Cho Lon, Vietnam, June 20, 2007
When President George W. Bush sits down with Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet at the White House on Friday, it will be the first time that a Communist President of Vietnam has called on the President of the former enemy, the United States. The meeting may also mark a turning point in the history of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
Vietnam's industrious people and cultural heritage make it a country rich in natural and human resources. For too long, Vietnam's authoritarian state trampled on the country's tremendous potential by crushing freedoms and basic human rights. After South Vietnam ceased to exist, a million people were sent to re-education camps, and an estimated one million more fled to foreign shores. Inside Vietnam, the demagogic North -- wielding terror and deception -- collectivized agriculture, confiscated property, prohibited private businesses, monopolized educational and cultural activities and applied various other forms of government- and party repression. The national economy stagnated.