VIETNAM : TEN YEARS AFTER VICTORY 63
displaced as a result of Israeli bombings in March 1978 alone. Not much was reported about 140,000 Filipinos fleeing to Sabah, nor about the massive flight from countries with US-backed regimes in Latin America:
an estimated half a million from Uruguay, about 700,000 from Bolivia. nearly 100,000 from Nicaragua under Somoza's rule and many more from other military regimes. More than 1,000 refugees had travelled from Haiti over 800 miles in flimsy boats to Florida where they were imprisoned and subjected to harsh and discriminatory treatment.11 Probably the Vietnamese would have been in a much better position had there not been any foreign intervention, or at least if the same concern, if not more, was shown about the people who stayed back in that war ravaged country.
In the middle of June 1976 a UN Commission on Vietnam said in a report that at least $ 432 million was required immediately to restore the country's agriculture and transport system. The commission was impressed by the "effective arrangements made by the governments of North and South Vietnams (unified in 1976) to set to wprk and repair the war damaged country.12 This was precisely the time when Vietnam was denied aid and was forced to depend on the Soviet Union alone. The Vietnamese estimated that some 7 5 million unexploded bombs, mines, shells and other explosives still lay buried in the old battlegrounds in 1975. So far more than 4000 people have been killed by discarded American ordnance since the end of the war. One-third of the country remains devastated even today. On top of all this came the murderous Pol Pot regime in neighbouring Kampuchea, which instigated border clashes, to leading eventual Vietnamese intervention in late-1978. This incurred the wrath of the Chinese who resorted to punitive measures by attacking Vietnam in February 1979. Despite all these obstacles, the Time magazine accepts that life is much better in Vietnam today than in 1975, and "for most people, life's basic necessities are satisfied."13 At present, Vietnam has the most comprehensive primary education and rural health programme in continental Asia. By 1983 Vietnam became self-sufficient in foodgrains production despite calamities in the late 1970s like drought and typhoons.
This month while Vietnam is celebrating the tenth anniversary of its victory, there is a spate of articles in the Western press, portraying the present government as inefficient, accusing it of not pursuing the right path of development, calling it a stooge of the Soviet Union, and pooh-poohing the socialist construction it has undertaken. While talking of Vietnam's backwardness and low per capita income, the colonial powers cannot evade their historical responsibility for the present situation; for no fault of theirs the Vietnamese were subjected to a devastation unheard of in human history. President Reagan says now that the Vietnamese war was fought for a "noble cause"; ironically, however, his administration did not hesitate to cut the federal funds which were meant for the war veterans. Kissinger writes : "Vietnam, a noble goal but a flawed strategy"; what the "correct" strategy would have been, what further suffering it would have inflicted on the Vietnamese people, is known only to him. Even now