker of modernization. Let’s start with his fourth and fifth policies from the bottom: “Enrich the People’s Well-being” and “Broaden the People’s Mind”. They were not only his thoughts, but he himself had started a program to put them into the practice. By establishing schools, associations, enterprises and encouraging other people to do so, he made an example to the others by encouraging the people to create the so called “action resources”, so to speak, using the languish of the neo-modernization theory: the material resource (equipment, tools, and income), the intellectual resource (knowledge, skills, and information) and the connective resource (networks of exchange and contact interface) in the basic, fundamental level.
In a recent essay, I have mapped the ideas of Phan Chau Trinh more than a century ago into those of neo-modernization theories. I have shown that the fourth and fifth policies of Phan correspond to the “action resources” of neo-modernization theory in the basic level and that the values generated by the third policy of Phan, “Invigorate the People’s Spirit”, corresponds to the emancipative values in the next, cultural, motivational level, these values promote and encourage the social movement activities (in an upper level of action, expressed by the second policy of “Execise Your Rights”). And these social movement activities of “Exercising Your Rights, that is just excercise those rights and not waiting any ones (the government, the ruling party or any person) to allow you to do that in everiday life. This proactive way of life gives rise to the constant pressures on the authorities to provide legal guarantees for freedoms and ensure that those freedoms are respected in the daily life, that is, those freedoms are entitlements or citizen’s rights at the top level (that empowerment process is the essence of democratization which can be done partially even in the middle of a dictatorial regime and have to be done even in the mature democracies since the number of those human rights that can become entitlements are infinite). This thick, vibrant and inclusive civil society is crucial not only to the process of democratization leading to democratic transition, but also to consolidation of democracy if the transition did take place.
Unfortunately, in more than a century Vietnam did not follow the wise strategy of Phan and today we are still suffering under the Communist dictatorship. We try to reformulate that strategy and supplement it with 9 principles to form a coherent strategy that fits to our times.
Phan Chau Trinh was a firm and consistent non-violent fighter for democracy and human rights. He adopted the nonviolent methods as early as 1905, at the same time as Mahatma Gandhi (1906); Phan was 3 years younger than Gandhi. This coincidence may not be a surprise, I think, because both of them have been heavily influenced by non-violent ideas of Indian thoughts expressed few thousand years ago, for example, in the Buddha’s teachings which are disseminated by Dalai Lama and zen-master Thich Nhat Hanh in our time.
Non-violence is one of the principles guiding our activities in Vietnam civil society in general, and in CSF in particular.
Our strategy for democratization in Vietnam composes of the above mentioned five policies and the following 9 principles.
We, the CSF, follow 9 principles (or core values) in the struggle to transform peacefully the post-totalitarian regime in Vietnam into a true democracy. These are:
- Legality: CSF and its members act legally, respect the laws, do not fight against the state. The legality here is understood as the conformity with the international treaties Vietnam has joined, with the constitution, laws and other state regulations not contradicting the higher ones (in the following strict order specified by Vietnam Constitution and laws: the international treaties, the constitution, laws, decrees by government, circulars by line-ministries). In other words, legality includes disobedience of state regulations which are in contradiction with the international treaties, constitution, laws, …
- Autonomy: all members of CSF have equal rights and obligations in the operation of CSF, no one can ask a member to do what that member does not want. Each member (or group of members) acts autonomously with its creativity, its initiative in its own way in order to achieve the objective of CSF but must accept the core values and principle of CSF and this does not exclude joint-activities.
- True name: all members of CSF use true names in CSF’s activities; pen-name is acceptable if it can identify clearly the pen-name holder. No pseudo name or false name is accepted in CSF’s activities. Keeping integrity is paramount requirement.
- Openness: CSF is open and acts publicly. Nothing needs to be hidden. This also applies to each member in CSF’s activities.
- Non-violence: CSF and its members strictly adhere to non-violence. Non-violence has two aspects. First, CSF and its members do not use any violent means to achieve its goal. Second, CSF and its members use all non-violent and legal measures in their activities and jointly with other people or organizations to convince those who advocatee violence to abandon their violent policy in order to prevent violent activities of any one or any organization. Violence also includes bad, hate speeches, other forms of inciting violence, … and have to be avoided.
- Tolerance: the principle to accept and respect different opinions, those of the minorities in particular, has to be observed strictly.
- Truthful: All information needs to be crosschecked to ensure that it is as precise as possible. Distortion, falsification, counterfeit, lies are not acceptable.
- Trust: To trust each other is an important principle. It does not encourage any procedure or measure causing doubtfulness. CSF does not fear infiltration of any forces (including the communists and security forces). Their membership is even welcome if they accept the objectives, values and principles of CSF as any other member.
- Solidarity: the spirit of solidarity is maintained in actions of groups as well as CSF as a whole; solidarity with other groups or organizations, especially when a member of those groups or anyone has been harassed or maltreated.
CSF, founded by those intellectuals who signed the Petition 72 on September 23, 2013, is not a hierarchical organization, it is a flat network, a self-organizing network sharing common values, principles and goals. It encourages overlapping, i.e. one person can be a member of several groups. In other words, it tries to be an umbrella network of loosly connected networks. And the strategy for democratization in Vietnam mentioned above has been anounced by CSF in the year 2013.
Needless to say, that in the above-mentioned goals, values, and principles you can find so many features of several civil society organizations of former communist countries in central and eastern Europe and else where in the world, in cluding of those in our region.
To summarize, a viable strategy for democratization in Vietnam is to develop a thick, vibrant and inclusive civil society with above-mentioned 5 policies and 9 principles in order to make constant pressures on the authorities and force them to democatize (by negotiations or rupture).
We think that our strategy fits nicely into the Peoples’ Charter for Southeast Asia adopted at Château de Mareil, France, 22 July 2018 by Forsea and hope to work with all of you to promote human rights and democracy in the Southeast Asian Region.
Thank you for your attention.
* A version of this remark has been delivered at Gala Diner of of the Forum 2000, October 9, 2017 in Prague.
 See for example, Christian Welzel Freedom C: Human Empowerment and the Quest for Emancipation (Cambridge University Press, 2013, p. 46).
 developed by Donald Inglehart and Christian Welzel
 A thick, vibrant and inclusive society is important in a succesful democratization process and to avoid “troubled democratization” (see, for exaple Donatella della Porta, Mobilizing for Democracy: Comparing 1989 and 2011, Oxford University Press, 2014) and the warning of Renske Doorenspleet (Rethinking Value of Democracy, Palgrave Macmillan, 2019) that “the process of democratization is dangerous” which may happen in case of an aggressive and exclusive civil society (or social movements).
 as the government of Vietnam used to accuse the dissidents and those informal civil society organizations (CSOs) who advocate democracy and human rights. That accusation is meaningless, because if you understand correctly the state as a notion composing of four elements (in an enhanced Weberian sense) and their relations: 1) a state teritory, 2) a state polulation, 3) a state apparatus and 4) the state ideas and projects. On the other hand, to fight against a government or its policies is a RIGHT, if we use the term government as a specific set of men and women who occupy positions in the state apparatus (paticularly, of the elected and/or appointed high officials).
 We have an open policy to win them over, to converse them (in fact, there were many reform-minded party members among our founders). And the communist party has tried hard against that policy.