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Located in South-East Asia on the Indochina peninsula, Viet Nam borders Cambodia, Laos and China. The single-party communist government that has ruled since reunification at the end of the Vietnam war in 1975 still maintains complete control of the State, ahough the economy has been gradually opened up in recent years. Political opposition is heavily restricted, as is freedom of expression in political matters. In addition, there are major problems with the trafficking of women and girls, particularly for sexual exploitation.
Viet Nam is located on the Indochina Peninsula in south-east Asia. It shares borders with China, Lao PDR and Cambodia, and has an extensive coastline on the South-China Sea. The capital city is Hanoi.
Population and language
The population is 89 million, making Viet Nam the 13th most populous country on earth. Its population has been rising rapidly over the past three decades, and although the growth rate has slowed over the past decade, the population continues to rise by a little over one per cent annually. The vast majority of the population are Kinh (85.7 per cent), with the remaining 14 per cent being made up of over 50 ethnic minorities, of which those of Chinese descent are the largest group.
The official language of Viet Nam is Vietnamese, which is spoken by the majority of the population. French is also widely spoken in diplomatic circles.
History and politics
Following revolts against French colonial forces in the early 1950s, France withdrew from Viet Nam in 1954, leaving a country divided into the Communist North and a Western-backed South. In the context of the Cold War, the USA began direct military intervention in the early 1960s, which gradually escalated and culminated in the U.S committing more than 500,000 troops to the conflict by the end of the 1960s. Though the USA withdrew in 1973, civil war continued in Viet Nam until 1976, when the country was formally reunified.
Regional hostilities continued for more than a decade after unification, however, with Viet Nam intervening in Cambodia to remove the Pol Pot regime, and continuing to fight the Khmer Rouge guerrillas in Cambodia, as well as fighting a brief war with China. These conflicts were formally settled at the 1991 Paris Conference, when Viet Nam entered a period of peace for the first time in 30 years.
Constitutionally, the National Assembly is the body of highest power in Viet Nam, electing its Chairman, the President, Vice President, Prime Minister, Chief Justice of the Supreme People's Court and approving the Cabinet. However, Viet Nam remains a one party state, largely under the control of the Communist Party (CPV). Though there can be no legal opposition to the CPV, there is little sign of widespread popular opposition, with the Party maintaining popular support for its part in defeating the French colonial rulers and resisting US military intervention.
Viet Nam's economic development suffered a series of set-backs through its three decades of war, but since the doi moi (renovation/renewal) policies emerged in the late 1980s, which marked a shift away from communist economics, Viet Nam has become one of fastest-growing economies in Asia. GDP growth has been consistently high, and though it slowed slightly during the 2008 global financial crisis, it has risen again to around seven per cent per annum. Inflation has been problematic, however, peaking at over 23 per cent in 2008, and remaining high, at 8 per cent, in 2010. The national currency, the Dong, has been devalued six times since 2008.
Civil society and media
In its assessment of civil society in Viet Nam, CIVICUS identified strengths and weaknesses. While certain social organisations are reasonably well-organised and making some impact, notably in relation to HIV policy, Agent Orange victims and gender issues, politically-oriented groups have had less success.
Reporters Without Borders has consistently rated Viet Nam as among the countries with the lowest level of press freedom, at 165th out of 178 countries surveyed in 2010. A number of political bloggers have been convicted of charges related to undermining national security, with many receiving lengthy prison sentences.
Human rights and children's rights
A wide range of human rights violations persist in Viet Nam, with many human rights bodies and NGOs criticising the State's policies in relation to freedom of expression, unfair trials and discrimination. Sexual exploitation and trafficking of children are among the most pressing violations of children's rights in the country, with the Committee on the Rights of the Child noting that “a significant proportion of sex workers are under the age of 18” and the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women criticising the low rates of prosecution and conviction for offences relating to trafficking.
- ↑ UN DESA (2009d). “World Population Prospects: The 2008 Revision”. New York: Department for Economic and Social Affairs.
- ↑ UNFP Press Release, "Final Census 2009 report released"
- ↑ Minority Rights Group International, World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples-Vietnam:Chinese (Hoa)
- ↑ Foreign and Commonwealth Office Country Profiles: Vietnam
- ↑ Hauser Global Law School, Globalex, Anh Luu
- ↑ World Bank Data, Vietnam
- ↑ The Economist, "Fighting over the flotsam"
- ↑ Civicus Country Reports: Vietnam
- ↑ Reporters Without Borders, World Report: Vietnam
- ↑ Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding Observations 2003 paragraph 49
- ↑ UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, 17 January 2007, paragraphs 18 and 19
- UN DESA (2009d). “World Population Prospects: The 2008 Revision”. New York: Department for Economic and Social Affairs.
- UNFPA, “Final Census 2009 report released”
- Foreign and Commonwealth Office Country Profiles: Viet Nam
- World Bank Data: Viet Nam
- The Economist, “Fighting over the flotsam”
- CIVICUS Country Reports: Viet Nam
- Reporters Without Borders, “French-Vietnamese blogger sentenced to three years in prison” and Reporters Without Borders World Report: Viet Nam
- Committee on the Rights of the child, Concluding Observations 2003
- UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, 17 Jan 2007
- Hauser Global Law School Programme, Globalex, by Anh Luum “Update: Vietnam Legal Research”
- Minority Rights Group International, World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - Vietnam : Chinese (Hoa)
- Population: 89.028,700 (UNDP)
- Population under 18: 28,172,000 (UNICEF)
- Number of internet users: 24,269,083/27.1 per cent (World Stats, ITU, 2010)
- Human Development Index: 113th
- Happy Planet ranking: 5th (New Economics Foundation)