The Sixth Vietnamese Communist Party Congress opened Monday in...

By TED CHAN   |   Dec. 14, 1986

BANGKOK, Thailand -- The Sixth Vietnamese Communist Party Congress opened Monday in Hanoi with a possible leadership shake-up and broad reforms for the nation's impoverished economy on the agenda.

Some 1,129 delegates representing 1.8 million party members filed into the capital's Ba Dinh Conference Hall for the start of the five-day session. Thirty delegations from other communist bloc nations also attended, Radio Hanoi said.

In an editorial titled 'The Congress of Renovation, Unity and Singlemindedness' the party newspaper Nhan Dan said the main task of the meeting will be 'renovation' of economic thinking and practice.

Future policies will suit the 'real situation' of the nation, said the editorial as reported by Radio Hanoi.

The congress culminates months of self-examination about Vietnam's failure to develop since the communists defeated U.S.-supported South Vietnam in April 1975.

In a speech to the Hanoi municipal party congress in October, President Truong Chinh admitted that Vietnamese leaders have squandered Soviet aid and committed policy mistakes that have created 'widespread doubt about the future' and 'lack of confidence in the leadership of the party.'

Other officials and state media reports have potrayed a government and party riddled with lax discipline, mismanagement and corruption.

Nhan Dan, the party's mouthpiece, said Saturday that it has received hundreds of thousands of ideas for consideration by the congress.

'Through ideas contributed by the people ... the sixth national party congress will ... change the party leadership's politics, ideology and organization,' said the newspaper.

The economic reforms awaiting rubber stamp approval are expected to emphasize wage incentives, private enterprise, decentralization and efficency.

The changes in the leadership structure are less clear, according to Western diplomats.

Premier Pham Van Dong, 80, has been in poor health and may retire in favor of Vice Premier Vo Chi Cong, 73, the diplomats said. As agriculture minister during the early 1980s, Cong achieved harvest quotas by giving farmers production incentives.

Truong Chinh, 79, also may retire. He became president in July after the death of Le Duan, who had led Vietnam since the death of Ho Chi Minh in 1969.

Chinh's likely successor is party politburo member Nguyen Van Linh, 73, an early advocate of decentralization.

Among the other figures who may be elevated are Vo Van Kiet, chairman of the state planning commission, and Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap, chief war strategist against the French and Americans.

Giap opposed the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in December 1978 and has been given increasing attention in the state press this year.

Although reforms, including currency devaluations and income incentives, have been installed before, they have been opposed by conservatives and poorly implemented.

With a annual per capita of less than $100, Vietnam still has one of the world's poorest economies, shackled with scarce supplies, unemployment and rampant inflation.

Moscow props up the economy with more than $1 billion in annual aid - but Chinh warned that the assistance could decrease.