In 1956, when The French High Command for Indochina was dissolved, Vietnam officially gained independence. The French forces had begun the process of withdrawal from the country two years earlier after losing a significant battle against The League for the Independence of Vietnam (Việt Minh), the organization that led the struggle for Vietnamese independence.1954 Geneva Accords divided the country into two separate republics; the Republic of Vietnam (South) and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North). It caused what is commonly referred to as the Vietnam War (also referred to as the American War or the Second Indochina War). Decades of conflict between the republics followed, gradually intensified and officially the war ended in April 1975. When Communist forces captured the presidential palace in Saigon, now named Ho Chi Minh City. There was also, so-called Third Indochina War, which began in 1978. Vietnam forces invaded Cambodia to oppose the Khmer Rouge leadership. That’s not everything, the following year China launched attacks on several Northern provinces of Vietnam, which resulted in mass departures of ethnic Chinese ‘boat people’ from Vietnam in the 1980s.
Following a period of economic stagnation, in 1986, Vietnam undertook a series of reforms (known as Đổi Mới) with the aim of increasing economic growth, which opened up the country to foreign investment. The US lifted its 30-year trade embargo in 1994 and the following year Vietnam became a full member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Decree 72 was introduced in 2013 to manage the provision and use of Internet services and online information, making it an offense to discuss and share any political dissent. It happened when the government increased media suppression in 2008, which led to arrests and accusations of several journalists, bloggers, and pro-democracy activists which resulted of the development of civil society in 2007 when they became louder and organized mainly through social media and internet forums to foster and discuss political issues.
The South China Sea dispute
continues to be a sensitive issue between Vietnam and China, as well as (to
varying extents) the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei; all claiming
sovereignty over various overlapping parts of the area, including rights to
fishing areas; exploration of crude oil and natural gas, and potentially the
control of significant shipping lanes. Major protests occurred in 2014, in
response to China’s placement of an oil rig in Vietnamese-claimed waters, and
more sporadically in 2015 and 2016. The protests are primarily targeted at
China, but in some cases may include underlying messages aimed at the
Government’s action, or perceived inaction, with regard to South China Sea
DEMOGRAPHY OF VIETNAM
93.4 million is estimated as Vietnam’s population by The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (47.2 mln. females and 46.2 mln. males). Around 29 million people (approx. 30% of the population) live in urban areas. Every year the population is increasing by around 1%, although there is a marked difference between urban and rural areas: the urban population is growing at around per cent per year, while the rural population is stagnant at around 60 million people.
The difference in population between two largest cities of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City is estimated at 7.8 million people wheras Hanoi lags significantly behind with estimated population of 6.9 million.Vietnam has a total of 54 ethnic groups, of which the majority ‘Viet’ or ‘Kinh’ make up approximately 86% of the population.
Vietnamese is the official
language and is spoken by around 90% of the population. Minority groups are
distinguished by more than a dozen distinct languages. Eleven of the minority
groups – eg. Tay, Thai, Nung, etc – have their own writing systems. A younger
generation of ethnic minorities is increasingly speaking Vietnamese through
their education in the public school system.
According to official
statistics, 27% of the population, or approximately 24 million people, follow a
particular religion or belief in Vietnam, but this does not include those that
do not officially declare their faith. Vietnam’s Committee for Religious
Affairs (CRA) states that more than half the population follow Mahayana
Buddhism, though not strictly practiced. Other religions practiced include
Theravada Buddhism, within the ethnic Khmer group (1.2% of the total
population), Roman Catholicism (7%), Cao Dai (2.5 to 4%), Hoa Hao (1.5 to 3%)
and Protestantism (1 to 2%). Followers of Islam, Bahai, Hinduism and Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) comprise less than 2% of the
population. Vietnamese public servants must not claim any religious
The World Bank describes
Vietnam as ‘a development success story’. Economic reforms mentioned above transformed
the country from one of the poorest in the world at that time to ‘low middle
income status’ over a period of 25 years. Its per capita GDP growth is recognized
as one of the fastest in the world, with per capita income moving from USD100
in the early 1990s to around USD 2,100 by the end of 2015.
The national poverty rate
has declined significantly, since the 1990s, from 58% to 13.5% in 2014,
although in ethnic minority areas it is still above 50%. Vietnam is ranked 115
out of 188 countries in the latest United Nations Human Development Index
(HDI). Transparency International’s 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI)
ranked Vietnam 113 out of 176 countries; compared with Cambodia at 156, Laos at
123, Thailand at 101 and China at 79.
Vietnam is one of the
world’s few remaining one-party communist states. Under Article 4 of the
Constitution, the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) remains the country’s only
legal political party. The CPV’s Central Committee currently comprises 180 full
and 25 alternate members elected at the National Party Congress every five
years. The 12th Party Congress was held in January 2016, with the incumbent
General Secretary Dr. Nguyen Phu Trong re-elected for a second term.
Article 5 of the
Constitution enshrines Vietnam’s commitment to the equality, solidarity and
support of ethnic minorities; the rights of minorities to use their own
language and script; and the rights of minorities to preserve their cultural
identity, traditions and cultures. It also commits the Government to gradually
improve the ‘material and spiritual conditions’ of ethnic groups in Vietnam.
Vietnam has identified
promoting development for ethnic minority groups it is Socio-Economic
Development Plan and has welcomed engagement with development partners on this
issue, including Australia’s own development assistance program targeting
empowerment of ethnic minority women in the north west of the country.
There is no single,
comprehensive anti-discrimination law in Vietnam, although anti-discrimination
clauses exist in a number of national laws. Local officials often act in
contravention of national laws and discriminate against members of ethnic and
religious minority groups. Societal discrimination against ethnic minorities
continues and is persistent; ethnic minorities are often viewed as backward and
uneducated by the Kinh majority. The National Assembly’s Ethnic Minority
Council, along with provincial ethnic minority steering committees, continue to
support infrastructure development and address some problems related to poverty
reduction and low literacy rates amongst ethnic minority groups.
Security and law enforcement personnel are highly visible throughout Vietnam, particularly during politically sensitive occasions or potential demonstrations. Organized crime groups exist and engage in prostitution, extortion, gambling, illicit drugs and people trafficking/smuggling operations. Petty crime, including bag-snatches and theft, occur regularly in larger cities and towns. Violent crimes like murder, armed robbery, kidnapping remain rare.
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