Camp Z30-D: The Survivors 1975-2001

[ndlr] Plan du camp de rééducation Z30-D publié dans The Orange County Register (29/4/2001), numérisé et mis en ligne par UC Irvine, Southeast Asian Archive, Southeast Asian Archive vertical file collection. Intitulé « Life and Death in Camp Z30-D » il expose avec soin le quotidien d’un prisonnier.

 Cliquer sur l’image pour l’agrandir

Title: « Camp Z30-D: the survivors, 1975-2001, » from the Orange County Register

Date: April 29, 2001

Subject: Political refugees–Vietnam / Political Issues / Detention of persons / Vietnamese Americans / Orange County (Calif.)

Note: Special section on survivors of « re-education » prison camps in Vietnam

Type: Clippings

Physical Description: 1 article : 29 x 32 cm. (20 pages)

Language: English

Identifier: cui-ucid-sea020-043

Publisher: Orange County Register

Copyright Note: Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by copyright beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owner. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Copyright Owner: Orange County Register

Source : Calisphere, University of California

Truong Minh Hoa: The Dark Journey. Inside the Reeducation Camps of Viet Cong

[ndlr] L’ouvrage publié en 2010 par Truong Minh Hoa suscita une vive polémique sur Amazon et certains blogs politiques vietnamiens. Elle est alimentée par les articles virulents de cet auteur publiés sur le site Tin Paris. Au delà de ces querelles de personnes (qui révèlent de profondes fractures au sein de la communauté exilée), l’ouvrage très instructif sur le système concentrationnaire de la RSVN notamment au Sud est à signaler.

Book presentation: Two days after Saigon fell to the communists, Hoa Minh Truong walked along the path leading to the Tan Xuyen village council. He had been there many times during his army service but this time he was filled with fear. The extra-tight security included a young Viet Cong trooper who clutched a Russian-made AK-47 automatic rifle in his small hands. The gun was just one of many multi-death tools supplied in the name of revolution by the major communist powers to Vietnam’s communists. The trooper could not have been more than fifteen years old. In the yard next to the building Hoa noticed a huge heap of uniforms, helmets, boots, belts and ammunition. All of these items had been dumped there when the South Vietnam government surrendered and ordered its forces to disarm. Hoa was on the losing side of the war for reasons that, to him, remained unclear and unacceptable. Now, he and many thousands of others were being forced into so-called re-education camps. Held there without trial, these prisoners faced terrible conditions and cruel punishments. Many did not survive, but Hoa did. In this remarkable book, he offers his story to the world. Author Hoa Minh Truong is a well-published author of fiction, non-fiction and poetry in the Vietnamese language. He now lives in Perth, Australia with his wife and daughter.

Réf. : Truong Minh Hoa, The dark journey. Inside the reeducation camps of Vietcong, Durham CT, Eloquent Books, 2010, 246 p.

Aperçu Google Books

 

Review :

Sherree Broadhurst: This book should be compulsory reading (05/03/2012)

Well named, « The Dark Journey » is a story that needs to be told. It is a revealing breakdown of the political background to the rise of communism in Vietnam, and at the same time, it graphically describes the hardships endured by political prisoners caught in the crossfire of malicious communistic policies enforced by vindictive cadres. Nobody should have to suffer what Mr Truong and over 100,000 other political prisoners had to endure. His story evokes sympathy from the reader in direct proportion to the atrocities he experienced. It is a heavy book to read, but the effort is worth it for the revelations it contains, and the greater empathy awakened in the reader for political prisoners everywhere, for refugees, and for soldiers who fought in the Vietnamese and other Asian wars.

* * *

L’ouvrage a été auparavant publié en langue vietnamienne (une première fois en 1998 selon l’auteur et réédition ci-dessous en 2006, Australie)

Đoàn Văn Toại : A Lament for Vietnam – Thổn thức cho Việt Nam [1981]

Đoàn Văn Toại trong một buổi nói chuyện về nhân quyền Việt Nam tại Berkeley
© 1980 Buivanphu

When the Communists took over North Vietnam in 1954, a million refugees fled to the South. I personally heard stories of their incredible suffering. But, along with other South Vietnamese, I refused to believe them. A generation later, I could not believe Solzhenitsyn’s book « The Gulag Archipelago, » either. I dismissed it as anti-Communist propaganda.

But by 1979, I had published my own book, « The Vietnamese Gulag. » Can those who have suffered the horror of Communism ever convince those who have not experienced it? From 1945, when I was born in the village of Caivon in Vinh Long province, 100 miles south of Saigon, until I left Vietnam in May 1978, I never enjoyed peace. My family’s house was burned three times in the war against the French. To escape the fighting, my parents moved from one village to another throughout my youth. Like the majority of Vietnamese patriots, they joined the resistance forces fighting the French. As I grew up, I myself saw how the peasants were oppressed by the local officials of the successive Saigon regimes, how they were victimized by the French bombardments. I learned the history of my country’s thousand-year struggle against Chinese occupation and its century-long effort against Western domination. With this background, my compatriots and I grew up with a hatred of foreign intervention.

When the students at Saigon University elected me vice president of the Saigon Student Union in 1969 and 1970, I participated in the different peace efforts, leading student demonstrations against the Thieu regime and against American involvement. I published a magazine called Self-Determination, and traveled in January 1971 to California to give antiwar lectures at Berkeley and Stanford. For my activities, I was arrested and jailed many times by the Thieu Government.

During that period, I believed that I was fulfilling my commitment to peace and the independence of my country. I had faith, too, in the program of the National Liberation Front (N.L.F.), which led the revolutionary resistance in South Vietnam. I hated Saigon’s rulers, men like Gen. Nguyen Van Thieu, Gen. Nguyen Cao Ky, Gen. Dang Van Quang — former soldiers of the French colonial army. These were the men whom the French had recruited in the 1940’s to help destroy the Vietnamese resistance. They had risen over the years to become leaders themselves, but they commanded no respect from the people. Because of their lack of popular support, they were predisposed to rely on foreign forces.

As a student leader, I felt I had to pursue the aspiration of the Vietnamese people for democracy, freedom and peace.

Naively, I believed that the Hanoi regime at least had the virtue of being Vietnamese, while the Americans were foreign invaders like the French before them. Like others in the South Vietnamese opposition movements, I believed that our Communist compatriots in the North would be more amenable to compromise and easier to work with than the Americans. Moreover, I was hypnotized by the personal sacrifices and devotion the Communist leaders had demonstrated. Ton Duc Thang, former President of North Vietnam, for example, had been imprisoned for 17 years in a French jail. I was hypnotized also by the political programs advocated by the N.L.F., which included a domestic policy of national reconciliation, without risk of reprisal, and a foreign policy of nonalignment. Finally, I was influenced by progressive movements throughout the world and by the most prestigious intellectuals in the West. My impression was that during the 1960’s and early 70’s the leaders of the American peace movement shared my convictions.

These convictions endured through the signing of the 1973 Paris peace accords and the subsequent collapse of the South Vietnamese Government two years later. When liberation was imminent, I was the one who told friends and relatives not to flee. « Why do you want to leave? » I asked. « Why are you afraid of the Communists? » I accepted the prospect of enduring hardships to rebuild my country and I decided to stay in Vietnam and continue working as a branch manager at a Saigon bank, where I had been for more than four years, writing secret reports about the economic situation in South Vietnam for the N.L.F. (After leaving the university, I had not been drafted by the South Vietnamese Government because I was the only son in my family. And I had not joined the Vietcong because the N.L.F. felt I could serve a more useful role providing financial reports from the bank.)

Several days after Saigon fell, the Provisional Revolutionary Government, formed by the N.L.F., asked me to join the finance committee, a group of intellectuals whose job it was to advise the Government on matters of economic policy. I complied willingly, taking a pay cut of 90 percent. My first assignment was to help draw up a plan for confiscating all the private property in South Vietnam. Shocked, I proposed that we should expropriate only the property of those who had cooperated with the former regime and those who had used the war to become rich, and that we distribute it in some fashion to the poor and to the victims of the war, Communist and non-Communist alike. My proposals, of course, were rejected. I was naive enough to think that the local cadres were mistaken, that they misunderstood the good intentions of the Communist Party leaders. I had many fights with them, believing as I did Hanoi’s previous statement that « the situation in the South is very special and different from that of North Vietnam. » A few months before the liberation of Saigon, Le Duan, the First Secretary of the Communist Party, had said, « The South needs its own policy. »

In the end, I could not obey the order to help arrange the confiscation of all private property, a plan that was subsequently carried out. Such a scheme had nothing to do with fulfilling the aspirations of the South Vietnamese, and it went against my conscience. I decided to resign. But no one resigns in a Communist regime. The implication of nonconformity is intolerable to Communists. When I submitted my resignation, the chief of the finance committee warned me that my action « would only serve as propaganda to excite the people; here we never do it that way. » Several days later, while I was attending a concert at the great National Theater (formerly the National Assembly Hall, which my fellow students and I had occupied so many times under the Thieu regime), I was arrested. No charges were made, no reasons were given. After the fall of Saigon, many progressive intellectuals and former antiwar-movement leaders believed that the new Vietnamese regime would bring internal democracy and freedom from foreign domination. They believed that the new regime would pursue the best interests of the people, honoring its promise to carry out a policy of national reconciliation without fear of reprisal. Far from adhering to their promises, the Vietnamese rulers have arrested hundreds of thousands of individuals — not only those who had cooperated with the Thieu regime but even those who had not, including religious leaders and former members of the N.L.F.

Vietnam today is a country without any law other than the arbitrary directives of those in power. There is no civil code.

Individuals are imprisoned without charges and without trial. Once in jail, prisoners are taught that their behavior, attitude and « good will » are the key factors in determining when they may be released -whatever crimes they may have committed. As a consequence, prisoners often obey the guards blindly, hoping for an early release. In fact, they never know when they may be released — or when their sentences may be extended. How many political prisoners are there in Vietnam today? And how many of them have died in prisons during the first six years of Communist rule? Nobody can know the exact numbers. The United States Department of State has said there are from 150,000 to 200,000 prisoners; Vietnamese refugees estimate about one million. Hoang Huu Quynh, an intellectual, a graduate of Moscow University, who served as a director of a technical school in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), recently defected to France during his Government sponsored tour of European countries. He told the French press: « There are at least 700,000 prisoners in Vietnam today. » Another witness, Nguyen Cong Hoan, a former member of the reunified National Assembly, which was elected in 1976, who escaped by boat in 1978, said that he himself knew « about 300 cases of executions » in his own province of Phu Yen. In 1977, officials in Hanoi insisted that only 50,000 people, who posed the greatest threat to national security, had been arrested. But Prime Minister Pham Van Dong said, in the French magazine Paris Match, on Sept. 22, 1978, « In over three years, I released more than one million prisoners from the camps. » One wonders how it is possible to release more than a million after having arrested only 50,000.

When I was arrested, I was thrown into a three-foot-by-six-foot cell with my left hand chained to my right foot and my right hand chained to my left foot. My food was rice mixed with sand. When I complained about the sand, the guards explained that sand is added to the rice to remind prisoners of their crimes. I discovered that pouring water in the rice bowl would make the sand separate from the rice and sink to the bottom. But the water ration was only one liter a day for drinking and bathing, and I had to husband it carefully.

After two months in solitary confinement, I was transferred to a collective cell, a room 15 feet wide and 25 feet long, where at different times anywhere from 40 to 100 prisoners were crushed together. Here we had to take turns lying down to sleep, and most of the younger, stronger prisoners slept sitting up. In the sweltering heat, we also took turns snatching a few breaths of fresh air in front of the narrow opening that was the cell’s only window. Every day I watched my friends die at my feet.

In March 1976, when a group of Western reporters visited my prison, the Communist officials moved out all the prisoners and substituted North Vietnamese soldiers. In front of the prisons, one sees no barbed wire, no watchtowers, only a few policemen and a large sign above the entrance that proclaims Ho Chi Minh’s best-known slogan: « Nothing Is More Precious Than Liberty and Independence. » Only those detained inside and those who guard them know what kind of place is hidden behind that sign. And every prisoner knows that if he is suspected of planning to escape, his fellow inmates and relatives at home will be punished rather than he himself.

We will never know precisely the number of dead prisoners, but we do know about the deaths of many well-known prisoners who, in the past, never cooperated with President Thieu or the Americans: for example, Thich Thien Minh, the strategist of all the Buddhist peace movements in Saigon, an antiwar activist who was sentenced to 10 years in jail by the Thieu regime, then released after an outpouring of protest from Vietnamese and antiwar protesters around the world. Thien Minh died in Ham Tan prison after six months of detention in 1979. Another silent death was that of the lawyer Tran Van Tuyen, a leader of the opposition bloc in the Saigon Assembly under President Thieu. This well-known activist died in Communist hands in 1976, although as late as April 1977, Prime Minister Pham Van Dong was telling French reporters that Tuyen was alive and well in a re-education camp. One of the greatest losses has been that of the famous Vietnamese philosopher Ho Huu Tuong. Tuong, a classmate of Jean-Paul Sartre’s in Paris in the 1930’s, was perhaps the leading intellectual in South Vietnam. He died in Ham Tan prison on June 26, 1980. These men were arrested, along with many others among the most prominent and respected South Vietnamese, in order to pre-empt any possible opposition to the Communists.

Some American supporters of Hanoi have ignored or rationalized these deaths, as they have the countless other tragedies that have befallen Vietnam since 1975. It is more than likely that they will continue to maintain their silence in order to avoid the profound disillusionment that accepting the truth about Vietnam means for them. Yet if liberty and democracy are worth struggling for in the Philippines, in Chile, in South Korea or in South Africa, they are no less worth defending in Communist countries like Vietnam. Everyone remembers the numerous demonstrations protesting United States involvement in Vietnam and the war crimes of the Thieu regime. But some of those people who were then so passionately committed to democratic principles and human rights have developed a strange indifference now that these same principles are under assault in Communist Vietnam. For example, one antiwar activist, William Kunstler, refused to sign a May 1979 open letter to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in which many former antiwar activists, including Joan Baez, protested Hanoi’s violations of human rights. Kunstler said, « I don’t believe in criticizing socialist governments publicly, even if there are human-rights violations, » and, « The entire Baez campaign may be a C.I.A. plot. »

This statement reminds me of the argument used by the Thieu regime to suppress opposition: « The peace movements and the opposition activists are all the Communists’ lackeys. »

There are other illusions about the current regime in Vietnam about which people should be disabused. Many people believed that Ho Chi Minh was primarily a nationalist and that the Vietnamese Communists were and are independent of the Soviet Union. I believed the same before they took over South Vietnam. But portraits of Soviet leaders now adorn public buildings, schools and administrative offices throughout « independent Vietnam. » In contrast, one never saw pictures of American leaders even during the so-called puppet regime of President Thieu. The degree of subordination the present Government feels toward its Soviet patron is suggested by a famous poem by the well-known Vietnamese poet To Huu, a member of the Politburo and president of the Communist Party Committee of Culture. Here we have an opportunity to listen to a high-ranking Vietnamese weep on the occasion of Stalin’s death:

Oh, Stalin! Oh, Stalin!
The love I bear my father, my mother, my wife, myself It’s nothing beside the love I bear you,
Oh, Stalin! Oh, Stalin!
What remains of the earth and of the sky!
Now that you are dead.
(Tố Hữu)

It may seem incredible that such a poem could have been written in Vietnam, which is known for the strength of its family traditions and its feeling for filial piety. Yet this poem occupied a prominent place in a major anthology of contemporary Vietnamese poetry recently published in Hanoi.

Moreover, Le Duan, First Secretary of the Communist Party, said in his political report to the reunified National

Assembly in 1976: « The Vietnamese revolution is to fulfill the internationalist duty and the international obligation, » and to do so, in the words of the 1971 party platform, « under the leadership of the Soviet Union. » The glorification of Soviet life is, in fact, a major goal of Communist Vietnam’s censorship policy.

Immediately after the fall of Saigon, the Government closed all bookshops and theaters. All books published under the former regimes were confiscated or burned. Cultural literature was not exempt, including translations of Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus and Dale Carnegie. Margaret Mitchell’s « Gone With the Wind » was on the list of decadent literature as well. The new regime replaced such books with literature designed to indoctrinate children and adults with the idea that the « Soviet Union is a paradise of the socialist world. »

Another argument made at times by Western apologists has to do with freedom of religion in Vietnam. One article in the new Constitution of Vietnam, adopted this year, declares that « the regime respects the liberty of the believers and also the liberty of the nonbelievers. » In regard to this article, Le Duan has repeatedly proclaimed: « Our present regime is a million times more democratic than any other in the world. » The reality, though, is suggested by an incident involving the desecration of a Buddhist pagoda, in which a nude woman, on orders from the Government, entered the pagoda during a worship service. When Thich Man Giac, a prominent Buddhist leader, protested, the Government used the opportunity to try to discredit the Buddhists as enemies of democracy -specifically, of the freedom to disbelieve. Thich Man Giac, who had served as liaison between the Buddhists and the Communist Government, escaped Vietnam by boat in 1977 and is now living in Los Angeles. All of those who supported the N.L.F. in its struggle should be aware of how they were betrayed and deceived. When Harrison Salisbury of The New York Times visited Hanoi in December 1966, the leaders in Hanoi told him: « The direction of the struggle in the South is by the South and not by the North. »

Pham Van Dong, Prime Minister, said to Salisbury: « No one in the North had this stupid, criminal idea in mind » that the North wanted to annex the South.

Yet in a victory-day celebration speech made on May 19, 1975, Le Duan said, « Our party is the unique and single leader that organized, controlled and governed the entire struggle of the Vietnamese people from the first day of the revolution. » In his political report to the reunified National Assembly in Hanoi on June 26, 1976, Le Duan said: « The strategic task of the revolution in our country in the new stage is to achieve the reunification of our homeland and to take the whole country rapidly, vigorously and steadily to socialism, and Communism. »

In 1976, the Provisional Revolutionary Government formed by the N.L.F. was abolished, and South and North Vietnam were reunified under Commu-nist rule. Today, among 17 members of the Politburo and 134 members of the Central Committee of the Vietnamese Communist Party, not a single one is from the N.L.F. (there are several members who had been North Vietnam Communist Party representatives with the N.L.F.). Even Nguyen Huu Tho, former chairman of the N.L.F., holds only the post of acting President of State, a ceremonial position that involves greeting visitors and participating in festivals. But his position will be abolished under the new Constitution.

Listen to Truong Nhu Tang, 57 years old, a founder of the N.L.F., former Justice Minister of the Provisional Revolutionary Government, more recently one of the boat people. Tang escaped in November 1979 and is now living in Paris. He told reporters of his experience in a news conference in Paris in June 1980. Twelve years earlier, he said, when he had been jailed by the Thieu regime for his Communist activities, his father came to visit. « Why, » he asked Tang, « have you abandoned everything — a good job, a rich family — to join the Communists? Don’t you know that the Communists will betray you and persecute you, and when you finally understand, it will be too late to wake up? » Tang, an intellectual, answered his father: « You would do better to keep quiet and accept the sacrifice of one of your sons for democracy and our country’s independence. … »

After the Tet offensive in 1968, Tang was exchanged for three American colonels who had been prisoners of war held by the Vietcong; then he vanished into the jungle with the N.L.F. He had visited many Communist and third-world countries on behalf of the N.L.F. during the war. Tang said in his news conference: « I was well aware that the N.L.F. was a Communist-dominated national united front and I was naive enough to believe that Ho Chi Minh and his party would place national interests above ideology and would place the interest of the Vietnamese people above the party’s. But the people and I were wrong. »

Truong Nhu Tang told of his own knowledge of the way Communist ruling circles operate: « The Communists are expert in the arts of seduction and will go to any length to woo you over to their side, as long as they don’t control the Government. But once they are in power they suddenly become harsh, ungrateful, cynical and brutal. » Tang summarized current conditions in Vietnam: « The family is divided, society is divided, even the party is divided. »

Looking back now on the Vietnam war, I feel nothing but sorrow for my own naivete in believing that the Communists were revolutionaries worthy of support. In fact, they betrayed the Vietnamese people and deceived progressives throughout the world. The responsibility for the tragedies that have engulfed my compatriots is mine. And now I can only bear witness to this truth so that all former supporters of the Vietcong may share their responsibility with me.

While I was in jail, Mai Chi Tho, a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, addressed a selected group of political prisoners. He told us: « Ho Chi Minh may have been an evil man; Nixon may have been a great man. The Americans may have had the just cause; we may not have had the just cause. But we won and the Americans were defeated because we convinced the people that Ho Chi Minh is the great man, that Nixon is a murderer and the Americans are the invaders. » He concluded that « the key factor is how to control people and their opinions. Only Marxism-Leninism can do that. None of you ever see resistance to the Communist regime, so don’t think about it. Forget it. Between you — the bright intellectuals — and me, I tell you the truth. »

And he did tell us the truth. Since 1978, the Vietnamese Communists have occupied Laos, invaded Cambodia and attacked Thailand, while the Soviet Union has invaded Afghanistan. In each of these depredations, the Communists have portrayed themselves, incredibly, as liberators, saviors and bulwarks against foreign aggression. And each time, world opinion has remained relatively quiescent. But in Vietnam, people often remark: « Don’t believe what the Communists say, look instead at what they have done. »

One South Vietnamese Communist, Nguyen Van Tang, who was detained 15 years by the French, eight years by Diem, six years by Thieu, and who is still in jail today, this time in a Communist prison, told me: « In order to understand the Communists, one must first live under a Communist regime. » One rainy evening in Saigon’s Le Van Duyet prison, he told me: « My dream now is not to be released; it is not to see my family. My dream is that I could be back in a French prison 30 years ago. » This is the one wish of a 60-year-old man who has spent his entire adult life in and out of prison fighting for the freedom and the independence of his country. At this moment, he may already have died in his cell or have been executed by the new rulers.

The Vietnamese people wish to achieve the real revolution; they do not want Communism. The measure of popular hatred for the Communists is that thousands of Vietnamese have abandoned their historical attachment to the land.

Under French colonial domination, throughout the long war years, even during the catastrophic famine of 1945 when two million starved to death, Vietnamese simply did not willingly leave their homeland — the land of their ancestors’ graves. The recent outpouring of refugees is a direct result of the terror of the present regime. Listen to another refugee, Nguyen Cong Hoan, former N.L.F. agent and member of the new unified Assembly elected in 1976: « This current regime is the most inhuman and oppressive (Vietnam) has ever known. » Hoan escaped by boat in 1977, after abandoning his position in the Communist Assembly. « The Assembly, » he declared, « is a puppet, the members know only how to say yes, never how to say no. »

Among the boat people who survived, including those who were raped by pirates and those who suffered in the refugee camps, nobody regrets his escape from the present regime. I am confident that the truth about Vietnam will eventually emerge. It is already available to those who wish to know it. As Solzhenitsyn has said, « Truth weighs as heavy as the world. » And Vietnam is a lesson in truth.

Doan Van Toai is currently working on a book about Vietnam called « Neither Peace nor Honor ».

Réf. : Doan Van Toai, « A Lament for Vietnam », The New York Times, March 29, 1981.
From The New York Times Magazine.

* * *

Thổn thức cho Việt Nam

 Đoàn Văn Toại

Khi cộng sản chiếm miền Bắc Việt Nam năm 1954, hàng triệu người đã lũ lượt di cư vào Nam.

Tôi đã tận tai nghe nhiều câu chuyện về sự đau khổ tột cùng của họ. Nhưng cũng như nhiều người miền Nam lúc ấy, tôi đã không tin vào những câu chuyện đó. Cả về sau này, tôi cũng đã không tin về những câu chuyện được kể trong tác phẩm Quần Đảo Ngục Tù (The Gulag Archipelago) của văn hào Solzhenitsyn. Tôi không tin vì cho rằng đó là những luận điệu tuyên truyền chống Cộng. Nhưng vào năm 1979, tôi đã cho xuất bản cuốn sách Việt Nam Ngục Tù của chính tôi. Liệu những người đã từng nếm trải những kinh hoàng dưới chế độ cộng sản có bao giờ thử thuyết phục những người không có cái kinh nghiệm này?

Kể từ năm 1945, năm tôi ra đời tại huyện Cái Vồn thuộc tỉnh Vĩnh Long, một tỉnh lỵ cách Sài Gòn 160 km về hướng Nam, cho đến khi ngày tôi rời Việt Nam vào tháng 5/1978, tôi chưa từng một ngày vui hưởng hoà bình. Căn nhà gia đình tôi đã bị đốt 3 lần trong cuộc kháng chiến chống Pháp. Trong suốt cuộc đời niên thiếu, tôi đã phải theo cha mẹ di tản từ làng này sang làng khác để tránh tên bay đạn lạc. Cũng giống như những người Việt Nam yêu nước khác, cha mẹ tôi cũng tham gia kháng chiến chống Pháp. Khi tôi lớn lên, tôi lại tận mắt chứng kiến các nông dân đã bị các quan chức địa phương của chính quyền Sài Gòn áp bức ra sao, và họ đã phải chịu những cuộc oanh tạc tàn khốc của quân Pháp như thế nào. Tôi đã học trong lịch sử sự chiến đấu kiên cường của dân tộc chống lại ách đô hộ ngàn năm của giặc Tàu rồi đến các cuộc kháng chiến gian khổ chống ách thống trị trăm năm của giặc Tây. Với hành trang đó, tôi và các bạn đồng lứa đã lớn lên cũng với nỗi căm thù sự can thiệp của ngoại bang.

Khi các sinh viên Sài Gòn bầu tôi vào chức Phó Chủ tịch Hội Liên hiệp Sinh viên Sài Gòn vào năm 1969 và 1970, tôi đã tham gia vào các hoạt động đòi hoà bình khác nhau, đã lãnh đạo sinh viên biểu tình chống chế độ Thiệu và sự dính líu của người Mỹ. Tôi đã ấn hành nguyệt san Tự Quyết, và đã làm một cuộc du hành đến California để thuyết trình về các hoạt động phản chiến ở Đại học Berkeley và Stanford vào tháng 1/1971. Vì các hoạt động đó, tôi đã bị bắt và tống giam nhiều lần dưới chế độ Thiệu.

Vào thời điểm ấy, tôi tin rằng tôi đang thi hành sứ mệnh hoà bình và độc lập cho đất nước tôi. Tôi cũng tin tưởng vào đề cương của MTDTGPMN, một tổ chức đang lãnh đạo cuộc kháng chiến cách mạng ở miền Nam Việt Nam. Tôi căm ghét các nhà lãnh đạo Sài Gòn, các người như Trung tướng Nguyễn Văn Thiệu, Thiếu tướng Nguyễn Cao Kỳ, Trung tướng Đặng Văn Quang ‒ những cựu chiến binh trong quân đội viễn chinh Pháp. Đó là những người được Pháp tuyển mộ vào năm 1940 để giúp chúng tiêu diệt các phần tử kháng chiến Việt Nam. Theo thời gian, họ đã vươn lên thành những nhà lãnh đạo, nhưng sự lãnh đạo của họ không thu được lòng dân. Và chính vì không có được ủng hộ của người dân, nên họ phải dựa vào các thế lực nước ngoài.

Với tư cách một lãnh tụ sinh viên, tôi cho rằng tôi phải hoàn thành khát vọng của người dân Việt Nam về dân chủ, tự do và hoà bình.

Một cách ngây thơ, tôi nghĩ rằng chế độ Hà Nội ít nhất cũng là người Việt Nam, trong khi người Mỹ chỉ là những kẻ xâm lược giống như người Pháp trước đó. Như nhiều người trong phong trào đối lập tại miền Nam lúc ấy, tôi tin rằng dù sao các đồng bào cộng sản miền Bắc cũng sẽ dễ có sự tương nhượng và dễ nói chuyện hơn là người Mỹ. Hơn thế nữa, tôi lại thấy choáng ngợp trước các thành tích hy sinh và tận tâm của các lãnh tụ cộng sản. Chẳng hạn, Tôn Đức Thắng, Phó Chủ tịch Bắc Việt, đã bị nhốt đến 17 năm trong nhà tù của Pháp. Tôi cũng bị hớp hồn trước bản đề cương chính trị được MTDTGPMN áp dụng, bao gồm chính sách hoà giải dân tộc, không hề có sự trả thù, và chính sách ngoại giao phi liên kết. Cuối cùng, tôi đã chịu ảnh hưởng của các phong trào tiến bộ khắp thế giới và các nhà đại trí thức phương Tây lúc ấy. Tôi đã có cảm tưởng rằng các lãnh đạo phong trào phản chiến ở Mỹ cuối thập niên 60 đầu 70 đã chia sẻ cùng niềm tin với tôi.

Niềm tin ấy càng được củng cố hơn sau khi Hiệp định Paris ký kết vào năm 1973 và sự sụp đổ của Đệ nhị Việt Nam Cộng hòa năm sau đó. Khi cuộc giải phóng đã hoàn tất, tôi chính là người đã khuyên bảo bạn bè và thân nhân không nên di tản. “Tại sao các người lại bỏ đi?” tôi hỏi, “Tại sao các người lại sợ cộng sản?” Tôi chấp nhân một viễn cảnh khó khăn trong thời gian tái thiết quê hương nên đã quyết định ở lại và tiếp tục làm việc với tư cách một quản trị viên một chi nhánh của Ngân hàng Saì Gòn, nơi tôi đã làm việc hơn 4 năm, và là nơi tôi viết các báo cáo mật về tình hình kinh tế Nam Việt Nam cho MTDTGPMN (Sau khi tốt nghiệp đại học, tôi đã không bị chính quyền Việt Nam Cộng hòa động viên vì là con một trong gia đình. Tôi cũng không gia nhập Việt Cộng vì MTDTGPMN nghĩ rằng tôi sẽ phục vụ tốt hơn trong vai trò báo cáo tài chính từ ngân hàng).

Sau khi Sài Gòn thất thủ được nhiều ngày, MTDTGPMN thành lập chính quyền Cách mạng Lâm thời, mời tôi gia nhập một uỷ ban tài chính, một nhóm bao gồm các trí thức có nhiệm vụ cố vấn cho chính quyền về các vấn đề kinh tế. Tôi hăng hái tham gia, chấp nhận mức cắt giảm lương đến 90%. Nhiệm vụ đầu tiên của tôi là giúp thảo ra một kế hoạch nhằm tịch thu tất cả các tài sản tư nhân ở miền Nam Việt Nam. Tôi cảm thấy sốc, và đề nghị chỉ nên thi hành điều đó với tài sản những người từng cộng tác với chính quyền cũ và với những người đã làm giàu nhờ chiến tranh, và sẽ phân phối lại theo một cách thức nào đó cho các người nghèo và nạn nhân chiến tranh không phân biệt thuộc phe nào. Đề nghị của tôi bị bác bỏ, dĩ nhiên.

Tôi đã quá ngây thơ khi nghĩ rằng các quan chức địa phương đã sai lầm, rằng họ đã hiểu lầm ý định tốt của các lãnh đạo đảng cộng sản. Tôi đã tranh đấu với họ nhiều lần, vì hoàn toàn đặt niềm tin vào các tuyên bố của Hà Nội trước đây rằng “tình hình ở Nam Việt Nam rất đặc biệt và rất khác với tình hình miền Bắc Việt Nam”. Chỉ vài tháng trước khi Sài Gòn thất thủ, Lê Duẩn, Tổng Bí thư Đảng Cộng sản, đã tuyên bố “miền Nam cần có chính sách riêng của nó”. Sau cùng, tôi không thể tuân theo lệnh sắp đặt các cuộc tịch thu tài sản tư hữu, một kế hoạch vẫn đang được xúc tiến. Một kế hoạch như vậy không hề đáp ứng nguyện vọng của người dân Nam Việt Nam, và nó đi ngược với lương tâm của tôi. Tôi quyết định từ chức. Nhưng không ai được phép từ chức trong chế độ cộng sản.

Một ngụ ý bất tuân lệnh sẽ không được người cộng sản tha thứ. Khi tôi đưa đơn từ chức, người lãnh đạo uỷ ban tài chính đã cảnh cáo rằng hành động của tôi “sẽ bị xem là sự tuyên truyền nhằm kích động quần chúng, và rằng chúng ta không bao giờ cho phép điều đó xảy ra”. Nhiều ngày sau đó, trong khi tôi đang tham dự một buổi hoà nhạc tại Nhà Hát Lớn (trước đây là trụ sở Quốc hội Việt Nam Cộng hòa, nơi mà tôi đã lãnh đạo các sinh viên chiếm giữ nhiều lần trước đây dưới chế độ Thiệu), tôi bị bắt. Không có sự truy tố cũng như không có lý do nào được đưa ra. Sau khi Sài Gòn thất thủ, rất nhiều nhà trí thức tiến bộ cũng như nhiều nhà lãnh đạo các phong trào phản chiến trước đây đều tin rằng chính quyền mới sẽ đem lại dân chủ và tự do thay cho sự thống trị của ngoại bang. Họ tin rằng chính quyền mới sẽ đeo đuổi các quyền lợi tốt nhất cho nhân dân. Sẽ giữ đúng lời hứa của chính họ về chính sách hoà giải dân tộc, không có sự trả thù. Phủi sạch những hứa hẹn, nhà cầmn quyền cộng sản đã bắt giam hàng trăm ngàn người ‒ không chỉ những người đã cộng tác với chế độ Thiệu mà cả những người khác, bao gồm các vị lãnh đạo tôn giáo và các cựu thành viên MTDTGPMN.

Việt Nam ngày nay trở thành một quốc gia không có luật pháp nào khác hơn là sự điều hành độc đoán của những kẻ đang nắm quyền lực. Không hề có cái gọi là dân quyền. Bất cứ ai cũng đều có thể bị bắt mà không cần truy tố cũng như không cần xét xử. Và khi đã ở trong tù, các tù nhân đều được giáo dục rằng chính các thái độ, hành vi và sự “cải tạo tốt” là yếu tổ chủ chốt đễ xét xem liệu họ có thể được trả tự do hay không- không cần biết họ đã phạm tội gì. Vì vậy, các tù nhân thường là phải tuân lệnh tuyệt đối các quản giáo để hy vọng được thả sớm. Trong thực tế, họ không bao giờ biết được khi nào họ sẽ được thả – hay có thể bản án của họ sẽ được kéo dài thêm. Ở đất nước Việt Nam ngày nay có bao nhiêu tù chính trị? Không ai có thể biết được con số chính xác. Bộ Ngoại giao Mỹ cho rằng có khoảng từ 150.000 đến 200.000 chính trị phạm, người Việt tỵ nạn thì ước đoán con số đó là 1 triệu.

Hoàng Hữu Quýnh, một trí thức tốt nghiệp Đại học Mạc Tư Khoa, hiệu trưởng một trường kỹ thuật tại Tp. HCM (trước đây là Sài Gòn), vừa mới bỏ trốn trong một chuyến đi tham quan các nước Châu Âu do nhà nước bảo trợ. Ông đã nói với báo chí Pháp, “Hiện nay ở Việt Nam có ít nhất 700.000 tù nhân”. Một nhân chứng khác, Nguyễn Công Hoan, một cựu thành viên trong Quốc hội thống nhất được bầu vào năm 1976, đã vượt biển thành công vào năm 1978, đã tuyên bố chính bản thân ông được biết về “300 trường hợp xử tử” chỉ nội trong tỉnh Phú Yên của ông.

Vào năm 1977, các quan chức Hà Nội khăng khăng rằng chỉ có 50.000 người bị bắt giữ vì có những hành vi gây nguy hại cho an ninh quốc gia. Nhưng trong khi đó, Thủ tướng Phạm Văn Đồng đã tuyên bố trên tờ Paris Match số ra ngày 22/9/1978, “Trong vòng 3 năm qua, tôi đã trả tự do cho hơn 1 triệu tù nhân từ các trại cải tạo.” Người ta có thể tự hỏi làm thế nào có thể thả 1 triệu tù nhân trong khi chỉ bắt giữ có 50.000!

Tôi bị tống vào một xà lim 1m x 2m, tay trái bị xiềng vào chân phải và tay phải xiềng vào chân trái. Thứ ăn của tôi là cơm trộn với cát. Khi tôi khiếu nại về cát trong cơm, các quản giáo đã giải thích rằng cát được cho vào cơm để nhắc nhở các tù nhân về các tội ác mà họ đã phạm. Tôi đã khám phá ra khi đổ nước vào tô cơm có thể tách cát ra khỏi cơm và lắng nó xuống đáy. Nhưng phần nước chỉ có 1lít cho một ngày dùng cho uống và tắm rửa, do vậy tôi phải dùng nó hết sức tiết kiệm.

Sau 2 tháng biệt giam, tôi được chuyển ra phòng giam lớn, một phòng giam 5m x 9m, tuỳ theo thời điểm được nhồi nhét từ 40 đến 100 tù nhân. Nơi đây chúng tôi phải thay phiên để được nằm xuống ngủ, và phần lớn các tù nhân trẻ và còn mạnh khoẻ phải chịu ngủ ngồi. Trong cái nóng hầm hập, chúng tôi cũng phải thay phiên để được hứng vài cơn gió mát của khí trời từ một lỗ thông gió chút xíu và cũng là cửa sổ duy nhất của phòng giam. Mỗi ngày tôi đều chứng kiến các bạn tù chết dưới chân tôi.

Vào tháng 3, 1976, khi một nhóm phóng viên phương Tây đến viếng thăm nhà tù của tôi, các quản giáo đà lùa các tù nhân đi và thay vào đó là các bộ đội miền Bắc. Trước cửa nhà tù, không còn thấy các hàng rào kẻm gai, không có tháp canh, chỉ có vài công an và một tấm bảng lớn chăng ngang cửa chính đề câu khẩu hiệu nổi tiếng của Hồ Chí Minh, “Không có gì quý hơn độc lập tự do”. Chỉ có những người đang bị giam và các quản giáo là biết cái gì thực sự ẩn giấu đằng sau những dấu hiệu đó. Và mọi tù nhân đều biết rằng nếu họ bị tình nghi đào thoát thì người bạn đồng tù và người thân của họ tại nhà sẽ bị trừng phạt thay vì chính họ.

Chúng ta sẽ không bao giờ biết được con số thực sự của những tù nhân bỏ mạng, nhưng chúng ta đã biết cái chết của nhiều tù nhân nổi tiếng, những người trong quá khứ chưa bao giờ cộng tác với Chính quyền Thiệu hay với người Mỹ: chẳng hạn, Thích Thiện Minh, nhà chiến lược cho các phong trào tranh đấu hoà bình của Phật tử tại Sài Gòn, một nhà đấu tranh phản chiến đã từng bị kết án 10 năm dưới chế độ Thiệu, sau cùng bị buộc phải thả ông vì sự phản đối mạnh mẽ của nhân dân Việt Nam và các nhà hoạt động phản chiến khắp thế giới. Đại Đức Thiện Minh đã chết trong tù 6 tháng sau khi ông bị bắt vào năm 1979. Một cái chết âm thầm khác là của Luật sư Trần Văn Tuyên, một lãnh tụ khối đối lập tại Quốc hội dưới thời Tổng thống Thiệu. Nhà hoạt động nổi tiếng này đã chết dưới bàn tay cộng sản vào năm 1976, mặc dù vào cuối tháng 4/1977, Thủ tướng Phạm Văn Đồng đã tuyên bố với các phóng viên Pháp rằng ông vẫn còn sống mạnh khoẻ trong trại cải tạo. Một trong những tổn thất to lớn nhất là cái chết của triết gia nổi tiếng Việt Nam Hồ Hữu Tường. Tường, bạn đồng môn với Jean Paul Sartre thập niên 30 tại Paris, có lẽ là nhà trí thức hàng đầu tại Nam Việt Nam. Ông chết tại nhà tù Hàm Tân vào ngày 26/06/1980. Đây là những người bị bắt, cùng với rất nhiều những người khác trong nhóm những người Nam Việt Nam ưu tú và được trọng nể nhất, với mục đích ngăn ngừa bất cứ một sự chống đối nào với chế độ cộng sản.

Một số người Mỹ ủng hộ Hà Nội đã làm lơ hoặc biện minh cho những cái chết này, như họ đã từng làm với vô số các thảm kịch đã xảy ra từ khi Việt Nam Cộng hòa sụp đổ năm 1975. Rất có thể họ sẽ vẫn tiếp tục giữ im lặng nhằm lãng tránh một sự thật về Việt Nam nếu tiết lộ sẽ mang lại một nỗi vỡ mộng sâu xa đối với họ. Cay đắng thay nếu tự do và dân chủ vẫn là mục tiêu xứng đáng để chiến đấu tại Philippines, tại Chile, tại Nam Hàn hay tại Nam Phi, thì nó lại không xứng để bảo vệ tại các nước cộng sản như Việt Nam.

Mọi người đều nhớ đến vô số các cuộc biểu tình chống đối Mỹ can thiệp vào Việt Nam và chống lại các tội ác chiến tranh của chế độ Thiệu. Nhưng một số trong các người đã từng một thời nhiệt thành với các nguyên tắc dân chủ và nhân quyền thì nay lại tỏ ra hết sức lãnh đạm khi cũng chính các nguyên tắc ấy đang bị chà đạp tại nước Việt Nam cộng sản. Chẳng hạn, một nhà hoạt động phản chiến, William Kunstler, vào tháng 5, 1979 đã từ chối ký vào một bức thư ngỏ gởi nhà nước Cộng Hoà Xã Hội Chủ Nghĩa Việt Nam, trong đó có chữ ký của nhiều nhà hoạt động phản chiến khác, kể cả Joan Baez, phản đối sự vi phạm nhân quyền của chế độ Hà Nội. Kunstler nói “Tôi không tin vào sự chỉ trích công khai một chính quyền xã hội chủ nghĩa, dù đó là sự vi phạm nhân quyền”, và “toàn bộ chiến dịch này của Baez có thể là một âm mưu của CIA”. Câu nói này đã làm tôi nhớ lại lập luận mà chế độ Thiệu thường đưa ra làm lý do đàn áp các người đối lập, “Tất cả các hoạt động phản chiến và đối lập đều do cộng sản giựt dây”.

Còn có rất nhiều những huyền thoại về chế độ hiện hành tại Việt Nam mà người dân rất nên được soi sáng. Nhiều người cho rằng Hồ Chí Minh đầu tiên là một người quốc gia và rằng đảng cộng sản Việt Nam trước đây cũng như hiện nay đều độc lập với Liên Sô. Tôi cũng là người tin như vậy trước khi cộng sản chiếm miền Nam.Nhưng rồi chân dung các nhà lãnh đạo Soviet nay được treo đầy các chung cư, trường học và các công sở trên khắp nước “Việt Nam độc lập”. Ngược lại, người ta chưa từng thấy chân dung bất cứ một nhà lãnh đạo Mỹ nào được treo ngay cả trong chế độ được gọi là bù nhìn của Tổng thống Thiệu. Mức độ lệ thuộc của chính quyền hiện hành vào các ông chủ Soviet được thể hiện rõ ràng nhất do thi sĩ nổi tiếng của cộng sản Việt Nam, Tố Hữu, thành viên Bộ Chính Trị và là Trưởng Ban Văn hoá Đảng Cộng sản Việt Nam. Chúng ta có cơ hội được nghe người thi sĩ cao cấp này than khóc nhân cái chết của Stalin:

‘Xít-ta-lin! Xít-ta-lin,
Yêu biết mấy, nghe con tập nói
Tiếng đầu lòng, con gọi Xít-ta-lin
Ông Xít-ta-lin ôi. Ông Xít-ta-lin ôi,
Hỡi ôi ông mất, đất trời có không?
Thương cha, thương mẹ, thương chồng
Thương mình thương một, thương ông thương mười.’
 (Đời đời nhớ ông – Tố Hữu).

Thật là khó mà tưởng tượng những vần thơ như vậy lại được viết tại Việt Nam, một đất nước mang nặng truyền thống gia đình và bổn phận với con cái. Và bài thơ ấy vẫn đang chiếm một vị trí trang trọng trong ấn bản về thơ ca Việt Nam hiện đại được xuất bản tại Hà Nội.

Hơn thế nữa, Lê Duẩn , Tổng Bí thư đảng cộng sản Việt Nam, trong một bài diễn văn chính trị đọc trước Hội nghị khoáng đại của Quốc hội thống nhất năm 1976, “Cuộc cách mạng Việt Nam là để thực thi bổn phận và các cam kết quốc tế”, và vì vậy, trong lời lẽ của bản luận cương của đảng năm 1971 đã viết, “dưới sự lãnh đạo của Liên bang Soviet”. Sự vinh quang của một xã hội Soviet là mục tiêu chính yếu trong sách lược của đảng cộng sản Việt Nam.

Sau khi Sài Gòn thất thủ, nhà nước đã ngay tức khắc đóng cửa toàn bộ các nhà sách và rạp hát. Tất cả các sách vở được xuất bản trong chế độ cũ đều bị tịch thu hay đốt bỏ. Các tác phẩm văn hoá thuần tuý cũng không ngoại lệ, kể cả các bản dịch tác phẩm của Jean Paul Sartre, Albert Camus và Dale Carnegie. Ngay cả tác phẩm Cuốn Theo Chiều Gió của Margaret Mitchell cũng nằm trong danh sách văn chương đồi truỵ. Nhà nước thay thế những tác phẩm ấy bằng những tác phẩm văn chương nhằm nhồi sọ trẻ em và người lớn với ý tưởng chủ đạo, “Liên bang Soviet là thiên đường của xã hội chủ nghĩa”.

Một lập luận khác của các nhà biện luận phương Tây có liên quan đến vấn đề tự do tôn giáo tại Việt Nam. Một điều khoản của bản hiến pháp mới, được đưa ra vào năm nay, có nêu rằng “nhà nước tôn trọng quyền tự do tín ngưỡng và quyền tự do không tín ngưỡng”. Về điều khoản này, Lê Duẩn đã nhiều lần tuyên bố, “Chế độ của chúng ta triệu lần dân chủ hơn bất cứ chế độ nào trên thế giới”.

Ngược lại, trên thực tế, đã trình bày rõ sự thật qua một sự kiện mang tính báng bổ một ngôi chùa Phật giáo, trong vụ đó một người đàn bà khoả thân theo lệnh nhà nước đã tiến vào ngôi chùa trong giờ hành lễ. Khi Hoà thượng Thích Mẫn Giác, một nhà lãnh đạo Phật giáo nổi tiếng, lên tiếng phản đối, nhà nước đã nhân vụ này lên án Phật giáo là kẻ thù của dân chủ, chính xác là vi phạm quyền tự do không tín ngưỡng. Hoà Thượng Thích Mẫn Giác, người đóng vai trò là cầu nối giữa Phật giáo và nhà nước cộng sản, đã phải vượt thoát Việt Nam bằng thuyền vào năm 1977 và nay đang định cư tại Los Angeles. Tất cả những ai từng ủng hộ MTDTGPMN trong cuộc chiến đấu chống chế độ Sài Gòn đều có thể cảm nhận sự bị phản bội và nỗi tuyệt vọng của họ. Khi Harrison Salisbury của tờ New York Times viếng thăm Hà Nội vào tháng 12, 1966, các nhà lãnh đạo Hà Nội đã nói với ông, “Sách lược tranh đấu của miền Nam được chỉ đạo từ miền Nam chứ không phải từ miền Bắc”. Thủ tướng Phạm Văn Đồng đã nói với Salisbury, “Không có ai ở miền Bắc có ý tưởng ngu ngốc, tội ác” rằng miền Bắc muốn thôn tính miền Nam.

Vậy mà trong diễn văn đọc nhân lễ mừng chiến thắng vào ngày 19/05/1975, Lê Duẩn đã nói, “Đảng của chúng ta là một và là người lãnh đạo duy nhất đã tổ chức, kiểm soát và điều hành toàn bộ cuộc chiến đấu của nhân dân Việt Nam ngay từ ngày đầu của cuộc cách mạng”.

Trong bản báo cáo chính trị đọc trước Quốc hội hợp nhất tại Hà Nội vào ngày 26/05/1976, Lê Duẩn nói, “Nhiệm vụ cách mạng chiến lược của đất nước ta trong thời kỳ mới là thống nhất tổ quốc và đưa toàn bộ đất nước tiến nhanh, tiến mạnh và tiến vững chắc lên chủ nghĩa xã hội, lên chủ nghĩa cộng sản”.

Vào năm 1976, Chính phủ Cách mạng Lâm thời do MTTGPMN thành lập đã bị xoá sổ, và toàn thể 2 miền Nam Bắc Việt Nam đều nằm dưới sự cai trị của những người cộng sản. Ngày nay,trong số 17 thành viên Bộ Chính trị và 134 Uỷ viên Trung ương thuộc Đảng Cộng sản Việt Nam, không hề có người nào thuộc MTDTGPMN trước kia. Ngay cả Nguyễn Hữu Thọ, cựu Chủ tịch MT, chỉ nắm chức vụ Chủ tịch nhà nước, một chức vụ mang tính nghi lễ với nhiệm vụ đón tiếp khách nước ngoài và tham dự các buổi lễ lạc. Nhưng ngay cả vị trí đó rồi sẽ bị xoá bỏ khi bàn hiến pháp mới ra đời.

Hãy nghe lời của ông Trương Như Tảng, một những người sáng lập MT, cựu Bộ trưởng Tư pháp của Chính phủ Cách mạng Lâm thời, vừa mới đây cũng là một thuyền nhân vượt biển. Ông Tảng trốn thoát khỏi Việt Nam vào tháng 12, 1979 và hiện nay sống tại Paris. Ông đã nói với các phóng viên về kinh nghiệm của ông trong cuộc họp báo gần đây vào tháng 5, 1980. 12 năm trước, ông nói, khi ông bị bỏ tù dưới chế độ Thiệu vì các hoạt động thân cộng của mình, cha của ông đã đến thăm ông. Ông cụ đã hỏi ông, “Tại sao con lại dứt bỏ tất cả ‒ một công việc tốt, một gia đình sung túc ‒ để gia nhập cộng sản? Con không biết rằng cộng sản rồi sẽ phản bội con và sẽ thủ tiêu con, và khi con thật sự hiểu ra thì đã quá muộn?” Tảng, một nhà trí thức, đã trả lời cha “Tốt hơn là cha nên im lặng và chấp nhận sự hy sinh một trong các đứa con của cha cho nền dân chủ và độc lập của đất nước”.

Sau cuộc Tổng Công kích Tết Mậu thân 1968, Tảng được trao đổi với 3 Đại tá tù binh chiến tranh Mỹ, và sau đó ông biến mất vào rừng với MT. Ông đã viếng thăm nhiều nước cộng sản và các nước thế giới thứ 3 để kêu gọi sự ủng hộ dành cho MT trong cuộc chiến tranh Việt Nam. Ông đã nói trong cuộc họp báo. “Tôi đã biết MT là một tổ chức do cộng sản chi phối và tôi đã quá ngây thơ khi cho rằng Hồ Chí Minh và Đảng của ông ta sẽ dặt quyền lợi quốc gia lên trên ý thức hệ và đặt quyền lợi nhân dân Việt Nam lên trên quyền lợi của đảng. Nhưng nhân dân Việt Nam và tôi đã sai lầm”.

Trương Như Tảng đã kể về kinh nghiệm của ông về phương sách các tầng lớp lãnh đạo cộng sản cai trị, “Người cộng sản là chuyên gia về nghệ thuật chiêu dụ và có thể làm bất cứ cách nào để dụ bạn về phe họ một khi họ chưa nắm được chính quyền. Nhưng một khi đã nắm được quyền lực lập tức họ trở thành sắt máu và tàn nhẫn”. Ông tóm tắt tình hình tại Việt Nam hiện nay, “Gia đình ly tán, xã hội phân ly, ngay cả đảng cũng chia rẽ”.

Bây giờ nhìn lại cuộc chiến Việt Nam, tôi chỉ cảm thấy buồn rầu cho sự ngây thơ của mình khi tin rằng cộng sản là những người cách mạng và xứng đáng được ủng hộ. Trên thực tế, họ đã phản bội nhân dân Việt Nam và làm thất vọng các phong trào tiến bộ trên toàn thế giới.

Tôi nhận lãnh trách nhiệm về những thảm kịch xảy ra cho đồng bào của tôi. Và nay tôi chỉ còn cách đóng vai nhân chứng cho sự thật này hầu các người đã từng ủng hộ Việt Cộng trước kia có thể cùng chia sẻ trách nhiệm với tôi.

Khi tôi còn trong tù, Mai Chí Thọ, một Uỷ viên Trung ương đảng, đã nói chuyện trước một nhóm tù nhân chính trị chọn lọc. Ông ta đã nói với chúng tôi, “Hồ Chí Minh có thể là một quỷ dữ, Nixon có thể là một vĩ nhân. Người Mỹ có thể có chính nghĩa, chúng ta có thể không có chính nghĩa. Nhưng chúng ta đã chiến thắng và người Mỹ đã bị đánh bại bởi vì chúng ta đã thuyết phục được người dân rằng Hồ Chí Minh là một vĩ nhân, Nixon là một tên sát nhân và người Mỹ là những kẻ xâm lược”. Ông ta đã kết luận, “Yếu tổ chủ chốt là làm thế nào kiểm soát người dân và ý tưởng của họ. Chỉ có chủ nghĩa Mác Lê mới có thể làm được như vậy. Không ai trong các anh đã từng biết đến một sự kháng cự nào đối với chế độ cộng sản, bởi vậy không nên nghĩ đến điều đó nữa. Hãy quên chuyện đó đi? Giữa các anh ‒ những nhà trí thức ưu tú ‒ và tôi, tôi đã nói với các anh sự thật”.

Và quả là ông ta đã nói sự thật. Từ năm 1978, khi cộng sản Việt Nam chiếm đóng Lào, xâm lấn Kampuchea và tấn công Thailand, trong khi đó Liên Sô xâm lăng Afghanistan. Trong mỗi một sự kiện đó, người cộng sản vẫn tự phác hoạ chân dung của họ một cách ly kỳ, là những người giải phóng, người cứu rỗi, người bảo vệ chống lại các lực lượng xâm lăng nước ngoài. Và trong mỗi sự kiện, dư luận thế giới vẫn tương đối êm dịu.

Nhưng ở Việt Nam, người dân vẫn thường nhắc nhau, “Đừng nghe những gì cộng sản nói mà hãy nhìn những gì cộng sản làm”. Một trong những người Nam Việt Nam theo cộng sản, ông Nguyễn Văn Tăng, bị tù 15 năm dưới thời Pháp, 8 năm dưới thời Diệm, 6 năm dưới thời Thiệu, và hiện nay vẫn còn đang nằm tù, đã nói với tôi, “Muốn hiểu người cộng sản, trước nhất phải sống với cộng sản”. Vào một buổi chiểu mưa rơi tại nhà tù Lê Văn Duyệt, Sài Gòn, ông đã nói với tôi, ‘Ước mơ của tôi bây giờ không phải là được thả ra, không phải là được gặp lại gia đình. Tôi chỉ mơ được trở lại nhà tù của Pháp 30 năm trước”. Đó là giấc mơ của một người đàn ông 60 tuổi đã gởi trọn tuổi thanh xuân vào việc ra vào nhà tù để chiến đấu cho tự do và độc lập của đất nước. Giờ này, có lẽ ông đã chết trong tù hay có thể đã bị nhà nước của nhân dân hành quyết.

Ước mơ của nhân dân Việt Nam là một cuộc cách mạng thực sự, họ không muốn chủ nghĩa cộng sản. Mức độ đo lường sự chán ghét cộng sản là việc hàng ngàn người đã từ bỏ sự ràng buộc lịch sử của họ với đất mẹ. Dưới thời thực dân Pháp, trải qua bao năm dài chiến tranh, ngay cả trong thảm cảnh nạn đói năm 1945 có đến 2 triệu người chết đói, người Việt Nam vẫn không đành đoạn rời bỏ quê hương, mảnh đất có mồ mả ông cha. Các cuộc đổ xô ra đi tỵ nạn là bằng chứng trực tiếp của sự kinh hoàng với chế độ hiện nay. Hãy nghe lời một người tỵ nạn khác, Nguyễn Công Hoan, cựu thành viên MT và là thành viên Quốc hội thống nhất được bầu năm 1976, “Chế độ hiện nay là chế độ phi nhân và áp bức nhất mà nước Việt Nam từng được biết đến”. Ông Hoan trốn thoát bằng thuyền vào năm 1977, sau khi từ bỏ chức vụ của ông trong Quốc hội cộng sản. “Quốc hội”, ông tuyên bố, “là một bù nhìn, các thành viên ở đó chỉ biết nói dạ, không bao giờ biết nói không”.

Giữa các thuyền nhân sống sót, bao gồm cả những người bị hải tặc hảm hiếp và những người chịu nhiều cực nhục trong các trại tỵ nạn, không hề có người nào hối tiếc đã tìm cách trốn khỏi chế độ hiện nay. Tôi tuyệt đối tin rằng sự thật về Việt Nam sẽ dần dần hiện rõ. Nó có sẵn cho những ai muốn tìm hiểu về nó. Như Solzhenitsyn đã từng nói, “Sự thật cũng nặng nề như là thế giới vậy”. Và Việt Nam là một bài học về sự thật.

Đoàn Văn Toại

Felix lược dịch

Nguồn: A Lament for Vietnam, The New York Times, March 29, 1981.

Source : Cao Trao Nhan Ban

Doan Van Toai : Le goulag vietnamien [1979]

Témoignage d’un ancien dirigeant étudiant de l’opposition au régime sud-vietnamien militant pour la paix et un Sud-Vietnam neutre et indépendant de Hanoï, deux fois emprisonné sous le régime de Nguyen Van Thieu :

« Après la chute de Saïgon en avril 1975, très vite, comme ses amis de la gauche, il se rend compte qu’il a été trompé. Ce sont les communistes du Nord qui s’emparent de tous les leviers de commande et qui imposent leurs méthodes. Par centaines de milliers, les militaires et fonctionnaires de l’ancien régime sont internés dans des camps de « rééducation » dont ils ne reviennent pas. Les prisons sont bondées de prisonniers politiques. Un soir de juin 1975, c’est le tour de Doan Van Toai. Il ne sera libéré qu’en novembre 1977, grâce au fait que sa femme est de nationalité française » (quatrième de couverture).

 

En annexe figure notamment un Appel à l’opinion mondiale approuvé par 40 de ses co-détenus parmi lesquels d’anciens membres importants du Parti Communiste vietnamien et d’anciens chefs militaires du Front National de Libération du Sud-Vietnam. L’auteur, né en 1945, Vice-Président de l’Union des Étudiants de Saigon en 1969 et 1970, devient, après la chute du régime Thieu, cadre au ministère des Finances. Son opposition à un supérieur, sur un plan purement professionnel, provoque son emprisonnement. Après sa libération, il quitte le Vietnam en mai 1978, pour Paris. En août 1989, alors qu’il promeut un projet de rapprochement entre exilés et gouvernement vietnamien et milite pour l’établissement de relations diplomatiques entre les États-Unis et le Vietnam, il est victime d’un attentat à Fresno (Californie) : il est sérieusement blessé par arme à feu par deux Asiatiques.

Réf. : Doan Van Toai, Le goulag vietnamien, Paris, Robert Laffont, 1979, 341 p. (récit recueilli par Michel Voirol)

* * *

The Vietnamese Gulag

Doan Van Toai spent time in jails in South Vietnam for antigovernment activities as a student leader, including a trip to the U.S. to deliver antiwar speeches at California universities. When the Communists took over in 1975, he went to work for the Revolutionary Finance Committee and observed at close hand the workings of the new regime. Then, without warning, he was thrown into prison, where for 28 months he suffered torture, starvation, disease and despair. Just as abruptly, he was released and allowed to leave the countrystill not knowing why he had been arrested. In this effective, absorbing memoir, the authors describe in detail the « insidious inhumanity » of the Communist government (« far worse than that of the foreign oppressors ») as it took control in Saigon. Toai, who now lives in California, accurately refers to himself as the first articulate messenger of the new order, and his message is directed at « the Vietnamese community abroad who had supported the revolution, and the foreign antiwar movements that had done so much to bring it about. » (From Publishers Weekly).

Every Communist party in power has established prison systems that mix torture, brutality, starvation, and the use of informants to crush real and imagined enemies. Toai, a Saigon student leader in the 1960s and early 1970s, spearheaded opposition to the pro-U.S. Thieu regime, but failed to cast his lot with the Communist revolutionaries. He was swept into a Communist prison in late 1975, and here tells the story of a would-be Third Force intellectual’s struggle to survive over the following two years. His vivid descriptions of prison life are interspersed with memoirs of his days as a student leader. The material is fascinating, but the narrative flashback technique is irritating. Political memoirs need not be written as if they were movie scripts. (by Steven I. Levine, Sch. of International Service, American Univ., Washington, D.C. – From Library Journal – © 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Réf. : Doan Van Toai (with David Chanoff), The Vietnamese Gulag, Simon & Schuster, 1986, 351 p.

* * *

Der vietnamesische Gulag

* * *

Un document rare de Doan Van Toai

Doan Van Toai, Dossier sur les prisons au Viêt Nam, Paris, R. Laffont, 1978. First Edition. Quarto (30cm); staple-bound, pictorial wrappers; [30]p.

Extremely scarce, hastily-assembled white paper on the status of political prisoners in Vietnam, published a year prior to Van Toai’s landmark work Le Goulag Vietnamien (« The Vietnamese Gulag »), which exposed the brutalities of the Communist regime following the United States’ exit from South Vietnam in 1975. Assembles a number of documents including a « Declaration of disinherited Vietnamese on Human Rights » (1977); « The Vietnamese Patriotic Prisoners’ Testament »; « Document on the penitentiary regime under the communist government of Vietnam » (1978), as well as press releases and news items taken from French and American media. Rare: OCLC locates only one copy in North America (Harvard Yenching Lib – catalogued under the English title « Documents on Prisons in Vietnam).

Source : Lorne Bair Rare Books

Sources on Vietnam Laos Cambodia « Left-Wing Bloodbaths » – by Paul Bogdanor

Skulls from the Cambodian Killing Fields
© 2012 Steven G. Kellman

[ndlr] Sur son site personnel l’écrivain londonien Paul Bogdanor consacre une page aux sources en ligne sur les « Bains de sang de gauche ». Nous avons extrait de sa liste les sources concernant directement le Viêt Nam, le Laos et le Cambodge. Textes de chercheurs, de journalistes ou de simples témoins sont répertoriés aux côtés de rapports d’enquête et de documents d’archives. On y retrouve le débat sur les victimes de la réforme agraire de 1953-1956 en RDVN, des documents sur les techniques de répression des « contre-révolutionnaires » dans les trois pays, des témoignages sur les goulags vietnamiens et laotiens après 1975 et sur le génocide cambodgien perpétré par les Khmers rouges. Certains de ces textes seront évoqués en introduction de la séance 6 du séminaire. Les annotations sont celles de l’auteur.

 

Left-Wing Bloodbaths

Radical leftists would have us believe that they stand for democracy, progress, human rights and social justice. But when they seize power, they introduce slavery, terror, famine, concentration camps and mass murder. As the Marxists used to say, this is no accident.

 

Vietnam

– Pre-1975

  • The Massacre of Hue – In this communist massacre, thousands of men, women and children were mercilessly slaughtered.

– Post-1975

Laos

 

Cambodia

– Civil War

  • President Ford, News Conference on Cambodia [PDF] – President Ford warns of “an unbelievable horror story” if the communists capture Cambodia.

– Killing Fields

  • Bruce Sharp, Counting Hell – Studies demonstrating that the death toll was in the millions.

1975 ex-VNAF Medical Engineer reeducation document

[ndlr] Le site Imnaha Stamps rassemble une collection de documents uniques sur la République du Viêt-Nam (Sud). Le document présenté ci-dessous est un certificat de rééducation émis sous la République du Sud Viêt-Nam (mai 1975- juillet 1976) par le Comité militaire en charge de la gestion de la ville de Saigon – Gia Dinh (Ủy ban Quân quản thành phố Sài Gòn – Gia định) mis en place le 7 mai 1975 par les nouvelles autorités communistes.

On 3 May 1975, just three days after the fall of Saigon on 30 April, the Communist Vietnamese government issued « Order Number One » requiring all citizens of the former Republic of Viet Nam to register with the new regime. Military personnel were among those targeted for reeducation or « thought reform » in addition to registration, the length of which depended on Communist perceived degrees of « guilt. »

Figure 8: 1975 ex-VNAF Medical Engineer reeducation document
© Imnaha Stamps

 

Figure 8 shows a Communist South Viet Nam (Cong Hoa Mien Nam Viet Nam) document ordering a former VNAF Medical Engineer of rank private (« Binh Nhi ») to report for reeducation.

Most noncommissioned officers and privates were generally released after several days of reeducation classes. High-ranking officers and those who had served in intelligence, marine, airborne and ranger units were not so lucky. Those sent to reeducation camps faced hard labor, persistent hunger and daily indoctrination sessions; many ex-military personnel spent more than a decade in the camps and a large number did not survive the duration.

Texte extrait de la page « Republic of Viet-Nam Air Force (VNAF) – Related Military Documents » (VNAF Postal History – Imnaha Stamps)

Source : Imnaha Stamps – Vietnam Military Mail

Re-education in Unliberated Vietnam: Loneliness, Suffering and Death – by Ginetta Sagan and Stephen Denney [1982]

Note: The following article was published in The Indochina Newsletter, a newsletter I edited at the time, October-November 1982. Much has changed in the 16 years since this article was written. So far as is known all of the former South Vietnam government officials and officers have been released from the re-education camps and many have been allowed to emigrate to the U.S. under a special program, called Humanitarian Operation. But many of former prisoners have experienced various problems resulting from their long term incarceration under difficult conditions. I hope this article might be of historical interest in understanding what these prisoners have experienced; and also in understanding conditions of imprisonment endured by those dissidents and others still detained in Vietnam. – Steve Denney [1998]

 

 

THE INDOCHINA NEWSLETTER

October-November 1982

 

Re-education in Unliberated Vietnam:

Loneliness, Suffering and Death

by Ginetta Sagan and Stephen Denney

(Editor’s Note: The following article is part of a preliminary draft of a report that will be issued later this year on human rights in Vietnam. The report is prepared for the Aurora Foundation, of which Ginetta Sagan is the Executive Director. Mrs. Sagan is a well-known human rights activist who interviewed over 200 former prisoners from Vietnam in preparation for this report. Details of the interviews will be brought out in fuller detail when the report is issued.)

Ten years ago, demonstrations were held around the world to protest political repression and imprisonment in South Vietnam. Seven years ago, Communist forces completed their conquest of South Vietnam. In June of 1975, the new regime ordered hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese to report to authorities for « re-education ». Many are still held in the camps today, but the world is mostly silent on their plight.

« Re-education » means different things to different people. To the Hanoi regime and its more vocal defenders abroad, re-education is seen as a very positive way to integrate the former enemy into the new society. It is, according to Communist leaders of Vietnam, an act of mercy, since those in the camps deserve the death penalty or life imprisonment.(1). The former prisoners, on the other hand, see re-education from quite a different perspective.

Re-education as it has been implemented in Vietnam is both a means of revenge and a sophisticated technique of repression and indoctrination which developed for several years in the North and was extended to the South following the 1975 Communist takeover. Yet it has largely failed in its effort to remold individuals because the ideology upon which it is based underestimates the power of the human spirit.

In preparation for this report, we have interviewed over 200 former prisoners from Vietnam’s re-education camps and examined all available articles from the Hanoi press and the Western press on the camps. The picture that emerges from our research is of hard-labor camps where hunger and disease predominate, where prisoners are harshly punished for minor infractions of camp rules, subjected to political indoctrination and forced to write long « confessions » denouncing themselves and others for alleged misdeeds in the past.

Estimates of those still detained in the camps range from 20,000 (government estimate) to 200,000.(2). We know of at least 80 reeducation camps in Vietnam (although some of them may have been consolidated since the prisoners we interviewed were released), and estimate that 100,000 are still in the camps. Those detained include military officers and government officials of the former regime, medical doctors, religious leaders, artists, poets, political leaders and schoolteachers, just to mention a few.(3)

In this article, we will begin with a brief description of the beginnings of the re-education system in North Vietnam, and then examine the re-education camps that have been instituted for the South Vietnamese since 1975. We will focus this report on the re-education camps in Vietnam, rather than the prisons, of which there are many, because we have much less information about the latter.

The Precedent in the North

According to Hoang Son, a spokesman for the Hanoi regime, the use of « re-education » camps began in North Vietnam in 1961, at a time, he says, when the United States and the South Vietnamese government of Ngo Dinh Diem had sabotaged the 1954 Geneva Accords, and were attempting to incite rebellion among « counter-revolutionary elements » in the North, most notably among former members of the pro-French army and government that existed during the colonial period. Son cited acts that threatened public security, such as « economic sabotage » and attempted assassinations of Party cadres. It was under these circumstances, said Son, that the DRV (« Democratic Republic of Vietnam ») enacted on 20 June 1961 Resolution 49-NQTVQH, with the task of concentrating for educational reform « counter-revolutionary elements who continue to be culpable of acts which threaten public security. » (4).

The method of implementing Resolution 49 was brought out in General Circular No. 121-CP, dated 8 September 1961, of the DRV Council of Ministers « regarding concentration for educational reform of elements dangerous to society. » The circular said Resolution 49 was to apply to « all obstinate counter-revolutionary elements who threaten public security » and « all professional scoundrels. » The « obstinate counterrevolutionary elements, » said the circular, included the following groups:

« 1) All old dangerous spies, guides or agents, all elements of the old puppet army or administration, former Rangers with many heinous crimes, who received clemency from the Government and much education but who still obstinately refuse to reform and who still have acts threatening public security.

« 2) All hard core members of the former opposing organizations and parties, who before committed many heinous crimes, who received clemency from the Government and much education but who still obstinately refuse to reform and who still have acts threatening public security;

« 3) Obstinate elements in the former exploiting class and all other counter-revolutionaries with deep feelings of vengeance towards our system always acting in opposition;

« 4) All dangerous counter-revolutionaries having completed a prison sentence but who refuse to reform. »

The circular also described different categories of « professional scoundrels, » including thieves, pimps and « recalcitrant hooligans, » all of whom have been « educationally reformed » many times, but « who refuse to mend their ways. »(5) It is evident, therefore, that « professional scoundrels » would mean common criminals, while « obstinate counter-revolutionary elements » would generally refer to political criminals, in the eyes of the government, and those imprisoned on the latter basis should therefore be regarded as political prisoners.

It is also evident, from the description of « professional scoundrels », that these do not include the most dangerous criminals, such as murderers. The system of re-education developed in North Vietnam since 1961, and in all of Vietnam since 1975, is not looked upon by Vietnamese Communist leaders as punishment, but rather as a form of rehabilitation, in which Vietnamese who do not conform to the government’s norms are deprived of citizenship rights until they are ready to return to society. As stated in Resolution 49, « All persons given educational reform shall not be considered as criminal offenders who have been sentenced to punishment but during the period of educational reform they shall not receive the benefits of the rights of the citizens. »

The system of re-education, according to the circular of the Council of Ministers, is to follow the line of « combining labor and political education, » and the regimen is to include eight hours of « productive labor » a day, two half-days set aside each week for « political study, » with cultural classes in the evenings. Those who violate camp discipline, said Resolution 49, depending on the seriousness of the violation, « shall be prosecuted before a people’s court or sanctioned administratively. »

esolution 49 set the period of « educational reform » at three years, but allowed for early releases for those who « genuinely reform, » while stating that those who « refuse to reform » will have their period of « educational reform » extended. According to Hoang Son, as of 1980 all those in North Vietnam who were interned in the early 1960’s for reeducation have since been released (but how many of the released have since been arrested?). On the other hand, he said, there are still « a small number of counter- revolutionary elements interned in virtue of Resolution 49 since the beginning of the early 70’s. »(6).

Vietnamese Communist leaders argue that the system of reeducation is a humane alternative for those who deserve educational reform but not punishment. From what we have discussed so far, however, the difference between re-education and imprisonment is not clear. The main difference, it seems, is that under re-education, the inmate is subjected to an indefinite sentence, with its length officially dependent upon how well the inmate submits to political indoctrination and « productive labor. » If the re-education camps are more humane than the prisons of Vietnam, then it is only in the truest sense of the « lesser of two evils. »

Re-education Since 1975

Article 11 of the 1973 Paris Agreements guaranteed the people of South Vietnam the following rights:

1) freedom from reprisal and discrimination against those who collaborated with one side or the other during the war, and

2) democratic freedoms, such as freedom of speech, press, assembly, belief, movement, organization, meeting, residence and freedom of political activities.

The Paris Agreements was proclaimed a victory for their side by the DRV and NLF (National Liberation Front), and its representatives pointed out that several portions of the treaty, including Article 11, were virtually identical to statements made in previous declarations of the NLF, including its founding statement in 1960. While presenting themselves as genuine civil libertarians (despite the police state in the North), while proclaiming that Article 11 was in perfect agreement with international law, including the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, DRV and NLF leaders severely criticized the South Vietnamese government for not respecting the human rights mentioned in Article 11.(7)

When the DRV and NLF launched the 1975 Spring Offensive, leading to the military takeover of South Vietnam, they claimed they did so in order to « enforce » the Paris Agreements. Yet upon taking control over the South, these new leaders did not set about to implement the rights mentioned in Article 11 but rather to permanently destroy them through the establishment of a « dictatorship of the proletariat. »

The hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese who have been imprisoned in re-education camps since 1975 basically fall into two categories:

(1) Those who have been detained in re-education camps since 1975 because they collaborated with the other side during the war, and

(2) Those who have been arrested in the years since 1975 for attempting to exercise such democratic freedoms as those mentioned in Article 11 of the 1973 Paris Agreements.

In other words, both categories of prisoners are held in direct violation of Article 11 of the 1973 Paris Agreements, an international treaty, and therefore of international law.

Registration and Arrest

In May of 1975, various groups of Vietnamese were ordered to register with the new regime that had established control over the South on April 30, 1975. Then, in June, the new regime issued orders instructing those who had registered in May to report to various places for re-education. Soldiers, noncommissioned officers and rank-and-file personnel of the former South Vietnamese government were to undergo three-day « reform study, » June 11-13, in which they would attend during the day and go home at night.(8)

The others ordered to report for « reform study » were not allowed to attend during the day and go home at night, but were instead to be confined to their sites of « reform study » until the course ended. Nevertheless, there was some hope, for the government gave the clear impression that reform study would last no more than a month for even the highest ranking officers and officials of the former government in South Vietnam, and ten days for lower-ranking officers and officials.

Thus, officers of the RVN (South Vietnam) armed forces from the rank of second lieutenant to captain, along with low-ranking police officers and intelligence cadres, were ordered to report to various sites, bringing along « enough paper, pens, clothes, mosquito nets, personal effects, food or money for use in ten days beginning from the day of gathering. »(9). High- ranking military and police officers of the RVN, from major to general, along with mid and high-ranking intelligence officers, members of the RVN executive, judicial and legislative branches, including all elected members of the House of Representatives and Senate, and, finally, leaders of « reactionary » (i.e. non-communist) political parties in South Vietnam, were ordered to report to various sites bringing enough « paper, pens, clothes, mosquito-nets, personal effects, food or money for a month beginning the first meeting. »(10)

Dr. Tran Xuan Ninh, a pediatrician who served as a medical officer in the armed forces, was among those who eagerly reported for re-education with ten days provisions, as prescribed by the government. Compared to what had been expected, the deal was too good, said Dr. Ninh – three days of re-education for RVN soldiers, ten days for low-ranking officers and officials, and one month for high-ranking RVN officers and officials. Many teachers reported for reeducation, assuming that they would have to undergo it sooner or later anyway. sick people also reported for re-education, assured by the government (falsely) that there would be medical doctors and facilities in the « schools » and the patients would be well treated.(11). Yet, as we shall see, very few, if any, of those ordered to report for ten days or thirty days were released within that period, and many still suffer in the camps seven-and-a-half years later, living under the most inhuman conditions.

The Hanoi regime and its apologists defend the reeducation camps by placing the « war criminal » label on the prisoners. A 1981 memorandum of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to Amnesty International claimed that all those in the re-education camps were guilty of acts of national treason as defined in Article 3 of the 30 October 1967 Law on Counter-revolutionary Crimes (enacted for the government of North Vietnam) which specifies punishment of 20 years to life imprisonment or the death penalty. But because the regime was so merciful, it was instead allowing the prisoners to experience « re-education without trial, » which « as applied in Vietnam is the most humanitarian system, and the most advantageous for law offenders … in accordance with the tradition of generosity and humanitarianism of the Vietnamese nation and the loftiest ideals of mankind. »(12)

Thus we see that hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese have been detained in re-education camps since 1975 not for any specific individual deeds, but for the act of collaborating with the other side during the war. This applies not only to top-ranking government officials and military officers of the former regime in South Vietnam, but also to more ordinary people such as medical doctors conscripted into the army (like Dr. Ninh), who were told that in treating sick and wounded soldiers, they had committed the crime of « strengthening the puppet forces. » College graduates, who attended officer’s training school, as required by law, and then became RVN reserve military officers were also sent to the re-education camps.Others sent to the camps in June of 1975 included nearly 400 writers, poets and journalists and over 2,000 religious leaders, including 194 Buddhist, Catholic and Protestant chaplains,and 516 Catholic priests and fathers.(13). Even leaders of the opposition to U.S.-supported regimes, such as the legislator Tran Van Tuyen (who died after three years imprisonment) were sent to the camps.

Furthermore, Amnesty International has appealed to Hanoi on behalf of many writers, scholars, priests, human rights activists and others who had no connection with the Thieu regime or previous South Vietnamese governments supported by the U.S., yet were arrested « months and even years after the end of military conflict in April 1975. » Amnesty International believes that « many were detained for the nonviolent expression of views critical of the present government. »‘(14). Under the present legal system in Vietnam, the government can, in political cases, detain an individual for up to twelve months for interrogation without formal charge or trial.(15). Some Vietnamese, such as leaders of the Unified Buddhist Church arrested in April 1977 have been held for interrogation for much longer than twelve months. Following this period, the prisoner may be (1) released with a formal warning, (2) sent to a re-education camp in accordance with the 1961 Resolution 49, or (3) brought to trial.

If brought to trial, the prisoner will be tried under laws originally enacted for the government of North Vietnam, which include penalties such as two to twelve years imprisonment for « propagandizing the enslavement policy and depraved culture of imperialism, » three to twelve years imprisonment for attempting to flee the country, and five to fifteen years imprisonment for « undermining the religious policy » of the government or « causing disunity among the various religions, between believers and non-believers and between believers and the administration. »(16). Bui Dinh Ha, a former RVN soldier, was brought to trial on the 25th of June 1981 for selling and loaning « reactionary and decadent books » and magazines in Saigon. He was sentenced to life imprisonment,in accordance with articles 4,7 and 8 of the Decree-law 267 promulgated on 15 June 1956 by the Council of Ministers of North Vietnam.(17)

From the discussion so far, it can be seen that the Hanoi government grants itself sweeping powers of arrest and imprisonment, and these powers are based not on any sense of justice, but on the desire to protect the security of a totalitarian government. It is from these circumstances that so many Vietnamese have fled the country over the last seven years.

Camp Conditions

We know of at least eighty re-education camps in northern and southern Vietnam, although it is possible that some of them may have been closed or consolidated since the prisoners we interviewed were released. Many of the camps are arranged in groups of three or four, with three to fifteen miles between each sub-camp. In the South, the camps are generally located in the remote jungle areas or near « safe » villages (pro-NLF before 1975). The high-ranking military officers and government officials of the former regime in South Vietnam, along with other Vietnamese considered high-security risks, were moved to camps in the North, some near the Chinese border, in 1976 and 1977, but they were moved away from the border with the outbreak of hostilities in 1978.

According to Amnesty International, conditions vary widely in thee camps, depending on their location, the composition of prisoners in the particular camps and the administrators of the camp, among other factors.(18). In its 1978 annual report on world conditions, Amnesty International said there were four categories of re-education camps in Vietnam, and described them in the following manner: « (a) detention centers in towns where the initial inquiries are held; (b) second category camps which hold both criminal and political prisoners, where detainees are encouraged to write accounts of their backgrounds; (c) third category camps where prisoners are held according to the nature of their alleged past offenses and (d) camps for former senior officers and members of intelligence services who have been judged to be `ac on’ (wicked), which are mostly situated north of Hanoi. »(19). With regard to the third category camps mentioned, this is apparently referring not to specific deeds committed in the past but rather to positions held. For example, low-ranking military officers would be in certain camps in the South, while high-ranking officers and officials would be in other camps, usually in the North.

Most of the former prisoners we have interviewed have been in between three and five different re-education camps. It is our belief that the movement of prisoners from one camp to another may be intended to delay Vietnamese from knowing the whereabouts of their relatives in the camps and to prevent prisoners from forming bonds of friendship with each other or with some of the guards. Some of the camps are administered by the military, some by the security police, and some by both.

In assessing conditions within the camps, there are basically three sources we can rely on: (1) official statements of the Hanoi government, (2) accounts by visitors to the camps and (3) accounts of the former prisoners. All three sources must be considered, but the value of the first two sources is limited. We have found translated articles from the official press to be very useful, especially with regard to rules that prisoners and their families are required to obey, and also with the attitude displayed by the government in these articles. But articles for foreign consumption tend to be highly self-serving and propagandistic.

When foreign delegations visit the camps, the prisoners are briefed on what to say to the visitors. In some cases, about half of the prisoners would be taken out to the fields or jungles to hide until the delegates departed. We know of at least one case where government agents pretended to be prisoners during a visit.(20). In another case, a prisoner was punished for reading a prepared statement to a visiting delegation rather than memorizing it.(21)

Nevertheless, such possibilities are not considered by most of these delegations, and this attitude is precisely why they were invited to tour the model camps. Since these visitors are ideologically predisposed to support the Hanoi regime, committed to improving relations between the regime and Western countries, they naturally try to portray the reeducation camps in the beat possible light — as if the typical camp were merely a training school rather than a prison. In defending the re-education camps, these visitors encourage the Hanoi regime to continue this policy and therefore bear a responsibility for the suffering of Vietnam’s political prisoners.

However, not all of the visitors to the re-education camps in Vietnam have been so myopic. Among the exceptions would be an Amnesty International delegation that visited Vietnam in December of 1979 and Dermot Kinlen, a distinguished Irish lawyer who led a delegation to Vietnam for nine days in April of 1980. The AI delegation, which visited three re-education camps and one prison in Vietnam, said it could not make a general assessment of camp conditions based on the visit: « Amnesty International is not professionally equipped to carry out prison visits in the manner that the International Committee of the Red Cross can. Thorough camp inspections necessitate lengthier visits to more camps and would require medical expertise among the inspection team. »(22)

Dermot Kinlen noted that the camps his delegation visited « were exactly the same camps as Amnesty had visited some months earlier and had also been visited by other groups. It is a pity that only three camps are available for inspection. » In all of the camps they visited, he said, most of the inmates « were not seen as they were absent at fieldwork. » Kinlen also said: « Aa a lawyer of thirty years experience and as a prison visitor and having made a study of penology I am satisfied that there is wholesale and widespread violation of human rights in Vietnam. The retention of an uncertain but large number of people without trial in detention and forcing them to do forced labor and subjecting them to indoctrination and depriving them of support and social contact with their families and friends, and providing inadequate medical facilities, and denying them any spiritual administration and allowing them no intellectual exercise other than the absorption of selected texts for the purpose of indoctrination are all negations of human rights. »(23)

Camp Routine

While it is true that conditions vary widely in the camps, we have also found a depressing quality of similarity with regard to certain features of the re-education camps, which appear to be universal. These include an emphasis on political indoctrination and mandatory « confessions » during the early stages of re-education, heavy and often dangerous physical labor, and widespread disease due to a severe lack of food and medical care. The variations occur mainly with regard to the various forms of physical mistreatment inflicted on the prisoners, but even here there are certain features widely practiced,such aa placing recalcitrant prisoners in « connex » boxes, metal air freight containers left behind by the United States, or in dark cella underground.

During the early phase of re-education, lasting from a few week. to a few months, inmates were subjected to intensive political indoctrination. Subjects studied included the exploitation by « American imperialism » of workers in other countries, the glory of labor, the inevitable victory of Vietnam, led by the Communist Party, over the U.S., and the generosity of the new government toward the « rebels » (those who fought on the other aide during the war). There were a total of nine courses, of variable length. Each course would begin with lectures from the political cadres, lasting one or two days, and following this the inmates would divide into closely supervised groups where they would discuss the lesson over the next five to seven days and write essays summarizing each lesson. According to Ngo Trung Trong, a former inmate in a camp for low-ranking RVN officers, the discussions would last four hours in the morning and four hours in the afternoon. In the afternoon sessions, the prisoners were required to repeat the contents of the lectures. (24)

The nine-course political indoctrination session generally lasted about two months, in the summer of 1975. Political indoctrination classes have continued since then, but with much less emphasis. A former inmate of Xuyen Moc camp in southern Vietnam reports that the subsequent indoctrination has consisted mainly of dividing prisoners into small groups in the evenings to review their work through mutual criticism and self- criticism – but this conversation never continues beyond the guards’ presence.(25)

Another feature emphasized during the early stage of reeducation, but continued throughout one’s imprisonment, is confession of one’s alleged misdeeds in the past. In a March 1981 memorandum to Amnesty International, the Hanoi government said « in all cases of people being sent to re-education camps, the competent Vietnamese authorities have established files recording the criminal acts committed by the people concerned. »(26) These files were established through the mandatory confessions and denunciation of others.

Such « confessions » provide the government with a retroactive justification of its decision to imprison hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese in the camps. It can point out, as it did to Amnesty International, that the prisoners themselves had confessed to committing crimes. Of course, such reasoning is unlikely to convince many people outside of the leadership of the Vietnamese Communist Party, but in any case the situation provides much opportunity for false confessions by the prisoners in order to satisfy their captors, as well as more ill-treatment of the prisoners in order to produce the « confessions ».

All prisoners in the camps are required to write confessions, no matter how trivial their alleged crimes might be. Mail clerks, for example, were told that they were guilty of aiding the « puppet war machinery » through circulating the mail, while religious chaplains were found guilty of providing spiritual comfort and encouragement to the enemy troops.(27) A reserve military officer who taught Vietnamese literature in high school was told that he had « misled a whole generation of innocent children. »(28)

Besides confessing such « crimes », prisoners had to write their autobiography and disclose their financial assets as described by a former prisoner: « You had to write the story of your life, including your father, grandfather and children, describing their fortunes, how everyone died, what they owned, including television, radio, camera. New ones had to be written twice each month, both in re-education and in prison. If they found you had left something out that you had included earlier, you were in trouble. You would have to write new confessions many times each day. Each confession was about 20 pages handwritten. »(29) Following the written confessions were the public confessions in which prisoners would confess their « crimes » before the camp authorities and other prisoners. Prisoners were encouraged to criticize each other’s confessions, said a former prisoner, which was « very effective in getting us to hate each other. » The more « crimes » a prisoner confessed, the more he is praised as « progressive » by camp authorities.

The incessant demand for confessions places much pressure on the prisoners, leading to insanity in some cases. A former prisoner who had previously been a medical doctor said he saw « many cases — screaming, yelling people. » Despite his medical experience, he was not allowed to treat them.(30)

The purpose of these confessions has not only been to produce a sense of guilt in the prisoners and to establish files on them, but also to get the prisoners to denounce other former soldiers and government officials who had not yet reported for re- education. The government has been very concerned about the hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese who have not yet reported.

« Labor is Glory »

Much emphasis in the re-education camps is placed on « productive labor. » Such labor was described by SRV spokesman Hoang Son as « absolutely necessary » for re-education because « under the former regime, they (the prisoners) represented the upper strata of society and got rich under US patronage. They could but scorn the working people. Mow the former social order has been turned upside down, and after they have finished their stay in camps they have to earn their living by their own labour and live in a society where work is held in honor. »(31) Thus, in the eyes of the Vietnamese rulers, « productive labor » is a necessary aspect in the overturning of the social order. Yet in examining the conditions under which this labor takes place, it seems that there is also an element of revenge.

The labor is mostly hard physical work, some of it very dangerous, such as mine field sweeping. No equipment is provided for this extremely risky work, and as a result, many prisoners have been killed or wounded in mine field explosions. Other work includes cutting trees, planting corn and root crops, clearing the jungle, digging wells, latrines and garbage pits, and constructing barracks within the camp and fences around it. The inmates are generally organized into platoons and work units, where they are forced to compete with each other for better records and work achievements. This has pushed inmates to exhaustion and nervousness a former prisoners said: « Each person and group had to strive to surpass or at least fulfill the norms set by camp authorities, or they would be classified as `lazy’ and ordered to do ‘compensation work’ on Sundays. »(32) Other prisoners who missed their quota have been shackled and placed in solitary confinement cells.(33)

The duration of the work has generally been eight hours a day, six days a week, which might not seem so bad, except the work is done in the hot tropical sun, by prisoners who are poorly nourished and receive little or no medical care. The poor health, combined with hard work, mandatory confessions and political indoctrination, makes life very difficult for prisoners in Vietnam, and has contributed to a high death rate in the camps.

Food and Medical Supplies

« My ideal, my glory, my dream, my love, All these are remote and abstract things! I confess to you that we, hungry prisoners, Only dream of being as well fed as animals. Why? Our dream to be Man, alas, Has ceased to be a possibility; That dream has led us to prison. Now, only four things on the earth are meaningful: Rice, manioc roots, potatoes and corn. These four things bind us, harass us, torture us, They never leave us in peace. »(34)

It was acknowledged by the government spokesman Hoang Son in his 1980 essay that while poverty is a serious problem throughout the country, « Neither food nor housing conditions can be considered as satisfactory in some of the camps. » However, Son maintains that such conditions are « equally shared by the inmates and their guards. »(35). Former prisoners would use stronger language in describing the lack of food in the camps, and deny that there is such equal sharing. Former prisoners believe that the government deliberately keeps the prisoners on low rations in order to weaken their ability to unite and resist camp policies, so all they think about will be the next meal.(36)

Since the inmates were originally told in 1975 to bring enough food for up to 30 days, food supplies were generally adequate for the first few weeks, but have gradually deteriorated since that time. Prisoners interviewed in 1976 and 1977 reported that the typical diet was only one or two bowls of rice a day with no meat and few vegetables.(37) Since then, the diet has become even worse, shifting from rice to corn and root crops – especially common in the diet now is manioc, a starchy root crop which has little nutritive value other than filling one’s stomach. Besides salt and water, the total amount of food for each prisoner is about 400 to 500 grams a day, and much of it is spoiled. There is virtually no protein in the diet, except on rare occasions, perhaps two or three times a year on holidays such as Ho Chi Minh’s birthday, the Lunar New Year or Independence day, when the diet is supplemented by a few tiny morsels of meat.(38) Under such conditions, prisoners are constantly preoccupied with food, as described in a letter smuggled out of the country:

« In my forced labor camp in the highland the event that dominates everything is the experience of hunger. We are hungry permanently. All we can think about, day and night, is eating! During the first days of the harvest season we are allowed almost our fill of corn and manioc roots. But that lasts only a few days. During these days there are shining eyes and smiles. But very soon the camp administration shuts up the eating. The shining eyes and smiles disappear. We feel hungry again, so hungry that we think of nothing else. Many of us catch lizards to eat, knowing they provide protein. Very soon the lizards of the whole area were exterminated. I know of a prisoner who one night caught a millepede on the ceiling, hid it under the mat, and in the morning roasted it on a fire and ate it. He said it was as good as roast shrimp. There are those who are very clever to invent devices to catch mice and birds; they will roast and eat them while others watch with envy. Others catch grasshoppers and crickets. Whenever someone catches a snake, that is a feast. In our conversation, we only talk about eating, and how to find things to eat. When we do not talk about eating, we silently think about eating. As soon as we finish lunch, we begin to imagine the supper awaiting us when we return from the field: The food put into the mouth is like one breath of air blown into a vast empty house. What little food is given is chewed very slowly.

« Still, it makes no difference — we feel even more hungry after eating. Even in our sleep, our dreams are haunted by food. There are those who chew noisily in their dreams…Such food as mice, rats, birds, snakes, grasshoppers, must be caught and eaten secretly. It is forbidden, and if the camp guards learn about it, the prisoners will be punished. »(39)

The lack of food has caused severe malnutrition for many prisoners and weakened their resistance to various diseases. Most common among the diseases are malaria, beriberi and dysentery.(40) Tuberculosis is also widespread in some of the camps. Medical supplies are generally nonexistent in the camps and medical care is very inadequate, usually limited to a poorly trained medic and perhaps a few prisoners who had formerly been medical doctors. The result is a high death rate from diseases. A prisoner in Dam Duong camp of Ha Nam Ninh province, for example, witnessed twenty deaths, including three cases of intestinal hemorrhage in which prisoners died because there was no plasma.(41) In Tun Hoa camp, about thirty prisoners (out of a camp population of 5,000) died of illness in the last three or four months of 1978.(42). Some seriously ill prisoners have been allowed to go to hospitals outside the camp or return to their families. But others have not, and many have died in the camps, without their families even being notified. It is official government policy, as stated in the 1976 PRG decree No. 02/CS-76 that terminally ill prisoners will be allowed to return to their families. Yet Amnesty International has brought to Hanoi’s attention cases of such prisoners not allowed to return. One such prisoner was Truong Van Truoc, who « died in August 1980 of stomach cancer in a detention camp, 90A TD 63/TC, Doi 11, Thanh Hoa. » Another prisoner AI mentioned was the writer Ho Huu Tuong, who was sick for several months, but not transferred to a hospital until June 2, 1980: « He died only three weeks later, just after he was finally given permission to return to his family. »(43)

Rules and Punishment

In the appendix of his book Enfer Rouge, Mon Amour, Lucien Trong, who was imprisoned in a camp of low-ranking officers, published a list of rules which he said were posted by the authorities in his camp. Other former prisoners have told us the same rules exist in other camps. The authorities seek to maintain strict control over the thoughts of the prisoners, and to this end forbid prisoners from keeping and reading books or magazines of the former regime, reminiscing in conversation about « imperialism and the puppet south, » singing old love songs of the former regime, discussing political questions (outside authorized discussions), harboring « reactionary » thoughts or possessing « superstitious » beliefs. It is also forbidden to be impolite to the cadres of the camp, and this rule has been abused to the point where the slightest indication of a lack of reverence to the cadres has been interpreted as rudeness and therefore harshly punished.

Violations of these and other rules lead to various forms of punishment, including being tied up in contorted positions, shackled in connex boxes or dark cells, forced to work extra hours or reduced food rations. Many prisoners have been beaten, some to death, or subjected to very harsh forms of punishment due to the cruelty of certain camp officials and guards. Some have been executed, especially for attempting to escape. Some of the most brutal treatment occurs in camps in southern Vietnam around the Mekong delta, where guards apparently have no fear of any reprimand for mistreating the prisoners.(44)

The connex boxes vary in size, but are generally large enough to accommodate a few prisoners crowded together. Some of the containers are made of wood, some of metal. The metal containers can become unbearable in the hot ,sun, prisoners can pass out or die under such circumstances.(45)

Solitary confinement cells are also common in the camps, such as the Gia Ray camp, where prisoners can receive ten days solitary for minor infractions, fifteen for making « reactionary statements » and one year (or the death penalty) for attempting to escape the camp. Prisoners in these daring cells are forced to eat and sleep on the spot, and carry out bodily functions while shackled to the wall.(46) Prisoners in such cells in Ham Tam camp (Thuan Hai province) lie on the floor with their legs raised and feet locked in wooden stocks.(47) In a camp in Nghe Tinh, Than Chuong district of Nghe Tinh province, some prisoners in the dark cells had their hands and feet tied so tightly that they became afflicted with gangrene and lost their hands or feet or died.(48)

Other forms of confinement include tiger cage cells and abandoned wells. A prisoner in Long Khanh camp (a southern camp for low-ran-ding officers) was put in such a well for five days because he sang « Silent Night » on Christmas Eve, 1975.(49) In some camps, such as Ben Gia, ditches, called « living graves » by the prisoners, are dug around the outer perimeter, away from the main camp, but visible from the watchtower. Prisoners confined to these ditches in Ben Gia were fed once daily–a bowl of rice or sorghum and water.(50)

Other forms of torture were reported by a former prisoner of Dam Duong camp, composed of around 1,000 prisoners, with 200 Montagnards (tribal highlanders):

1. The Honda : with the prisoner’s hands and feet tied together, he is hung and swung to and fro while beaten. Nausea and vomiting often follow.

2. The Auto : the prisoner is tied « butterfly » style with thumbs tied together behind the back; one arm over the shoulder and the other pulled around the trunk of the body. In another version of this the prisoner’s outstretched legs are tied by the toes to the two middle fingers of the hands of the outstretched arms. A prisoner could be kept in such positions for weeks or even months.

3. The Airplane : the prisoner is tied either standing to a pole, lying down, or sitting on cement for various periods, depending on the prisoner’s « mistakes » — one week, sometimes longer, sometimes a few days.

As one would expect, prisoners released after such treatment are often unable to walk.(51)

A case where the airplane method was applied was described by Nguyen Ngoc Ngan in his book, The Will of Heaven . This case occurred in May of 1977 at Bu Gia Map camp, located in a malarial jungle area near the Cambodian border. Tru, a prisoner, became angry when he saw a guard using the flag of the former government of South Vietnam as a dustcloth. He took the flag out of the guard’s hand and yelled at him for desecrating it. The next day, Tru was brought before the prisoners in a « people’s court, » but instead of confessing his « crime », Tru remained unrepentant, praising the flag and criticizing the communists. The out- raged camp commander sentenced Tru to be tied to a wooden column outdoors, standing upright for three months. He was gagged and his hands were tied behind the back and around the post, his wrists lashed tightly with telephone wire. The wire cut through his flesh by the end of the first day. Forced to stand bareheaded all day long in the hot sun and the unusually cool nights of the highlands, plagued by mosquitos, Tru contacted malaria by the second week and became seriously ill. After a month, Tru was untied and carried to meet the camp commander’s superior who was visiting the camp that day, and was given one more chance to repent. But Tru remained unrepentant and was taken out of the camp the next day.(52)

It has been acknowledged by Hanoi that violence has in fact been directed against the prisoners, although it maintains that these are isolated cases and not indicative of general camp policy.(53) Former prisoners, on the other hand, report frequent beatings for minor infractions, such as missing work because of illness. In some cases, prisoners have been beaten to death, such as Colonel Pham Ba Ham. Accused of helping an escape attempt of other prisoners, he was bludgeoned before the other prisoners and left without any medical treatment until he died.(54) Another prisoner, a former noncommissioned RVN officer, insulted leaders of the Vietnamese Communist Party while delirious with fever and was beaten to death with chains.(55)

Prisoners have been executed, most commonly for attempting to escape the camps. In some cases, the caught prisoners are tried by « People’s Courts » held before the other prisoners and then killed.(56)

Suicides appear to be fairly common in the camps. In one camp, a pharmacist who ended a letter to his wife asking her to pray for his return was brought before the other prisoners and berated for relying upon God for his release. For the next several nights he was interrogated by camp authorities, until he committed suicide. His family was not notified of his death.(57)

The Prisoners and Their Families

Family visits are important not only because of the personal need for prisoners and their loved ones to have contact with each other, but also because the families can bring food to their relatives in some of the camps. It has been reported that the prisoners in these camps could not survive without such food.(58) However, the government does not allow many visits. As of 1980, official regulations stated that prisoners in the camps could be visited by their immediate family once every three months.(59). The duration of the visits are not long, reported by former prisoners to last from 15 to 30 minutes.(60) Moreover, family visits can be suspended for prisoners who break rules: and it has also been said that only families who have proven their loyalty to the regime are allowed visiting privileges.(61) In its 1980 memorandum to the Hanoi government, Amnesty International expressed its concern that visiting privileges are dependent on the prisoner’s conduct and « progress in re-education, » and stated its belief that « a prisoner’s rights to visits and correspondence should be inviolable and in no way conditional, except in cases of serious violations of camp discipline and then only for a limited period. »(62) AI also said that if « visits by family or a lawyer are not allowed, an officer may feel secure when ill- treating a prisoner, knowing that no one concerned about the prisoner’s interests will see him or her soon and notice any signs of physical or mental deterioration. (63)

The families of the prisoners are regarded as responsible for the acts of the prisoners before 1975. According to the Hanoi spokesman Hoang Son, 1.3 million Vietnamese were part of the military or administrative apparatus of South Vietnam, members of « so-called » political parties or of mass organizations which Son says were American-controlled. On the basis of this estimate, and on the estimate that there are an average of five members to each Vietnamese family, Son concluded that there were 6.5 million Vietnamese who were « compromised » by ties with the non- communist regime in South Vietnam.(64) As a result of such logic, not only the prisoners, but also their families, suffer discrimination in access to health care, employment and higher education.(65)

As a way of redeeming their relatives for their past activities, families of Vietnamese ordered to report to the re- education camps were told in 1975 that they should « urge their dear ones to devote themselves to reform study. » (66). In order to attain the release of their imprisoned relatives, to demonstrate that they are good families, they have been pressured to move to the new economic zones.(67) Some families of the prisoners have had their food ration cards revoked until agreeing to move to these areas.(68)

The new economic zones are theoretically for a good purpose, to increase food production, but actually are more like concentration camps located in malarial jungle areas where the land is very difficult to cultivate. Conditions in these areas are therefore not so different from life in the re- education camps–living under harsh conditions and in isolated areas. Thus, thousands of Vietnamese have fled these areas and returned to the cities. In doing so, they become non-persons in the eyes of the state, ineligible for food rations, an approved job, or housing. Living in makeshift shelters on the streets of Saigon alone are as many as 15,000 to 20,000 such people, according to a reporter who visited the country in 1980.(69)

Besides being pressured to move to the new economic zones, families of the prisoners have also been pressured to give up all their possessions to the state and work extra hours in order to demonstrate that they are good families so that their relatives can be released.(70)

Release Policy

The policy of releasing prisoners from the re-education camps of Vietnam has been a story of broken promises. The existence of the camps in is itself a broken promise because it violates Article 11 of the 1973 Paris Agreements, which specifically prohibits such imprisonment. Another broken promise, as we have already noted, occurred when the Vietnamese who had reported for re-education in June of 1975 were not released within 30 days, as had been clearly implied by the new regime when it issued the order to report. In June of 1976, the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam, in one of its last policy announcements before the official reunification of Vietnam, stated that those in the camps would either be tried or released after three years imprisonment. But this promise was also broken.

Over one million Vietnamese have been re-educated and returned to society since 1975, according to the Hanoi government. However, this would seem to contradict another official statement from Hanoi which said that 40,000 is the total number of Vietnamese who have gone through the reeducation camps since 1975, and that 26,000 remained in the camps as of 1980.(71) So if we are to take these figures seriously, and try to reconcile them with-each other, then we might assume that the one million figure includes those who attended « short-term, on-the-spot » re- education, in which Vietnamese would come to the « classes » during the day and go home at night, while the 40,000 figure refers to those who underwent long-term re-education, meaning internment in the camps. With regard to the latter, we must note that the estimates of foreign observers of those detained in the camps since 1975 are much higher, ranging up to 300,000.(72) Our own estimate is that 100,000 Vietnamese are still in the camps. It would be more difficult for us to estimate the total number detained in the camps since 1975, and we will not attempt to estimate the number of dissidents detained in the many prisons of Vietnam.

From accounts in the official press of Vietnam, it appears that the large-scale release of prisoners began in the last few months of 1975. On Jan. 6, 1976 the government newspaper Giai Phong (published in Saigon) announced the release of hundreds of prisoners on the previous day, and added: « That was the 21st time the Management-Training Section of the Military Management Committee has allowed people who make progress in reform study to return to their families. » Assuming that hundreds of prisoners were released on each occasion, one might very roughly estimate from this statement that somewhere between 4,000 and 10,000 prisoners had been released from the camps by the end of 1975.

Articles that appeared in Saigon Giai Phong (Liberated Saigon) of Ho Chi Minh City on August 24, Sept. 7,20,24 and 30, and Dec. 11 and 25, 1975, discussed categories of prisoners that could be released at that time. The August 24 SGP article said certain groups of prisoners were eligible for release. These included prisoners with close relatives (parents, spouse, siblings) who were revolutionary cadres or had « merit toward the revolution in the locality, » and scientific and technical specialists who did not « commit crimes » or participate in non-communist political parties or organizations. The Sept. 7 SGP article added another category of prisoners eligible for release: old people, people seriously ill and pregnant women. However, as with the other categories, it stressed that « first and foremost » prisoners must have shown « progress » in re-education and repentance over « past mistakes » and also must not have been engaged in « criminal acts » against the revolution before 1975. (73) We can see from such vague wording that there were no guarantees for any category of prisoners being released.

The most significant policy announcement on the re-education camps was broadcast by Saigon Domestic Service on June 9, 1976. This is the May 25 PRGRSV statement No. 02/CS-76, signed by President Huynh Tan Phat. According to this broadcast, 95% of those « attending reform courses had their cases examined and their citizen’s rights restored » in order that they could vote in the April elections. This figure led some foreign observers to estimate that 50,000 remained in the camps, according to official figures, since the government had said that over one million had been re-educated.

The policy announced that those still in the camps would stay there for three years, but could be released earlier if they make « real progress, confess their crimes and score merits. » It also said that some Vietnamese would be brought to trial, including those who deserted the NLF during the war, those who owed « many blood debts » to the people and those who fled to « foreign countries with their U.S. masters. »(74)

As far as we know, no such trials were held, or at least they were not publicized. Nor were prisoners in the camps released after three years. The excuses offered for the continued detention beyond the three years are increased security tensions with China and the 1961 Resolution 49, which Hanoi argues supersedes the 1976 PRG decree and which allows for detention in the camps beyond three years. According to Hoang Son, Resolution 49 allows for a new three year period to be established for those in the camps who did not sufficiently reform during the first three years.(75) Since it is now over seven years since many of the prisoners were first arrested, we can presume that such prisoners are in their third three- year period. In the words of Amnesty International, « Grounds for the continued detention of these people, therefore, seems to have shifted from past misdeeds and present behavior to the external situation, namely national security. These prisoners are therefore being held in what is usually termed administrative detention without trial. » The result of such prolonged, indefinite detention is severe hardship for the prisoners and their families, said Amnesty International.(76)

Since there is no clear criteria for releasing the inmates from the camps, bribery and family connections with high-ranking officials are more likely to speed up release than the prisoner’s behavior. Released prisoners are put under probation and surveillance for six months to one year, and during this time they have no official status, no exit visas, no access to government food rations and no right to send their children to school.(77). If the progress of the former prisoners is judged unsatisfactory during this period, they may be fired from their jobs, put under surveillance for another six months to a year, or sent back to the re-education camps.(78) Approximately 60% of those released have been re-arrested, according to a high-ranking Vietnamese official.(79)

Amnesty International has appealed to Hanoi to abolish Resolution 49 and the system of re-education camps in Vietnam. We agree. Genuine peace and reconciliation in Vietnam cannot be brought about through forcing the people to praise the regime or « confess » their past opposition to the Communist side. On the contrary, as stated in 1973 by NLF leader Nguyen Van Hieu (presently Minister of Culture in Vietnam), « ..democratic freedoms are man’s fundamental rights, ardent aspirations of all social strata, of all political and religious forces in South Vietnam. Only a full and total exercise of democratic liberties can serve as a basis for the realization of national reconciliation and concord, the settlement of the internal affairs of South Viet Nam, and the exercise of the South Vietnamese people’s right to self-determination. » (80)

We call upon the Vietnamese rulers to make these words a reality in Vietnam today.

Footnotes

1. March 1981 written reply of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (SRV) to Amnesty International, page 42 of Amnesty International Report on Mission to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, June 1981.

2. estimate mentioned by Della Denman in the Far Eastern Economic Review, August 6, 1982.

3. see annual reports issued by Amnesty International.

4. p.86, Which Human Rights?, published in Hanoi, 1980.

5. The translated text of this document was published in the appendix of a report on human rights in Vietnam prepared in 1978 by Stephen Young for the New York Bar Association.

6. ibid.

7. discussed in detail in issue 1 (Oct. 79) of this newsletter.

8. 6/10/75 Saigon-Gia Dinh Military Management Communique, broadcast by Saigon Domestic Service on June, translated by the Daily Report (Asia-Pacific) of Broadcasting Information Service (hereafter as FBIS) on June 11, 1975.

9. 6/20/75 Saigon-Gia Dinh Military Management Communique, translated by FBIS, 6/23/75.

10. 6/11/75 Saigon-Gia Dinh Military Management translated by FBIS, 6/12/75.

11. from speech of Dr. Ninh at Amnesty International conference, published in Amnesty Action (of AIUSA), Sept. 82.

12. March 1981 written reply of SRV to AI, p. 42 of Amnesty International Report on Mission to Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

13. Nguc Tu Lao Dong Vietnam, Paris 1977, as cited by Stephen Young in his 1978 report to New York Bar.

14. p.272, Amnesty International Report 1981.

15. p. 9, AI Report on Mission to SRV.

16. Law on Counter-Revolutionary Crimes, Articles 9,12,15 Originally enacted by the government of North Vietnam in 1967, this code became law for all of Vietnam after the 1976 unification and was broadcast by Hanoi Domestic Service on Oct. 16, 1979 (translated text reprinted in Issue 21 of this newsletter).

17. The trial of Bui Dinh Ha was reported in the government newspaper Saigon Giai Phong on June 11, 25 and 26, 1981 and by a Hanoi radio broadcast on June 26. 1981. The reports were translated by the Vietnam Report of the Joint Publications Research Service (hereafter referred to as JPRS) on Sept. 4 and 10, 1981 and by the FBIS, July 10, 1981.

18. p. 196 Amnesty International Annual Report 1978.

19. ibid.

20. confidential interviews with former prisoners (the identities of all the prisoners we interviewed for this report are kept confidential).

21. Newsweek , June 26, 1978.

22. p.13, AI Report on Mission to SRV.

23. pp. 4 and 6, Report on the Re-education Camps and Prisons in Vietnam, by Dermot Kinlen, June 1981.

24. The indoctrination courses were described by former prisoner Ngo Trung Trong in his unpublished manuscript, The Vietnam Re-education Camp . Also described by former prisoner Nguyen Ngoc Ngan in his book The Will of Heaven (Dutton, 1982), p 123, and by the Washington Post , 4/30/78, New York Times , 8/29/78 and by prisoners we have interviewed.

25. New York Times, 8/14/81.

26. p. 42, Report of AI Mission to SRV.

27. Washington Post.4/30/78.

28. p.112, The Will of Heaven.

29. « They Were Us, Were We Vietnamese, » by Theodore Jacqueney, Worldview April 1977.

30. ibid.

31. p.97, « Re-education Camps and Human Rights » by Hoang Son, Which Human Rights?, Hanoi 1981.

32. Washington Post, April 30, 1978.

33. confidential interview.

34. « Tu Chuong Tren Doi, » poem by Nguyen Chi Thien, translated by Nguyen Huu Hieu.

35. p. 99, Which Human Rights?

36. see, for example, « A Form of Torture: Food Deprivation, » by Cao Ngoc Phuong of the Vietnamese Buddhist Peace Delegation in Paris. This article was published in Issue 24 of this newsletter. Ms. Phuong believes the policy of food deprivation for prisoners began as early as 1956 in North Vietnam.

37. New York Times , 11/11/76 and 2/12/77 Worldview April 1977; Christian Science Monitor, 5/4/77.

38. confidential interviews.

39. « A Form of Torture: Food Deprivation, » by Cao Ngoc Phuong.

40. Washington Post , 4/30/78; also based on confidential interviews.

41. confidential interviews.

42. ibid.

43. p. 38, Report of AI Mission to SRV.

44. confidential interviews.

45. confidential interviews.

46. confidential interviews.

47. confidential interviews.

48. confidential interviews.

49. pp. 137-142, The Will of Heaven.

50. confidential interviews.

51. confidential interviews.

52. pp. 240-246, The Will of Heaven.

53. p. 98, Which Human Rights? (Hanoi). It was also acknowledged by Hoang Nguyen, editor of the Hanoi magazine Vietnam Courier, that prisoners have been tortured, but likewise claimed that it was not official policy to do so.(from Dermot Kinlen’s June 1981 report).

54. The Times, 10/25/78.

55. from speech of Dr. Ninh, Amnesty Action, 9/82.

56. see for example of such a trial pp. 116-118 in The Will of Heaven.

57. from speech of Dr. Ninh, Amnesty Action, 9/82.

58. New York Times, 8/14/81.

59. p. 14, Report of AI Mission to SRV.

60. The Oregonian, 12/6/77; The New York Times 8/14/81.

61. The Oregonian, 12/6/77.

62. p. 14, Report of AI Mission to SRV.

63. Ibid.

64. p. 81, Which Human Rights?

65. p. 716, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices , U.S. State Department Report to Congress, Feb. 2, 1981.

66. Giai Phong, 6/11/75, translated by FBIS, 6/16/75.

67. Saigon Giai Phong , June 16 & 18, 1975, translated by JPRS: 67909.

68. New York Times, 2/12/77.

69. The Asian Wall Street Journal Weekly , Hong Kong, 6/16/80 and 6/23/80.

70. confidential interviews.

71. figure given to Amnesty International in Dec. also to Dermot Kinlen in April 1980 visit

72. The Amnesty International Report 1979 s belief that the number of political prisoners was « far higher » than the then official figure of 50,000, and mentioned estimates by foreign « 50,000 to 80,000 » (Le Monde, 4/19/78), 150,000 (Reuter from Bien Hoa), « 150,000 to 200,000 » Washington Post , 12/20/78) and « 300,000 France Presse, from Hanoi, 2/12/78).

73. The 8/24/75 and 9/7/75 articles were both translated by the Vietnam Report of the Joint Publications Research Service, JPRS:66059 and JPRS: 66446 respectively.

74. The text of the 1976 PRG policy announcement was translated by FBIS, June 10. 1976.

75. p. 90, Which Human Rights?

76. AI Report on Mission to SRV June 1981.

77. Far Eastern Economic Review, August 6. 1982.

78. Article 5 of the May 25 PRGSV statement No. 02/CS-76.

79. The official was Hoang Bich Son, Acting Foreign Minister of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, whose remarks were reported by Dermot Kinlen in his June 1981 report.

80. p. 128, The Paris Agreement on Vietnam Fundamental Juridical Problems , published in Hanoi, 1973.

Source : OCF Berkeley

1972, année cruciale pour le dénouement du conflit vietnamo-américain

[ndlr] On notera l’orientation du titre de l’article qui laisse à penser que la guerre du Viêt Nam ne fut qu’une guerre de résistance contre une invasion étrangère effaçant la dimension guerre civile pourtant indissociable du conflit entre les deux Viêt Nam (RDVN communiste sous la direction du Parti des Travailleurs du Vietnam contre République du Viêt Nam, seconde république, alors dirigée par le président Nguyen Van Thieu). Il est vrai que les bombardements aériens de 1972 furent perpétrés par les B52 américains de sinistre réputation.

Une table ronde intitulée « L’année 1972 vue d’en Haut : année cruciale pour le dénouement du conflit vietnamo-américain » a eu lieu le 11 octobre au Centre culturel français de Hanoi.

Table ronde « L’année 1972 vue d’en Haut : année cruciale pour le dénouement du conflit vietnamo-américain », le 11 octobre à Hanoi. © 2012 Le Courrier du Vietnam

Elle a été organisée et animée par Olivier Tessier, de l’École française d’Extrême- Orient (EFEO), avec la participation de deux historiens, le Docteur Nguyên Xuân Nang, directeur du Musée d’histoire militaire, et le Docteur Pierre Journoud, chargé de recherches à l’Institut de recherche stratégique de l’École militaire (IRSEM – ministère de la Défense) et chercheur associé à l’UMR-CNRS IRICE (Identités, relations internationales et civilisations de l’Europe) de l’Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne.

L’objectif était de poser un regard croisé sur les temps forts qui ont marqué l’année 1972, année cruciale pour le dénouement du conflit vietnamo-américain dont l’épilogue fut la signature des Accords de Paris le 27 janvier 1973.

Pierre Journoud a présenté au public le contexte de la guerre, des négociations, des relations franco-vietnamiennes, et plus particulièrement du bombardement de la Délégation générale de France à Hanoi.

Nguyên Xuân Nang, pour sa part, a retracé la lutte, les résultats et la signification du «Diên Biên Phu aérien».

Exposition « Vivre et mourir à Hanoi en 1972 ». © 2012 Le Courrier du Vietnam

Exposition sur le «Diên Biên Phu aérien»

Cette table ronde était accompagnée d’une exposition intitulée «Vivre et mourir à Hanoi en 1972». Contribution à la recherche sur l’histoire contemporaine du Vietnam, l’exposition a été créée à l’initiative de l’École française d’Extrême-Orient et de l’ambassade de France au Vietnam, à l’occasion du 40e anniversaire du bombardement de la Délégation générale de France, le 11 octobre 1972.

De la reprise des bombardements sur le nord-Vietnam au printemps 1972 jusqu’à son épilogue, la signature des Accords de Paris le 27 janvier 1973, cette exposition a retracé avec des documents d’époque et des témoignages la vie quotidienne dans la capitale ainsi que le sort tragique des populations soumises à l’escalade des opérations aériennes.

Les archives iconographiques, audiovisuelles et écrites proviennent de différents fonds documentaires conservés au Vietnam, dont ceux de l’Agence Vietnamienne d’Information (AVI), du Musée de l’aviation militaire et du Studio national du documentaire, ainsi qu’en France avec l’Institut national de l’audiovisuel, l’Établissement de communication et de production audiovisuelle de la défense et le Centre des archives diplomatiques de la Courneuve, outre des sources privées mises à disposition par leurs propriétaires, notamment Jean-Marc Gravier, Alain Wasmes, Nicolas Cornet et Chu Chi Thành.

Des extraits de récits de témoins habitant à Hanoi au moment des faits complètent ce tableau d’ensemble.

Texte et photos : Hà Minh/CVN

Source : Le Courrier du Vietnam, 12/10/2012

Même article sur Vietnam +, 11/10/2012

Sur VOV5 : Le sens de l’appelation “Diên Biên Phu aérien”

[ndlr] La RSVN célèbre actuellement les 40 ans du « Dien Bien Phu aérien » de 1972. La rhétorique communiste officielle présente cet événement historique comme une initiative de la RDVN et une grande victoire aérienne (donc sous son jour le plus favorable) reproduisant à l’inverse le discours américain sur les motivations et les conséquences politiques et militaires de ce qui est communément appelé les « Bombardements de Noël ».

34 B52 ont été abattus lors de la campagne « Dien Bien Phu aérien ».

(VOVworld) – Pour parvenir à la grande victoire du printemps 1975 et à la réunification du pays, le peuple vietnamien est passé par d’innombrables difficultés, par des pertes et des sacrifices, tout en réalisant de glorieux exploits, dont la victoire du Dien Bien Phu aérien de 1972, qui a eu pour effet d’obliger les impérialistes américains à retourner à la table des négociations et à signer l’accord de Paris le 27 janvier 1973.

 

 

En octobre 1972, le Vietnam et les Etats Unis auraient déjà du signer une convention mettant fin à la guerre et rétablissant la paix au Vietnam. Mais la partie américaine a forfait à ses engagements, envoyant des avions stratégiques B52 bombarder Hanoi et Hai Phong. Le président américain Nixon avait envisagé de recourir à ces as de l’aviation américaine pour renvoyer le Nord Vietnam “à l’âge de la pierre” et pour l’obliger à accepter ses conditions.  Mais ces frappes massives des bombardiers B52 américains ont été un échec total. Bilan : 81 avions  américains abattus dont 34 B52, 5 F.111, plusieurs pilotes américains anéantis ou capturés vivants.

Par la force de la guerre du peuple et grâce à ses forces aériennes à trois composantes, le Vietnam a donc réussi à tenir en échec l’armée américaine. Les milices de Hanoï, de Hai Phong et de certaines localités ont fermement riposté à ces frappes aériennes sans précédent dans l’histoire. Après 12 jours et nuits de lutte vaillante entre le 18 et le 29 décembre 1972, l’armée et le peuple de Hanoï et de Hai Phong ont remporté la glorieuse victoire de Diên Biên Phu aérien, obligeant la partie américaine à constater son échec dans les cieux de Hanoï.

La victoire de la campagne de Dien Bien Phu en 1954 a infligé un échec total aux colonialistes français, en mettant à mal leur intention de poursuivre la guerre, et en les obligeant à mener des négociations avec le Vietnam lors de la conférence de Genève et à signer l’accord de Genève avec le Vietnam en juillet 1954. Indique Nguyễn Mạnh Hà, directeur de l’institut d’histoire du Parti communiste vietnamien. La victoire du Vietnam pendant les 12 jours et nuits de décembre 1972 a eu des effets tout à fait similaires. La seule vraie différence, c’est que les combats étaient aériens. Mais ces deux victoires ont les mêmes significations. Ainsi, on a appelé la victoire de 1972 celle de Dien Bien Phu aérien car elle montre la volonté du peuple vietnamien de lutter jusqu’au bout pour remporter la victoire, de ne pas plier devant n’importe quel force militaire, y compris des bombardiers stratégiques B52.

La victoire de l’armée et du peuple vietnamien dans la campagne de Dien Bien Phu aérien a marqué une maturité remarquable sur tous les plans, l’aboutissement de huit ans de résistance à la guerre d’invasion des impérialistes américains. Elle témoigne de la direction lucide et éclairée du Parti communiste vietnamien, du comité du Parti pour l’armée et du ministère vietnamien de la défense dans la tactique de défense aérienne, et de la combativité de l’armée populaire vietnamienne.

Source : VOV5 – La Radio du Vietnam, Service d’Outre-Mer

  • Sur le site de l’ambasse de France à Hanoi : « Commémoration du bombardement du 11 octobre 1972 » : Le 11 octobre 2012, le personnel de l’Ambassade de France à Hanoi a rendu hommage aux victimes du bombardement de la Délégation générale du gouvernement français, il y a quarante ans, le 11 octobre 1972.

Paul Vy Trân : Prisonnier politique au Viêt-Nam [1990]

Ce livre est le premier témoignage sur les camps de concentration pour la rééducation au Nord Viêt-Nam écrit par un intellectuel nationaliste vietnamien qui y a passé 51 mois. Bien qu’il soit toujours difficile de parler d’impartialité quand on est soi-même acteur d’un tel drame, ce qui fait la valeur unique du témoignage du Dr P.V. Trân c’est sa grande objectivité. Il la doit certainement à sa double formation de scientifique et de médecin qui lui permet de porter sur le système carcéral communiste, un regard dépourvu de haine.

P.V. Trân né en 1920, entra dans la Résistance vietnamienne avec le Viêt-Minh dès la fin  de ses études médicales et y resta, malgré sa foi catholique, de 1946 à 1949, avant de quitter son pays pour venir en France quand les communistes eurent annexé toute la Résistance.

Chercheur au CNRS il obtint successivement à Paris son Doctorat ès Sciences naturelles et l’Agrégation de Médecine. Il rentra alors à Saigon pour y enseigner la physiologie. Il devint secrétaire d’Etat à la Santé de 1956 à 1961, puis Directeur de la Recherche Scientifique du Viêt-Nam [Sud] de 1961 à 1965. Envoyé en camp de rééducation en 1975, il y resta jusqu’en 1979. Il ne fut autorisé à rejoindre sa famille à Paris qu’en 1989. (présentation de la quatrième de couverture)

Réf. : Tran, P.V. , Prisonnier politique au Viêt-Nam, 1975-1979, Paris : L’Harmattan, Mémoires asiatiques, 1990, 202 p.

 

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La décolonisation et la guerre vécues par les populations du Viêt-Nam, du Laos et du Cambodge