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Former Saigon PM talks about homeland

Update: November, 04/2010 - 16:33

Nguyen Cao Ky was one of the most high-profile political figures in the US-backed South Vietnamese administration and served as Prime Minister from 1965 to 1967 and as Vice President from 1967 to 1971.

After a 30-year exile in America, in 2004, he ignored all the animosity from the past and decided to return to Vietnam, where he was welcomed as a symbol of national reconciliation. His return banished the enemy within him, and the animosity he held towards the Vietnamese nation and communists from many years ago. On Ky's return to Vietnam on the Lunar New Year in 2010, journalist Nguyen Quoc Uy wrote an article on Ky's viewpoint on several current issues in Vietnam.

The Vietnam News Agency introduces the article below:

"Yesterday when my plane was about to land in Saigon I burst into tears for only the second time in my life. The first time I cried was when I left my country in 1975 and today I cried again because I found myself back home." Ben Rowse, an AFP reporter, quoted Ky when he returned to Vietnam for the first time after nearly 30 years of living in exile.

It was his feelings for his country that created the momentum that enabled Ky to return to the place where he was born, at the age of 73.

Ky explained to the press that he had returned because he missed the country so much he wanted to contribute something to the country. "My presence here proves that I want to speak up for national reconciliation," he said.

Although the war ended 30 years ago, it still divided Vietnamese in two, he said, adding that he wanted the two sides to put aside past hatreds and sit and talk with each other.

The Western press paid a lot of attention to Ky's first trip back to Vietnam from a political perspective. Therefore, people didn't feel strange when Ben Rowse began his article by writing that "a day after returning to Saigon, a city he fled nearly 30 years ago at the end of the Vietnam War, former South Vietnamese vice president Nguyen Cao Ky endorsed Thursday (January 15, 2004) the communist regime he once fought against".

Western reporters also commented on the response of overseas Vietnamese, especially those living in the US , most of whom supported him. Professor Tran Trung Ngoc, a Vietnamese intellectual, who served in the US-backed Saigon regime and settled in the US in 1975, called these people "the quiet majority" who did not raise their voices but this didn't necessarily mean they agreed with the actions taken against Ky, only because he outstripped them in his compassion and national self-respect.

The professor said that people who oppose the domestic government are only in the minority. They are blinding themselves with the thoughts of losers because of their loss of power, property or family.

Ky himself resolutely rejected opinions that his return to his roots would divide the Vietnamese community in the US . Professor Ngoc said that "through what he has done, regardless of purpose, I congratulate him on his success in driving away the enemy within himself, the animosity towards the Vietnamese nation and the communists of many years ago.

On Ky's return to Vietnam in 2010, Vietnam Television (VTV) interviewed him as he is a well-known overseas Vietnamese. When asked about his feelings about the Communist Party of Vietnam's policy of considering overseas Vietnamese an inseparable part of the Vietnamese nation, Ky said that people living in and outside the country have the same roots and solidarity and unity are vital for the nation.

He had a positive assessment of Vietnam 's economic growth in recent years and praised the Vietnamese government's efforts in dealing with corruption which he said has partly regained confidence in overseas countries, and spoke highly of the country's development. When being asked about democracy and human rights, he said "I acknowledge the attitude, behaviour, responsibilities and rights of the NA's deputies. They really do have a representative role. At the NA and government meetings, many deputies raise questions or point out shortcomings in their localities. Even the Prime Minister is questioned by them. I think that compared to six years ago when I first returned to Vietnam , what has happened in the country is real progress".

In his interview granted to the ARF in 2004, Ky cited Singapore , the Republic of Korea , and Taiwan as examples of a single-party regime. According to him, a strong one-party government that provides "stability and discipline" is essential for Vietnam to escape from the clutches of poverty.

"I think it is very wrong that some people, especially a number of Vietnamese in America , today are asking and demanding that Vietnam has to adopt a similar democracy like they have in America . It does not fit Vietnam at present," he said.

About religion in Vietnam , Ky said "I have returned to Vietnam several times over the past six years. Like all Vietnamese people, during the Tet holiday, the fifteen day of every lunar month or the country's big festivals, I visited pagodas while my wife and people of her religion went to church. In the last few years, more churches and pagodas have been built and upgraded and religious followers are free to practise their religions. Therefore, it cannot be said that the Vietnamese government has repressed religion."

Regarding Vietnam 's sovereignty over the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagos, Ky confirmed that "it is an undeniable fact". In addition, he suggested that the Vietnamese government organises a visit to present gifts to the soldiers who defend the islands. The visiting delegation will include Vietnamese people from both in and outside the country and if allowed, he will voluntarily join the delegation. He said when a part of the country is under threat, it is a good time for national unity, a chance for every Vietnamese both in and outside the country to unanimously follow the Party.

The practical and frank opinions of the former oppositionist showed the great healing strength of patriotism and the aspirations for an intact, stable and developed Vietnam . This strength can appeal to Vietnamese people around the world if they have the love and confidence to return, even just in their thoughts. - Vietnamplus

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