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68

APRIL 2015

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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

ally inhabited by Montagnards revealed another important

difference. All the Montagnards had been settled with size-

designated plots of land. Slash-and-burn agriculture had been

forbidden. This opened vast tracks of land for Vietnamese

settlement, mostly by northerners sent south as pioneers to

make productive the newly acquired fields with rice, coffee,

cinnamon and other spices. We visited officially sanctioned

Jarai, Bahnar and Lac villages. Life goes on in them, but it was

clearly a different life from the past, one that required regular

interaction with the new Vietnamese majority everywhere. No

threat of an insurgency here.

Another omnipresent part of life in the south were the post-

ers and banners noting commemorative events and celebrating

life in the socialist republic: flags along the streets (a single yel-

low star in a red field for the government and a yellow hammer

and sickle in a similar red field for the party); banners across

streets at regular intervals (also predominantly red with yellow

lettering); and many billboards noting that 2015 would be the

85th anniversary of the founding of the Vietnamese Commu-

nist Party, the 125th anniversary of the birth of Ho Chi Minh,

Traffic on Le Duan Street near Saigon Cathedral heads toward

Independence Palace. The decorations above the street show the

Vietnamese government flag on the left and the former Viet Cong

flag on the right, along with doves, flowers and the occasional

“40” to mark the anniversary. The U.S. consulate general is about

six blocks down the street. 

Billboards mark Vietnam's major 2015 celebrations. From left: the 85th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of

Vietnam, the 125th anniversary of the birth of Ho Chi Minh, and the 70th anniversary of the revolution and National Day (the

proclamation of independence by Ho Chi Minh in Hanoi at the end of World War II). On the lower left is a much smaller reference to the

40th anniversary of unification: the image of a tank, entering the gates of the former Independence Palace.