Nguyen Chi Thien
Date: Fri, 10 Aug 2001 18:22:11 +0200Reply-to: firstname.lastname@example.orgFrom: "Balazs Szalontai"
an article was published about Vietnamese poet Nguyen Chi Thien in "New Leader", Jan/Feb 2001, by Michael Lind. It includes some statements I am not completely able to verify or refute at the present moment.
I welcome any comments.
1) The Quynh Luu uprising was suppressed by the 325th Division of the NVA.2) In 1961 Ho Chi Minh himself signed a decree ordering the re-education of several hundred thousand people, consisting of those who had served in the military or government of the Bao Dai regime, and those in the general population who were discontented with the regime, including Buddhist monks, Catholic priests, lay Catholics, bourgeois capitalists and intellectuals. They were all sent to labour camps. 3) Hundreds of thousands died in the labour camps established in the South after 1975.
Best regards,Balazs Szalontai
Date: Fri, 10 Aug 2001 10:25:29 -0700 (PDT)Reply-to: email@example.comFrom: "D. Hoang"
I don't know of any facts, but I find statement number 3 so incredible, I doubt its accuracy.
Depending on how one defines "labour camps," one can probably say hundreds of thousands were sent to them or forced to volunteer to go there. Possible defitions of "labour camps" include:
- only reeducation camps (tra.i ho.c ta^.p ca?i ta.o)- re-education camps and new economic zones (khu kinh te^' mo+'i), but only count residents in these NEZ- re-education camps and new economic zones to include also the youth brigades that worked in these NEZ(Thanh nie^n Xung phong)
Then there were the frequent "mandatory" volunteer services of high school students to spend one day every so often digging or otherwise working at one of the new economic zone sites. If we count these, one can accurately say millions spent times in "labour camps." But to claim that "hundreds of thousands died in labor camps established in the South after 1975" is unbelievable to me.
From my own experience, of all the people I personally knew who spent time as re-education camp inmates, new economic zone residents, and "volunteered youths" in new economics zones, the percentage of those who returned alive (all but one) does not compute to hundreds of thousands death. If I add the experiences of my friends and relatives, the number still seems grossly inflated. (And, by the way, the one death that I personally knew was that of a former SVN officer who died in a labour camp in the North, not South, in 1981. There seemed to be a smaller percentage of those sent North who returned alive.)
Again, these are personal observations, not hard facts. But I find ithard to believe that the government could hide such high number of deaths from the populous since inevitably some of those deaths must fall within our vast networks of friends and relatives. Unless, of course, if the majority of those deaths were isolated to particular groups in particular regions, say highlanders, then the general population wouldn't know.
I wonder how one could arrive at any decent approximation given that records are not easily accessible? Interview thousands or millions of Southerners and verify any duplications or false memories?
Thanks for the post,
Date: Fri, 10 Aug 2001 13:26:18 -0400Reply-to: firstname.lastname@example.orgFrom: Edwin Moise
>an article was published about Vietnamese poet Nguyen Chi Thien in "New Leader", >Jan/Feb 2001, by Michael Lind. It includes some statements I am not completely able to > verify or refute at the present moment. I welcome any comments.>1) The Quynh Luu uprising was suppressed by the 325th Division of the NVA.
I think the scale of the Quynh Luu uprising, and of the amount of force required to suppress it, have been seriously exaggerated in some accounts. I see no reason to doubt that some troops of the 325th Division were involved; I seriously doubt that the whole division was. But Bernard Fall, whom I take seriously, does think it was the whole division (Fall is Lind's source on this).
>2) In 1961 Ho Chi Minh himself signed a decree ordering the re-education of several hundred thousand people, consisting of those who had served in the military or government of the Bao Dai regime, and those in the general population who were discontented with the regime, including Buddhist monks, Catholic priests, lay Catholics, bourgeois capitalists and intellectuals. They were all sent to labour camps.
Of the three statements, this is the one I am most sure is false.
>3) Hundreds of thousands died in the labour camps established in the South after 1975.
More likely to be true than 1) and 2), but still looks questionable to me. I don't much like what I have seen of Lind's work. (He doesn't much like my work, either.)
Date: Fri, 10 Aug 2001 07:34:49 -1000Reply-to: email@example.comFrom: "Thayer To: "Vietnam Studies Group"
My evaluation of the events in Quynh Luu changed over time. In my WAR BY OTHER MEANS; NATIONAL LIBERATION AND REVOLUTION IN VIETNAM, 1954-60, I refer to disturbances rather than uprising. My assessment (made in 1989) was that the entire 325th Division was not involved.
Dr. Carlyle A. Thayer Professor of Southeast Asia Security Studies Deputy Chair, Department of Regional Stuides Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies phone: (808) 971 8952 (work) phone: (808) 945 0045 (home) fax: (808) 971 8949 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: Fri, 10 Aug 2001 14:47:00 -0400Reply-to: email@example.comFrom: "Hue Tam H. Tai"
I am inclined to agree with Ed about the likelihood that of the 3 statements, #2 is false.
As for #3, it is very difficult to obtain accurate figures, though I am inclined to believe that "several hundred thousands" may be high. I would caution against extrapolation of one's own experience. I recall when the PBS series Vietnam: A Television History was aired, many southerners who had lived through the 1940s disbelieved even the archival footage of starvation. They'd lived in the Mekong Delta at the time, and it was a time of bumper crops. they could not believe that in other parts of the country, people were dying of hunger (some claimed that the archival footage had been shot in Hollywood!)
There is also the issue of definition. The state tried very hard to prevent people actually dying while in detention. Technically, my own father died on his own doorstep; but as far as I and my family are concerned, he died in re-education camp, of starvation. Until he was clearly dying, the camp authorities refused to release him, despite my mother's pleas. When he was terminally ill (beri beri and other ills brought on by malnutrition), he was shifted to the local hospital, but despite the total lack of medicine or food, he was still not allowed out either. When he was about to die, my mother was finally told to come and fetch him (he was in Ham Tan). He was in a coma during the whole trip back to Saigon, and did not even make it into the house. BUT, as far as the authorities were concerned, he did not die in re-education. I've heard of similar stories; but again, I would be leery of extrapolating from one family's experience and coming up with global figures.
Hue-Tam Ho Tai
Date: Fri, 10 Aug 2001 23:26:02 -0700Reply-to: firstname.lastname@example.orgFrom: Stephen Denney
With regard to point 2, an order was issued in 1961 on the re-education camp system in North Vietnam. The following is an excerpt from a 1982 report I co-authored with the late Ginetta Sagan:
----------------------------...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."
Resolution 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)....
4. p.86, Which Human Rights?, published in Hanoi, 19805. 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
Date: Sat, 11 Aug 2001 03:06:14 -0700 (PDT)Reply-to: email@example.comFrom: sophie qj
According to Vu Thu Hien, p. 46 of the German edition of Dem giua ban ngay, Truong Chinh signed Resolution no. 49 on Re-education, which was issued by the Standing Committee of the National Assembly on 20 June 1961.
Date: Sat, 11 Aug 2001 10:43:41 -0400Reply-to: firstname.lastname@example.orgFrom: "Hue Tam H. Tai"
Thanks to Steve and Sophie for the information. Do we have information as to how wide spread the implementation of Resolution no.49 was and why it was passed at this particular time, 1961, and not, say, earlier? Was it associated with the decision to support the resumption of armed struggle in the south? I am still doubtful that massive numbers of people were sent to re-education as a result of that Resolution, though it could have been used to quell dissent.
Date: Sat, 11 Aug 2001 08:37:54 -0700Reply-to: email@example.comFrom: Stephen Denney
I don't know how many people were sent to the camps beginning in 1961, but since Michael Lind greatly exaggerates the number of people who died in labor (re-education) camps after 1975, maybe the same is true for his claim that hundreds of thousands of people were sent to the camps in 1961.
Date: Sun, 12 Aug 2001 02:59:37 -0700 (PDT)Reply-to: firstname.lastname@example.orgFrom: "D. Hoang"
I agree with chi Hue-Tam that using personal experiences to represent facts is a dangerous game one should not engage in. No matter what my own experience was, I, too, cannot refute nor confirm Lind's statement. I'd be very interested in learning how he arrived at the figure of "several hundred thousands." Did the Vietnamese government make their records available to him? Did he interview all those who returned from re-education camps, asked them for the number of their camp-mates who died in detention, then compared and confirmed all stories to make sure the deaths were not counted multiple times? ...
I used my personal experience in the previous post only to provide one of the bases for my doubt in Lind's figure, not to present mine as facts and his as not. I was unclear in my previous post, but my personal knowledge on this matter is also augmented by talks with friends and neighbors in Vietnam whose fathers/husbands spent times in re-education camps, with friends and neighbors in the refugee camps when I was there as a refugee, by interviews and personal conversations with hundreds of refugees when I returned as a refugee worker some years later, and by conversations with friends, neighbors, colleagues in the US.
The people I talked to were from various coastal provinces in the central part and almost all provinces in the southern part of VN. Still, the experience of a few hundred people cannot be used to state a fact about the experience of twenty- some millions of the former South VN in the post-1975 era. And they were selected few at that: They were able to leave VN and arrive elsewhere safely. Almost all were boat people. Also note the absence of people from central highland provinces.
So, I can only doubt Lind's figure but cannot provide any facts to refute or confirm it. That said, by doubting that several hundred thousands died in re-education camps, I do not mean to say that the Vietnamese government policy in post-1975 South did not cause widespread misery or injustice. On the contrary, even though there was little blood bath immediately after April 30th, 1975, slow and painful deaths came to many connected to the former South Vietnamese government and armed forces as a direct result of government policy: actual deaths and emotional deaths. Chi Hue-Tam gave example of one actual slow and painful death. There were many more. Many are living, but their spirits or minds broken. And, for every dead or broken man, there are parents, siblings, wives, and children, who have suffered immeasurably through persecution, real, threatened, and perceived, for the "sins" of their loved ones. Many are still paying to this day.
Thank you, chi Hue-Tam, for sharing your story, I'd like to share a story of someone I know. A couple who were mid-rank health professionals,disgusted with the Thieu government, wanted to remain in VN to help rebuild the country when it was clear that the revolutionary forces were winning. A couple of years later, while the couple was at work, armed police stormed into their home, terrified their very young children and the sitter, turned the home upside down and inside out, then left without saying why they were there or what they were looking for.
The wife came home to find her children terrorized. Went to her husband's work to find him arrested with no word on where he was taken to. With lots of string pulling by high ranking revolutionary relatives, one year later, she found out her husband was alive and the place where he was held. The husband was eventually released. The family escaped in small groups and was eventually reunited. But the dad and husband is a broken man. The wife and mom a heart-broken woman. One of the children, essentially an American teenager, could not take the strain and committed suicide. This man did not die in detention, but what a life is he and his family having?
I'll understand it if this man says 1,000 of his camp-mates died in detention when in fact only 10 did, even when I disagree with him. My issue is with scholars who use that number to be fact.
Most respectfully,Hien Hoang
Date: Sun, 12 Aug 2001 14:06:26 +0200reply-to: email@example.comFrom: "Balazs Szalontai"
the context of Resolution No. 49 is rather interesting. June 1961 was a period in North Viet Nam when the country was just recovering from an extremely serious economic crisis. Intolerably high delivery quotas, possibly combined with bad weather, caused in 1960 that in some areas, even seed grain for rice was taken from the peasants. Urban food rations were cut in mid-1960, and by late 1960 and early 1961, a really serious situation emerged. A great number of peasants attempting to sell their crops for higher prices than set by the state were arrested by the Cong An for "black-marketeering". Speeded-up collectivization did not help either. Household plots left to the peasants were too small, and domestic animals were not taken into consideration. As a consequence, peasants slaughtered their animals, and meat production plummeted. In just one year, some 300 000 peasants migrated to Hanoi, a city of 500 000 inhabitants in 1958. By the spring of 1961, the VWP CC became aware of the seriousness of the situation. Imprisoned peasants were set free and further arrests prohibited. Moreover, members of the National Assembly criticized government policies very harshly at a stormy session that lasted much longer than planned. Prices paid to agricultural producers were raised, and the first crop of the year was much better than that of 1960. In June, the government decided to put a greater emphasis on agriculture and agriculture-related industrialization than it had done previously (a number of rural NA representatives criticized the government for its urban bias). I think Resolution No. 49 may have been aimed to counterbalance the effect of the regime's retreat in the economic sphere so as not to allow the "class enemy" to take advantage of the situation. As far as I know, Chinese policies were quite similar in the 1961-64 period. The escalation of US involvement in South Viet Nam may have played a part too.
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