Nguyen Phuoc Tuong, 77, a Marxist scholar says he is no longer a believer. A former adviser to two prime ministers, Mr. Tuong, like so many people in Vietnam today, is speaking out forcefully against the government.
“Our system now is the totalitarian rule of one party,” he said in an interview at his apartment on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City. “I come from within the system — I understand all its flaws, all its shortcomings, all its degradation,” he said. “If the system is not fixed, it will collapse on its own.”
...the country of course is ranked among some of the world’s most corrupt by Transparency International, a global corruption monitor.
In an otherwise authoritarian environment, divisions in the party have actually helped encourage free speech because factions are eager to tarnish one another, Dr. Thayer said.
“There’s a contradiction in Vietnam,” he said. “Dissent is flourishing, but at the same time, so is repression.”
As dissident voices have multiplied among Vietnam’s 92 million people, the government has tried to crack down. Courts have sentenced numerous bloggers, journalists and activists to prison, yet criticism, especially online, continues seemingly unabated. The government blocks certain Internet sites, but many Vietnamese use software or Web sites to maneuver around the censorship.
“Many more people are trying to express themselves than before, criticizing the government,” said Truong Huy San, an author, journalist and well-known blogger. “And what they are saying is much more severe.”
Mr. San, who is on a fellowship at Harvard, is the author of “The Winning Side,” perhaps the first critical, comprehensive history of Vietnam since 1975 by someone inside the country. Widely read in Vietnam, the two-volume work, written under the pen name Huy Duc, was printed without a permit from the government and describes such acts as the purges of disloyal party members and the seizure of south Vietnamese business owners’ assets.