(The following statements were made at a conference sponsored by Amnesty International of the USA in New York on April 30. Those interested in Amnesty International’s work can write to 200 West 72nd Street, NYC 10023.)
Don Luce spent thirteen years in Vietnam working for the International Voluntary Services and the World Council of Churches. He is the author of Vietnam: The Unheard Voices.
There are more than 200,000 political prisoners in the jails of the Saigon government. These prisoners include Buddhist monks, Catholic priests, teachers, writers, students, lawyers, laborers, and farmers. They include old people, women, children, and the sick.
Many of these people have been imprisoned for years without trial. Others were tried by a military court and sentenced under Article 2 of Decree Law 93/SL/Ct which states: “Any person who commits acts of propaganda for and incitement to neutralism shall be considered as Pro-Communist Neutralist.” Just prior to and right after the cease-fire agreement, the Saigon government reclassified many of these people, charging them with criminal offenses.
The Saigon government has routinely used torture. Some of the most common forms I know about from personal talks with Vietnamese who have undergone them and who visibly bear the effects of the mistreatment:
Water Torture: The nose is squeezed shut and a large quantity of soapy water is pumped into the victim’s stomach. Then the pressure is released from the nostrils, the mouth gagged and the water forced out through the nose by pounding the victim’s stomach. A variation of this is to use fish sauce which has a very high salt content.
Barrel Torture: The victim is put into a barrel of water and the barrel is pounded with a lead pipe. The whole body is affected by the blows, and damage to internal organs is common.
Chopstick Torture: A chopstick is placed in the ear and tapped lightly with the index finger of the torturer. This often causes deafness and sometimes death.
Bamboo Sliver Torture: Slivers of bamboo are forced under the fingernails. A variation of this is using a pin with a feather attached to the pin. An electric fan then rotates the pin.
Bottle Torture: Beer bottles or other objects are forced into the vaginas of women. The husband or another relative is often forced to watch this as a means of getting information from that person.
Electrode Torture: Electrodes are attached to sensitive parts of the body and shocks administered. Vietnamese skin is especially sensitive to this and two tiny white spots can be observed in the skin where the electrodes were attached.
Many Vietnamese have died as a result of torture. Nguyen Ngoc Phuong is one example. A third year university student, he was arrested with his wife, Cao thi Que Huong, an elementary school teacher. They operated a hostel for university students and the police were trying to get information about the student movement. Phuong was tortured in front of his wife to get …
This article is available to subscribers only.
Please choose from one of the options below to access this article:
Purchase a print premium subscription (20 issues per year) and also receive online access to all all content on nybooks.com.
Purchase an Online Edition subscription and receive full access to all articles published by the Review since 1963.