22 July 2006

Life Under Communism

By now you should know the significance of the date April 30, 1975. Communist takeover, the Fall of Saigon, Vietnamese Liberation Front's tank crashing the gate to the Presidential Palace, helicopter evacuation from the roof of the U.S. Embassy, Ms. Saigon got separated from her lover, you know the drill. I cannot say I witnessed any of these historic events. With my siblings, earlier we were safely tucked away in the countryside, south of Saigon, with our maternal grandparents and other relatives.

I was probably too young to notice the changes in life under Communism. Perhaps my parents did too good a job of providing us life's necessities. I overheard stories of revenge and trickery, but nothing first-hand experience. I didn't even know about the death of Uncle Pha\ until much later. He was tricked by his superiors to fight to the last man, possibly while the superiors went home to change into civilian clothes.

Shortly after Thirtieth of April, the Communist government announced an amnesty program for all the military people of the South. Come for a few days of re-education then you'll be home again, so the announcement promised. We all are brothers, whether we are the victorious Northerner or the defeated Southerner, or so it seemed. The truth is many people never came back from these so-called re-education sessions. Many were probably whisked away to labor camps in the middle of nowhere.

The Communist was good at using fancy words. Instead of "Jail for South Vietnamese Soldiers", we had "ho.c ta^.p ca?i ta.o", meaning "learn to change one's evil way", or "re-education" for short. "Kinh te^' mo+'i" or " new ecomonic zones" were really barren, almost uninhabitable land that city people were forced to move to. Many died while others sneaked back to the big cities to lead homeless lives. Yet the Communists called themselves liberators or "gia?i pho'ng". Maybe to the dwellers of strategic hamlets (a^'p chie^'n lu+o+.c), where farmers and their families were locked up at night, after their days' work. Certainly not to us city slickers, who after 4/30 had to get permits to travel, to go from a free market to rationing, plus frequent change of currency, and more. I'll go into further details about these other aspects of life under Communism in Vietnam post-4/30.

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