Beyond the Gulag: Vietnamese Reeducation Camps (pt.2)


The authorities sought to maintain strict control over the thoughts of the prisoners, and forbade prisoners from keeping and reading books or magazines of the former government, reminiscing in conversation about “imperialism and the puppet south,” singing old patriotic and love songs from the former government, discussing political questions (outside authorized discussions), harboring “reactionary” thoughts or possessing “superstitious” beliefs.

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. Former prisoners, on the other hand, report frequent beatings for minor infractions, such as missing work because of illness. Violations of rules led to various forms of punishment, including being tied up in contorted positions, shackled in conex boxes or dark cells, forced to work extra hours or receiving reduced food rations. Many prisoners were beaten, some to death, or subjected to very harsh forms of punishment due to the cruelty of certain camp officials and guards. Some were executed, especially for attempting to escape. It was also forbidden to be impolite to the cadres of the camp, and this rule was sometimes abused to the point where the slightest indication of a lack of deference to the cadres had been interpreted as rudeness and was therefore harshly punished.

As of 1980, official regulations stated that prisoners in the camps could be visited by their immediate family once every three months. Family visits were 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 could bring food to their relatives in some of the camps. It has been reported that the prisoners in these camps would not have survived without such food. The duration of the visits was not long, reported by former prisoners to last from 15 to 30 minutes. Moreover, family visits would be suspended for prisoners who broke the rules, and it has also been said that only families who had proven their loyalty to the government were allowed visiting privileges.

Most former prisoners who were interviewed have been in between three and five different reeducation camps. It is believed that the movement of prisoners from one camp to another was intended to prevent both the inmates and their relatives from knowing a specific camp’s real location. That way, escapes from prison could be prevented, and prisoners’ relatives could be prevented from visiting them.

Do Svidaniya, Comrades

Sources Used:



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