New Internationalist

Through The Lens

February 1991

new internationalist
issue 216 - February 1991

VIETNAM ANCIENT AND MODERN

The political structures may change but the rhythm of life in the
countryside goes on much as it has for thousands of years.
Even in the cities - for cycle-rickshaw drivers in Hanoi or
young cigarette sellers in Huê - the Communist hostility to petty
commerce is already beginning to seem like an historical interlude.

Travelling back to Saigon one day we hit an army roadblock. They are arresting people who have bought goods in Thailand and are now smuggling them through Cambodia into Vietnam on their motor scooters. It seems like the proverbial sledgehammer to crack a nut until I am told that the day before, in a similar operation, two police were shot dead. The people arrested all seem like pretty small fry with a few hundred cigarette packs each; and they don't seem unduly perturbed by their plight, as the photo taken surreptitiously from my car shows. It appears there are some limits to Vietnam's new enthusiasm for free enterprise.

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All photos: Chris Brazier

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This feature was published in the February 1991 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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