Addressing the Human Rights Violations in the Vietnam War
The Vietnam War originated as a conflict between France and Southern Indochina. France colonized Vietnam in the 1800s and maintained its control over Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand (known as Indochina) until it was invaded by Nazi Germany during the Second World War, and Japan invaded Indochina after French forces retreated. After Japan surrendered at the end of World War II in 1945, Ho Chi Minh, a communist, declared Vietnam an independent state under the name of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. However, France then returned to Vietnam, not recognizing Ho’s claim, driving his forces north Vietnam.
France requested American intervention, but it was under economic and political pressure due to the escalating tensions in the Cold War with the Soviet Union, so it sent aid to France instead. France left the battlefield defeated in 1954, and a peace treaty was signed to split Vietnam into North (under Ho Chi Minh) and South (under a French-backed Emperor) Vietnam. After a conference in Geneva in 1956, Vietnam was to have a referendum vote to unite Vietnam.
The USA’s foreign policy had changed since 1954, and it was dominated by the “domino effect” theory, the theory that if South Vietnam fell to the USSR the rest of Southern Asia would follow. The USA feared communist expansion, and so it supported an anti-communist Ngo Dinh Diem, a man who was not popular amongst the Southern Vietnamese population. Ngo then seized power in the government and cancelled the elections which were scheduled to take place later that year, leaving Vietnam divided.
The Vietnam War then started in 1964 after the Viet Cong (Ho Chi Minh’s forces) attacked US naval bases in South Vietnam. The war continued in the forests of Vietnam, where the Viet Cong’s guerilla tactics worked well in their favour and demoralized the US army. The United States then sought to counter these tactics with the use of napalm gas and the toxic herbicide Agent Orange, chemical weapons that were similar to the mustard gas used by the Germans in the First World War. These two chemical weapons left many innocent civilians and bystanders injured or dead, damaged the environment in Vietnam, and caused the death of more than 500,000 Viet Cong soldiers with napalm gas alone. The American press was shocked and the world was left speechless. The topic is set in the middle of the Vietnam War, in 1970, after the United States openly used napalm gas and Agent Orange in Vietnam.
Tackling South Africa’s Withdrawal from the Commonwealth due to its Apartheid Policies
Racial oppression and the idea of white supremacy became the pillars of South African domestic policies long before the Apartheid began. The 1913 Land Act, which was passed 3 years after South Africa gained its independence, was the beginning of territorial racism by forcing black Africans to live in reserves and banning them from working as sharecroppers. Opponents to the oppressive Land Act formed the South African National Native Congress, which then became the African National Congress (ANC). by 1950, the government had banned interaction between black and white Africans in South Africa, and prohibited marriages between the different ethnicities. The Population Registration Act of 1950 called for the classification of South African citizens and categorized them by race. The legislation split families; parents of different ethnicities were forced to separate from their children and/or spouse because of their race.
A series of Land Acts divided more than 80% of the country’s land dedicated to the white minority, and passed laws that required non-whites to carry documents authorizing their presence in this land, which was restricted to those without a permit. The government then proceeded to separate public facilities for whites and non-whites, limited the job opportunities of non-whites and denied non-white participation in the government.
South Africa belonged to a coalition of states that were once under British colonial rule or close allies to the British Empire, called the Commonwealth. Members of the Commonwealth include Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Nigeria. The Apartheid policies were unclear to these nation states at the time, as there was much censorship concering the domestic policies of the white minority government which ruled over the indigenous people through fear. After images and news reports were leaked to the world, the Commonwealth took action swiftly. International pressure was placed on South Africa, many Commonwealth countries did not want to be placed in the same boat as a racist and oppressive government, and so the pressure started to build up.
South Africa jumped before it was pushed, and in 1961 it planned to announce it would leave the Commonwealth. The timeframe for this topic is set before South Africa announces its withdrawal and before it ends the Queen’s status as Head of State.