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Letter from Hanoi, Vietnam on our Independence Referendum

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The letter below arrived on the Bella desk (via Margaret who helps organise for Yes Helensburgh & Lomond).  Sometimes you need an outside view to help put things into perspective.  Thank you Phi Yến Pham.

June 28, 2014

A Vietnamese view of Scotland’s vote for independence

I have never been to Scotland, am not a journalist and normally have no interest in politics. I have, however, become fascinated by the independence debate in Scotland where I understand that some recent online polls have suggested a very high level of support for Independence[1] while the most recent offline poll suggests that Scots will be much more likely to vote in favour of independence if they think the current British government will be voted in again[2].

But the question I ask myself again and again is: why would anyone vote No?

As far as I can tell it seems to be because some people think independence represents a risk whether to their pensions, their place in Europe, the use of the pound sterling or many other things on which I keep reading that people feel they “have not been given enough information”.

To me this is astonishing for two reasons.

Firstly even on the other side of the planet I have been able to find perfectly reasonable answers to these questions. Clearly nobody is able to predict or guarantee the future – I’m an economist so this is only too apparent to me – but it is odd to me that people post such comments online when I can find the answers myself in a few clicks.

Secondly because in the last 70 years alone, that is to say since the end of World War II, my country has had to fight for our independence in three separate wars:

  • From 1946-1954 we fought against the French occupation with the loss of between 175,000 and 300,000[3]
  • From 1954 to 1975 we fought off the American occupation with the loss of 450,000 and 1,165,000 and a further 600,000+ maimed many by toxic chemicals that still affect people to this day[4],
  • Finally in 1979 we fought a border war with China[5] that left 26,000 soldiers and 10,000 civilians dead and many more maimed.

After these three wars Vietnam had nearly nothing but now we are one of the fastest growing economies in the world[6] and perhaps more importantly the Vietnamese people were recently ranked the No.2 in the world in term of happiness[7].

My generation is very thankful and proud for everything the previous generations did for us and the happiness that autonomy brings breeds further solidarity between the people of Vietnam in what I believe you might call a virtuous circle.

By comparison Scotland has so much already, an education system with some of the best universities in the world, products famous the world over as well as abundant energy sources from oil and gas to renewables such as hydroelectric, wind and wave power. More importantly you, like us Vietnamese but apparently unlike your southern neighbours, are clearly socialist in that you believe this wealth of talent and resources should be shared with the people. And yet my studies leave me to understand that your more numerous neighbours commonly elect governments who only offer you limited powers to follow your own politics and generally favour the further accumulation of wealth by the already wealthy.

Well now you have a chance to win your independence without firing a single shot, without anyone being killed, without toxic warfare that poisons generations. From this outsider’s perspective it really is the chance of a lifetime, a once in a generation opportunity, perhaps even in many generations. I can’t tell you it will be easy – it may actually be quite tough – but I am sure that future generations will be proud of your generation.


Phi Yến Pham

Hanoi, Vietnam

[1] http://t.co/g18E8SvI9S has yes @ 89% and http://t.co/UiQu9Yn9IG closed with Yes at 90%

[2] http://t.co/Ti683lMr49

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Indochina_War

[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vietnam_War

[5] http://sinovietnamesewar.com & http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sino-Vietnamese_War

[6] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vietnam/Economy

[7] http://www.happyplanetindex.org/data/

Comments (35)

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  1. ian foulds says:

    Hope you are passing this to YES Scotland for their billboards!

  2. JimnArlene says:

    I am “astonished”, that people still say; ” I can’t find any information “. As the above letter, amply, illustrated information can easily be found.
    A great letter, straight to the point, with information to back it up.
    Phi Yến Pham, I thank you.

    1. Turra Loon says:

      I think that most of the people who say they do not have enough information do not even try to look for it. In my opinion they are probably life time labour voters who intend to vote no irrespective of the amount of information around them.

  3. Some eastern wisdom to ponder. Full of hope for the future, our future. Càm o’n!

  4. Hugh Wallace says:

    Reblogged this on Are We Really Better Together? and commented:
    “Well now you have a chance to win your independence without firing a single shot, without anyone being killed, without toxic warfare that poisons generations. From this outsider’s perspective it really is the chance of a lifetime, a once in a generation opportunity, perhaps even in many generations. I can’t tell you it will be easy – it may actually be quite tough – but I am sure that future generations will be proud of your generation.” Thank you Phi Yến Pham.

  5. picpac67 says:

    A wonderful letter that cuts through all the spurious objections to independence. It should be publicised widely.

  6. bringiton says:

    This is the core of our argument for independence surely.
    Too many Scots are in the mind set of “not wanting to manage our own affairs unless you can prove that I will be better off,or at least no worse off”.
    This,unfortunately is the result of decades of unremitting Thatcherism from the London based parties,where it is all about Me,Me,Me and who cares about anyone else.
    Great article,thanks.

  7. yerkitbreeks says:

    O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us
    To see oursels as ithers see us!

    It’s not often we get the benefit of someone as disinterested ( and I don’t mean uninterested ) as Phi Yen Pham

  8. andygm1 says:

    Ironically, it is being physically oppressed that persuades people to fight for their independence. Westminster operates a carefully calculated system of stick and carrot to keep just enough people onside.

    A few jackboots and Yes would walk the referendum.

    1. Pete Bradley says:

      Dumbing down as much of our lives as they can also helps the ruling classes to keep us ‘in our place’.

  9. Dr Ew says:

    Beautiful letter. Actually quite moved.

  10. anne says:

    Without firing a single shot?…….but hold on: aren’t they starving people to death? Or leaving generations without hope or ambition? Using “austerity” to punish the weak, the sick, the vulnerable in our society? While those with their noses in the trough get richer & richer? WAKE UP! It doesn’t have to be like this. We have the power to change it all with a single vote in September. If we don’t it will just get worse & worse. The greed, lies and corruption must stop!

  11. Phi Yến Pham says:

    Hi everyone,
    I am Phi Yen who wrote this letter. I am very happy that my thoughts can draw your interest.
    Thank you very much Mrs. Margaret and especially Bella to get it published.

    Phi Yen Pham- Viet Nam

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Thank you so much for letting us publish your thoughts on this. Appreciated.

  12. Tom O'Rourke says:

    After spending some years of my youth supporting the people of Vietnam’s human/civil right to be free, to elect their own government of choice. It’s a very welcome moment to be receiving encouragement from a citizen of that free and prospering people.

  13. Margaret read this letter at our recent Yes meeting. It is powerful and moving and it was at the urging of the meeting that she was persuaded to present it for wider distribution.

    It’s clear to those throughout the world that Scotland will be much better making it’s own decisions and helping the less advantaged rather than continuing to rely on the uncertain handouts of our Big Brother. We are a wealthy nation that is being milked for the benefit of others.

    Unfortunately the British state has the levers of propaganda and is frightening all too many to reject the opportunities that can be seen all too clearly from elsewhere.

  14. Reblogged this on charlesobrien08 and commented:
    Have a read and check up and still some Scots are afraid.

  15. Have a read and check up and still some Scots are afraid.

  16. william conner says:

    I think this is absolutely amazing, this settles my on – going argument. Most of the general public are “supposedly” finding it hard to find relevant information on the independence. There are various ways of finding the right information and I believe Scotland will be far better as an independent country.

  17. Henry Nguyen says:

    I’m glad that Phi Yến Pham was able to share with you the historical perspective of Vietnam’s costly struggle for independence. What she neglects to mention is the fact as you read her letter, the never ending Vietnamese story of self-determination is once again threatened by China. This time, Chinese territorial expansionism is in form of exclusive economic zone’s violation where their oil rig is drilling 88 miles inside Vietnam’s internationally granted right. Wouldn’t this another incentive for Scotland independence as an added voice for the oppressed?

    1. Oscar Taime says:

      Oddly enough the support the United States is currently offering Vietnam rather confirms that a post Yes Scotland will get on just fine with our friends in the USA despite the predictably dire predictions of the Self Preservation Society whose shoddy political “careers” depend on a No vote.

      Indeed one may even imagine that a post Yes Scotland properly represented and participating enthusiastically in Europe will be a better bridge to North America than an rUK that seems increasingly likely to shun Europe.

      1. Caillean McMahon says:

        Many people in the US are interested in seeing an independent Scotland as it will be a step towards less imperialistic adventurism as well as a step towards a more peaceful world. From a citizen of a nation that shook off being exploited by London financial interests in 1776, I wish you the every success in this endeavor.

  18. BigDing says:

    I have voted SNP all my life, why? I have no idea nothing to do with my parentage as politics were never discussed, but my parents are I would say conservatives. And it’s nothing to with Alex Salmond as I think he is only in it to fill his pockets!!! So it can only be my love and loyalty for this beautiful country that should be free from Westminster’s grip….

    1. How dare you say that about Alex Samond is only in it to fill his pockets. I think you’ll find he donates his wage to charity, so I can only assume your a no voter!

  19. Fay Kennedy. says:

    Scotland is a country like many other countries rich in resources but the people are not getting the benefit of that wealth. Joseph Stiglitz the Nobel Prize winning economist on TV here in OZ tried to make that point but it is falling on deaf ears here. The gap between the rich and poor grows every day in this so called lucky country and Scotland the same. The Vietnamese are an amazing people and the women in particular fought very hard for their independence. Women of Scotland think of the opportunity you have to change history and benefit the future generations. Vote Yes on the 18th.

  20. It’s amazing to read your positive feedbacks. I’ve never done and felt like this before, so happy. Thank you all for your time on my letter and I wish one day soon, I can have my “Scottish Visa” , buy whisky and kilts – Scottish made and see the Loch.
    Wow, how wonderful it will be!
    Phi Yen Pham, Ha Noi, Viet Nam

    1. Phi Yen, I’m glad you are pleased with the positive feed backs especially because you’ve never done anything like this before. I am sure if we get our Independence in Scotland you will get your Scottish Visa and because of your beautiful letter you won’t have to buy any whisky or kilts, they will be presented to you from the people of Scotland who desperately want their Freedom! By the way there are many, many lochs is Scotland and they are all different sizes and all very stunningly beautiful. May I offer you the hand of friendship and gratitude from myself and all the other people of this lovely country who hope with all their hearts that on the 18th September 2014 Scotland will be Free because we voted YES! Thank You
      Janice Sinclair

      1. Phi Yến Pham says:

        Thank you Janice Sincle. Your reply is so impressive! I can feel your passion, your love and strong desire for a Scotland independent country! I believe there are many other Scottish have such spirit and all of you will be succesful. Very beautiful “offer” about the kilts and whisky and I am delighted to have your friendship.
        Good luck,
        Phi Yen Pham

      2. I am sory my typos, Janice Sinclair

  21. dufftownallan says:

    xin chao Phi
    I’m a scotsman living in ho chi minh city and your country’s history is littered with tragedy, from what I can tell there is still a divisional scar between the north and south (which is hopefully healing as time goes on); you also have an overbearing neighbour who even now is currently trying to annex islands that are rightfully yours in a greedy attempt to take the oil fields there.
    a massive debate and decision like this requires a certain amount of perspective and i think that is exactly what you have provided for us. thank you for taking an interest in my home country and let me just tell you what a pleasure it has been living in yours.
    cheers and xin cam on!

    1. Xin chao DufftownAllan,
      Very supprising to receive your special feedback! a Scots living in Vietnam! You must have been living in Viet nam for a long while because you know us well, about the scar and our overbearing neighbour!. No more scar in our generation I think.
      Glad to hear that you are happy living here in VN! Stay well!
      Phi Yen

  22. david reid says:

    do we have a reference for Phi Yến Pham


    as I want to use this but need the reference to prove its not a fabrication

  23. david reid says:

    sorry if the above comment seems nasty its not meant that way just bt people have a habit of trying to make is look like fools I say trying

    1. oscartaime says:

      The letter was originally posted by Yes Helensburgh and Lomond here: https://www.facebook.com/yeshelensburghandlomond/posts/261346790720061 where you can find a couple of replies by Phi Yến and a link to her FB account. Hope that helps. O

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