Pham Doan Trang, author of 'Politics For All,' tells RFA's Vietnamese Service in an Oct. 3, 2017 interview that she aims to prove politics are not only for the elite and are relevant to everyday life in Vietnam.
RFA: Why did you name your book ‘Politics For All?’
Pham Doan Trang: I chose the words “for all” because I want many people to read this book. That is also why I used words that are easy to understand, made it less academic, and included fewer formulas and tables. I don’t use words that are too complex or ancient language. I only used modern terms associated with current events in Vietnam … Almost 99 percent of the examples are about Vietnam.
Secondly, I wanted to erase the idea that politics are for a minority of people and the elite. Vietnamese people regularly say that everything will be taken care of by the [ruling Communist] Party and the state. I want people to understand that politics are everywhere in our lives—even connected to the food we eat and the clothes we wear.
RFA: How will you ensure that Vietnamese readers have access to the book, as the government will not allow it to be published in Vietnam?
Pham Doan Trang: I want to use everything possible, including online publication and e-books. I might even split the book into small sections to be published in newspapers, or allow it to be pirated. It is true that this year the government is exercising tight control over the large printing houses in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. I will try to disseminate it through all possible means—no method is preferred to any others.
RFA: Why did you decide to write a book about a topic considered sensitive in Vietnam?
Pham Doan Trang: The desire arose after I became involved in political activities in 2009. It was then that I realized I did not truly understand politics. I knew I was fighting for democracy, but I didn’t know what democracy was. I realized that if I wanted to write about social and political issues, I had to first understand them. If you don’t understand something, how can you guide others? I began to learn and realized that most people were like me.
In Vietnam, since [the end of the Vietnam War in] 1975, there have been few accessible political documents. [These days] there are only sporadic articles [about politics] on the internet, but they aren’t written systematically, and they cover issues that nobody ever talks about, such as social movements, propaganda, and why elections in Vietnam are considered undemocratic. I’m lucky to have many friends living overseas and I also studied abroad. At that time I spent most of my money buying books about politics and I read all of them. Then I leaned on the knowledge I gained from those books and simplified it on my own.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Emily Peyman.