Open letter to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam

Open letter to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam

Joan Baez

The New York Times 1/5/1079

Four years ago, the United States ended its 20-year presence in Vietnam. An anniversary that should be cause for celebration is, instead, a time for grieving. With tragic irony, the cruelty, violence and oppression practiced by foreign powers in your country for more than a century continue today under the present regime.

Thousands of innocent Vietnamese, many whose only «crimes» are those of conscience, are being arrested, detained and tortured in prisons and re-education camps. Instead of bringing hope and reconciliation to war-torn Vietnam, your government has created a painful nightmare that overshadows significant progress achieved in many areas of Vietnamese society.

Your government slated in February 1977 that some 50,000 people were then incarcerated. Journalists, independent observers and refugees estimate the current number of political prisoners between 150,000 and 200,000. Whatever the exact figure, the facts form a grim mosaic. Verified reports have appeared in the press around the globe, from Le Monde and The Observer to the Washington Post and Newsweek

We have heard the horror stories from the people of Vietnam from workers and peasants, Catholic nuns and Buddhist priests, from the boat people, the artists and professionals and those who fought alongside the NLF. The jails are overflowing with thousands upon thousands of «detainees.» People disappear and never return. People are shipped to re-education centers, fed a starvation diet of stale rice, forced to squat bound wrist to ankle, suffocated in «connex» boxes. People are used as human mine detectors, clearing live mine fields with their hands and feet. For many, life is hell and death is prayed for.

Many victims are men, women and children who supported and fought for the causes of reunification and selfdetermination; those who as pacifists, members of religious groups, or on moral and philosophic grounds opposed the authoritarian policies of Thieu and Ky; artists and intellectuals whose commitment to creative expression is anathema to the totalitarian policies of your government.

Requests by Amnesty International and others for impartial investigations of prison conditions remain unanswered. Families who inquire about husbands, wives, daughters or sons are ignored. It was an abiding commitment to fundamental principles of human dignity, freedom and selfdetermination that motivated so many Americans to oppose the government of South Vietnam and our country’s participation in the war.

It is that same commitment that compels us to speak out against your brutal disregard of human rights. As in the 60s, we raise our voices now so that your people may live. raise our voices now so that your people may live. We appeal to you to end the imprisonment and torture-to allow an international team of neutral observers to inspect your prisons and re-education centers. We urge you to follow the tenets of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights which, as a member of the United Nations, your country is pledged to uphold. We urge you to reaffirm your stated commitment to the basic principles of freedom and human dignity… to establish real peace in Vietnam.

Joan Baez President,

Humanitas/International Human Rights Committee


Ansel Adams
Edward Asner
Albert V. Baez
Joan c. Baez
Peter S. Beagle
Hugo Adam Bedau
Barton J. Bernstein
Daniel Berrigan
Robert Bly
Ken Botto
Kay Boyle
John Brodie
Edmund G. «Pat» Brown
Yvonne Braithwaite Burke
Henry B. Burnette, Jr.
Herb Caen
David Carliner
Cesar Chavez
Richard Pierre Claude
Bert Coffey
Norman Cousins
E. L. Doctorow
Benjamin Dreyfus
Ecumenical Peace Institute Staff
MiIni Farina
Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Douglas A. Fraser
Dr. Lawrence Zelic Freedman
Joe Fury
Allen Ginsberg
Herbert Gold
David B. Goodstein
Sanford Gottlieb
Richard J. Guggenhime
Denis Goulet, Sr.
Bill Graham
Lee Grant
Peter Grosslight
Thomas J. Gumbleton
Terence Hallinan
Francis Heisler
Nat Hentoff
Rev. T. M. Hesburgh, C.J.C.
John T. Hitchcock
Art Hoppe
Dr. Irving L. Horowitz
Henry S. Kaplan, M.D.
R. Scott Kennedy
Roy C. Kepler
Seymour S. Kety
Peter Klotz-Chamberlin
Jeri Laber
Norman Lear
Philip R. Lee, M.D.
Alice Lynd
Staughton Lynd
Bradford Lyttle
Frank Mankiewicz
Bob T. Martin
James A. Michener
Marc Miller
Edward A. Morris
Mike Nichols
Peter Orlovsky
Michael R. Peevey
Michael R. Peevey
Geoffrey Cobb Ryan
Ginetta Sagan
Leonard Sagan, M.D.
Charles M. Schultz
Ernest L. Scott
Jack Sheinkman
Jerome J. Shestack
Gary Snyder
I. F. Stone
Rose Styron
William Styron
Lily Tomlin
Peter H. Voulkos
Grace Kennan Warnecke
Lina Wertmuller
Morris L. West
Dr. Jerome P. Wiesner
Jamie Wyeth
Peter Yarrow
Charles W. Yost

October-November 1982


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

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

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

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).

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

(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

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

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

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

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

«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

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

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

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

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

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.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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:

68. New York Times, 2/12/77

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

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

3 responses to “Open letter to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam

  1. Tilbaketråkk: Joan Baez spiller i Oslo 5. mars 2018 | Vietnamkrigen

  2. Tilbaketråkk: Le destin étrange de Doan Van Toai, auteur du Goulag vietnamien | Mémoires d'Indochine

  3. Tilbaketråkk: Den første «rock’n’roll-krigen | «Vietnamkrigen

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