As the blogosphere overwhelms Vietnam’s censors, criticism of the government is now spilling over into the government-controlled mainstream media. Thanh Nien (which means “youth”), one of Vietnam’s most prestigious and influential newspapers, sounded off last month with an editorial about rising prices that included this remarkable paragraph:
“If the government fails to take serious steps to deal with these unreasonable price adjustments, it is not just the economy that will go into decline. The decline will also happen in people’s trust in the government’s ability to govern.”
In earlier times, the editor responsible for commentary like that might have been expected to be fired, but Vietnam’s struggling economy has led to greater pressure for financial and political reforms.
At issue in the critical editorial are income tax changes; price increases for electricity, cooking gas, and gasolinee; government monopolies that control up to 80% of market share.
“Such unreasonable increases show that the longstanding project of ending monopolies in Vietnam is failing,” says the editorial. “We need a change that can make state-owned companies compete with those from other sectors.”
Meanwhile, editorials like this show that the government of Vietnam is not monolithic.