By Mr. Ngo Cong Duc, Deputy from Vinh Binh, Secretary-General of the Socialist Opposition bloc in the National Assembly, President of the Information Commission in the Assembly, editor of the daily Tin Sang, President of the Federation of newspaper editors of South Vietnam, Secretary-General of the Inter-Collegiate Association of South Vietnam, at a press conference held on September 21, 1970, at the Hotel Lutetia, Paris.
The South Vietnamese people aspire currently, more than ever, to peace, independence, and a life worthy of human beings. These aspirations are obvious, for at this moment the population of South Vietnam is caught up in one of the most atrocious of wars. Political, economic and cultural life is dominated by foreigners.
I. A Few Salient Points Concerning the Population of South Vietnam
(1) The current war is destroying untold human and material resources in South Vietnam. Not including the forces of the NLF, the army of the Republic of Vietnam numbers one million men; to this figure must be added the forces of self-defense numbering one million men; and police forces numbering 100,000 men. In other words, two million young people, instead of pursuing their studies and engaging in productive work, are forced to take up arms in order to help American imperialism achieve its political aim in Southeast Asia.
American forces and the forces of the allies of the Americans, numbering close to 500,000 men, are engaged in round-the-clock massacres of our innocent compatriots. Cases such as those of My Lai-Son My, which each time take 500-600 victims, are by no means isolated. The US has dropped more than ten million tons of bombs on our country, and scattered an untold quantity of toxic chemical products as well as nearly 100,000 tons of defoliants on our fields and rice plantations, which have resulted in the sterilization and destruction of all the harvests. Rich in rice, South Vietnam is now reduced to consuming American rice. As a result of the use of toxic products, South Vietnam is currently plagued with strange diseases: women are giving birth to monsters, and there is an ever growing number of women afflicted with psychic disorders.
(2) On the political level, with the Vietnamization of the war, the United States seeks only to uphold the militarists and prolong the war.
The government of Mr. Nguyen Van Thieu is a dictatorial government which persecutes all those who struggle for peace and independence, and jails the innocent. In the single province of Vinh Binh, of which I am a deputy, more than 300 people were last year arbitrarily arrested and jailed. In 1969 the Americans stated that there were only 20,000 cadres in South Vietnam; at the end of 1969, however, the government arrested more than 70,000 people, and it appears that the number of Communist cadres has not diminished. These very figures condemn the repressive policies of the Saigon government.
At present the Nguyen Van Thieu government severely represses all opposition movements. Several hundred war victims are being held in jails; several hundred students were taken to military training camps; the president of the Student Union of Saigon-Hué is in prison. All are subjected to the most savage kinds of torture.
During the past six months of this bitter struggle, the opposition movements were not alone in being subjected to repression; the press met the same fate. The press was not only deprived of indispensable paper, but was confiscated more than 200 times; the daily Tin Sang (“Morning News”) in particular was suspended eight times and confiscated seventy-five times during a six-month period.
The Vietnamization of the war is merely an extension of the American war. Although the US has agreed to the Paris Conference, it actually does not want peace at all and is compelling the Nguyen Van Thieu government to seek a military victory.
(3) On the economic level, South Vietnam is in a catastrophic situation. The annual budget amounts to 210 billion piasters; income amounts to only seventy billion. Every year, in addition to American aid, inflation wipes out eighty billion piasters.
The chief purpose of American aid is to divide the Vietnamese among themselves. The US has transformed the South Vietnamese market into a one-way consumers’ market. Contraband American foods are inundating the South Vietnamese markets. Of the seventeen million people currently living in South Vietnam, as many as two million families live on war profits by serving the interests of the United States. This is why the purpose of American aid is by no means to raise the standard of living of the population; on the contrary, it plunges the population into ever increasing misery. For instance, twenty years’ salary of a South Vietnamese army officer with a wife and five children would not purchase a Peugeot 404 at current prices.
The experience of the past few years has led the South Vietnamese to this conclusion: the purpose of American aid to South Vietnam is to force the Vietnamese population to become totally dependent on the United States.
(4) American political and economic aims have completely altered the nature of Vietnamese society. With their money the Americans are setting communities against one another, and are destroying all their traditional spiritual and moral values. The number of prostitutes increases daily. More than 400,000 Vietnamese women are currently engaged in this wretched and humiliating profession. The Americans also try to promote corruption so as to use their accomplices in pursuing their imperialist aims in South Vietnam.
On the cultural level, the US seeks to transform South Vietnam into an American-type society by sweeping away all the positive aspects of the Vietnamese heritage. Millions of young people are deprived of education, nine-and ten-year-old children do not go to school but tend buffaloes, work in rice fields, shine shoes, and sell newspapers. American policy in South Vietnam aims at Americanizing the Vietnamese people, transforming the Vietnamese into foreigners in their own country, into increasingly ignorant creatures stripped of all dignity.
II. The Upsurge of Opposition Movements Against the US and the Nguyen Van Thieu Government
Having become aware of the imperialist policies the US wants to impose in South Vietnam, and having also become aware of the dependence of Nguyen Van Thieu’s government on the US, the South Vietnamese population is now rising in revolt.
The time has come when not only the NLF partisans but also the entire South Vietnamese people are revolting against the US and against Generals Nguyen Van Thieu and Nguyen Cao Ky. Living with the Americans, or in close proximity to the Americans, the South Vietnamese understand better than anyone how wicked American policies are. This wickedness is understood even by those who have collaborated, or are collaborating, with the Americans or with the government of Nguyen Van Thieu.
Let us cite a few examples: in Binh Tuy, last August 28, a group of American soldiers raped, thus provoking the deaths of an old woman and her daughter-in-law, who were on their way to work in their field. During their burial crowds turned the funeral into a street demonstration against the American presence. In Saigon, on August 22, a little shoe-shine boy lying on a street corner was run over and killed by a car driven by a GI. Over 200 other little shoe-shine boys pooled their meager earnings to buy him a coffin, displaying their solidarity with the tragedy of one of their own provoked by the cruelty of the Americans.
At present there is not a single newspaper which has not taken a position against the US, for this is the position of the entire South Vietnamese people.
With respect to the Nguyen Van Thieu government, the people are becoming increasingly aware that it is a puppet of the Americans: it has collaborated with the Americans in order to prolong the fratricidal war; it employs more than 100,000 military police agents to repress and savagely torture the adherents of the movements defending the right to life and demanding a return to peace.
The South Vietnamese people know that Mr. Nguyen Van Thieu supports the Lon Nol regime [in Cambodia] which has massacred more than 20,000 South Vietnamese citizens in Kampuchéa.
Faced with a government which is totally dependent on the Americans, and with neocolonialist policies, the popular forces have revolted against the Nguyen Van Thieu government and against the establishment of American imperialism. The movements most actively engaged in this struggle are the following:
—The Buddhist movement, which is demanding a return to peace and independence, led by the United Buddhist Church.
—The Movement of Struggle of the Students, which is inspired by the Student Union of Saigon and the big cities, and which is demanding independent universities, the abolition of compulsory military training, the abolition of forced recruitment into the army, and is opposing the policy of pursuing the war.
—The Movement of Women, which is demanding the right to life and a return to peace, and which is led by the Women’s Action Committee for the Defense of the Right to Life.
—The Movement of War Victims, which is demanding food and housing, and which opposes the poor treatment these victims have received from the US and the Nguyen Van Thieu government.
In addition, there are youth and secondary school student movements, the movement of small landed proprietors opposed to the agrarian policy, and the movement opposed to the government’s fiscal policies.
Although these movements are savagely repressed, we are convinced that nothing will prevent the growth of these opposition movements. The US and Mr. Nguyen Van Thieu seek to destroy them or, barring that, to buy them off. The power of the dollar, however, is no match for the spiritual and moral strength of the Vietnamese people.
The opposition movements are inspired neither by the Communists nor by the NLF. The entire population, conscious of its patriotic responsibilities, is preparing for struggle against the threat of extermination by war and against the danger of imperialism.
They serve neither the NLF nor any particular ideology. We must frankly admit that most South Vietnamese are firm in their resolve to struggle against the US and against the Nguyen Van Thieu government. Nevertheless, they are still fearful of an eventual “communization” of South Vietnam.
In conclusion, these are the deepest aspirations of the South Vietnamese people: (1) The immediate withdrawal of all American and foreign troops from South Vietnam. (2) An immediate end to the war, so that the Vietnamese may settle their affairs among themselves.
—this atrocious and endless Vietnam war is threatening Vietnamese society with total destruction,
—there can be no definitive military victory,
—peace is the deepest aspiration of the Vietnamese people and constitutes the basic condition for any social reform,
—a numerous popular force in South Vietnam demanding peace, independence, democracy, freedom and national reconcilation is not yet represented at the Paris Conference,
—an over-all solution to the Vietnam conflict cannot be realized unless it rests on the basic right of self-determination of the South Vietnamese people,
—the right of self-determination can be genuinely achieved only through truly free elections, with no pressure flowing from the presence of foreign troops and free from any intervention by any military or political force,
We solemnly propose:
A de-escalation of the war and a halt to all repression of the movements struggling for peace, independence, democracy, freedom, and national reconciliation through the following conditions:
The Americans must withdraw from the territory of South Vietnam all their forces and war matériel, as well as the forces and war matériel of Thailand, New Zealand, Australia, and South Korea.
The Americans must cease encouraging and supporting the Nguyen Van Thieu government in its repression of the opposition movements struggling for peace, independence, democracy, freedom and national reconciliation.
The Nguyen Van Thieu government must put an end to its practice of torture, free all illegally held prisoners, stop all repression of Buddhists, university and secondary school students, women, those wounded and disabled by the war, workers and all progressive movements struggling for peace, independence, democracy, freedom and national reconciliation in South Vietnam.
All parties to the war must begin to de-escalate the war. The Americans must stop the bombings and stop using harmful chemical products on the territory of South Vietnam. The National Liberation. Front must halt all indiscriminate bombings by rockets or mortars, which victimize the innocent.
II. When the above-mentioned conditions have been fulfilled, the Paris Conference must be enlarged:
The Paris Conference on Vietnam currently consists of four parties: the American delegation, that of the Nguyen Van Thieu government, that of the National Liberation Front, and that of North Vietnam. But the overwhelming majority of the South Vietnamese population demanding peace, independence, democracy, freedom and national reconciliation are not represented.
This is why there must be a delegation representing the political and religious groups and forces struggling for peace, independence, democracy, freedom and national reconciliation, in order that it may join the other delegations in finding a concerted solution to the problem of Vietnam.
III. With the seating of the delegation of the forces struggling for peace, independence, democracy, freedom and national reconciliation, the Conference will be able to proceed:
To discuss the conditions for a cease-fire and for the withdrawal of the North Vietnamese forces from South Vietnam, and to solve the problem of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam and of the Army of the National Liberation Front.
To establish a neutral provisional government in South Vietnam.
This neutral provisional government will have the task
—of implementing the conditions agreed upon at the Paris Conference,
—of normalizing political, economic, cultural, and social activities in South Vietnam,
—of establishing relations with North Vietnam,
—of organizing free elections in South Vietnam.