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Lt. Gen. Tran Do, 78; Leading Political Dissident in Vietnam

August 10, 2002|From Associated Press

Retired Lt. Gen. Tran Do, the leading dissident in Communist Vietnam, died Friday in a hospital in Hanoi. He was 78.

Do died of complications from acute diabetes, which he had been fighting for some time, a hospital doctor said.

Do joined the Communist Party in the 1940s. A decorated veteran of the war against the South Vietnamese government and the United States, he was head of the ruling Communist Party's ideology and culture department.

But he was expelled from the party in January 1999 for advocating that it give up its monopoly on power. He had since been under informal surveillance.

In June 2001, public security officials briefly detained him in Ho Chi Minh City, where he was visiting his son. They confiscated his three-part memoirs containing his thoughts on the country's future. Do repeatedly sent letters to authorities, as well as to the Vietnam Writers Union, protesting the confiscation of his manuscripts and demanding their return.

Much of Do's criticism reflected disappointment over the gap between the country's reality and the goals of the communist revolution and the war of independence against French colonialism, which he had helped fight.

"Our present life, it seems, is less and less like what we dreamed of building, and more and more like what we had spent time overthrowing," Do wrote in the second part of his memoirs, circulated outside Vietnam on the Internet.

"Do we have a way out?" he wrote. "I believe we do. One, it is not to depend on any ideology or dogma. Two, one must have widespread discussion with and among the people; no one can think on behalf of the entire nation. Three, the rulers must be truly of the people, by the people and for the people."

In January, the Ministry of Culture and Information ordered police and cultural inspectors to confiscate and destroy books written by several prominent dissidents, including Do. It said they had been printed in violation of the Publishing Law, which requires that books be approved by the government before they are published.

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