A Momentary on Vietnam History / by Suzana Jamil

Vietnam is a nation steeped with history and have only recently opened its doors to the world in recent decades, ever since the Vietnam War ended in 1975. But what is less known is that during the golden ages, Vietnam itself was already a powerful empire in South East Asia during its ancient days with recorded history of up to the BC years.

The origins of the Vietnamese kingdom, started in the northern parts of the modern day Vietnam and it was much smaller in size. Having borders with China, wars were frequent every hundred years or so with the Vietnamese consistently having to defend their borders. Over the years China managed to conquer Vietnam a few times and the Vietnamese had a history of revolting as early as 40AD. The southern region of Vietnam at the time was divided between two other kingdoms, which is the Champa, and the Khmer kingdom (Cambodian origin).

During the Ming Dynasty, China managed to control Vietnam again from the year 1407 to 1428.  In one of their most historical uprising called the Lam Son revolution, lead by a farmer by the name Le Loi, the Vietnamese managed to dispatch a total of 300,000 Ming soldiers.  After restoring it’s kingdom, the Le dynasty expanded southwards taking over Champa and the Khmer kingdom. The Khmer kingdom at this point was severely weakened by war with Thailand in it’s western front. By 1700’s, Champa and Khmer almost ceased to exist with it’s people suppressed and eventually assimilated with the Vietnamese.

By the year 1776, Vietnam was again in turmoil with the murder of the royal family and the nation divided into three main sections, the north, central and south.  The surviving prince Nguyen Anh then fled south to ask for assistance from the king of Siam (Thailand) and later from the French. Nguyen Anh later successfully captured Saigon in 1799. The French later made an attempt to install a Catholic emperor in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) that met with a lot of retaliation from the locals. The French later used this as an excuse to invade Vietnam. Having managed to capture Hanoi twice in 1873 and 1882, the French Indochina republic was finally established in 1887. Surprisingly, the French managed to hold Vietnam under its colony way until 1954, despite various revolts, the coming of Marxism and even World War 2. By then the communist party led by Ho Chi Minh have already been established in the north, originally to fight for Vietnam’s independence. After a great lost at Dien Bien Phu, the France left Vietnam split in two, with the communist holding the north in Hanoi and the Republic of Vietnam, backed by the US, from the south in Saigon.

What began as support to southern Vietnam and also as a way to keep communism at bay, quickly turned sour for the Americans. The Vietnam War started from 1955 and lasted till 1975, a total of 20 years and became quite a controversial war. The US sent in 540,000 troops but was unable to overcome the Vietnamese guerilla tactics. To make matters worse they had problems identifying the northerners from the southerners and were very wary of communist spies. Some of the Vietnamese in general were also very suspicious of the Americans, which they though as will just be another nation seeking to colonize them, as they just ousted the French. There were great mistrust and the results were disastrous with death tolls accumulating to more than 3 million. After realizing that they were not making headway, the Americans withdraw their troops and the communist gained control of Saigon and renamed it to Ho Chi Minh City, as what it is today.

Post war, since the 1990’s Vietnam has since eased its trading policies with the rest of its neighbours to keep abreast with modernization with the rest of the world. Nowadays, Vietnam is a very peaceful country and one of the main tourist destinations of South East Asia.