Early demonstrations against the French

SR 2061
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Roll 61
450, Take 1
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457, Take 1
Interview with Nguyen Si Que.
Please tell us what it was like on May 1, 1930.
Nguyen Si Que:
Before the demonstration, on the night of April 30 and the morning of May 1, in this area, banners and flags were put up everywhere. That night we went around in all the areas in the city, putting up flags and banners. On the morning of May 1, the population gathered, and marched on the road which led from the Cua Hoi estuary to the city of Vinh. When the demonstrators arrived at a place called Quan Lau, next to the Truong Thi factory, the prefect dispatched soldiers to block the demonstrators from going any further.
But in spite of the blockade, the demonstrators surged onward. When the crowd reached Cazak, which was the old name and which was just outside of Truong Thi, a number of truckloads of soldiers, commanded by French officers, arrived and prepared to fire into the crowd of demonstrators. But the crowd continued with the march. They marched all the way to Ben Thuy. And when the first person climbed up a flagpole at the fork in the road at Ben Thuy, the French guards who were on the tower of the SIFA (Société Indochinoise Forestière et des Allumettes = Indochinese Society of Forestry and Matches) factory shot down at him and killed him.
After that, they ordered their soldiers to open fire into the crowd of demonstrators. But the blue sash soldiers (Vietnamese soldiers in the colonial army) only shot into the air and not into the crowd. Therefore, although a lot of people got wounded, only seven persons were killed during that demonstration. The wounded were brought back to their local villages and taken care of there instead of being sent to the hospitals. And a number of people were arrested and jailed. After a certain period of imprisonment, the majority of the arrested were released. But the more important persons were kept in prison.
After the suppression of that demonstration, in the afternoon of the same day the workers in the Ben Thuy factory continued to stage another demonstration, protesting the French repression. After a few days, there were continual demonstrations and rallies in this area. In this village, every couple of days there was a meeting in which there were cadres giving speeches, explaining the white terror campaign staged by the French and calling on the inhabitants to oppose the repressive measures of the French. The movement here went on continuously for a year, from 1930 to 1931.

Establishment of village leadership councils

458, Take 1
Nguyen Si Que:
After that, the soviet was established here. The soviet of the village operated out of the Dinh Chung communal house for 9 to 10 days continuously. The village chief had fled. The administration of this village was...
459 Take 1
Nguyen Si Que:
In this village the soviet was elected by the inhabitants. It was just like the administrative committee that we have now. It had its office at the Dinh Chung communal house. There were also the armed units, the Red Self-defense Forces, guarding all around the village and on the roads leading to the village. In the village, the administrative structure of the French had disintegrated. That is to say the village chief and his ilk were not around anymore.
The village was completely administered by the people themselves. The administrative committee at the time used all the overcharged taxes and all the bribe monies which had been taken by the local despots and divided them among the poor inhabitants. The other thing was to take back the communal land which had been usurped and give it out to the village inhabitants for collective production. Some of the money from the communal land was used to help the village inhabitants pay taxes.
The third thing was that before this time there had been a waiting post where all the able bodied men had to gather on a daily basis. This waiting post is just like the post office now where all the documents and all the papers and permits for people traveling on the road were being processed. At that time, this office was very harsh. Therefore, the village inhabitants had to put up with a lot of harassments. Hence, the soviet did away with this office and had an elected committee replace it. The question of security and all coordination of activities in the local area were carried out by this committee.
460, Take 1
Nguyen Si Que:
Here at that time classes were also organized to teach people how to write and read the Vietnamese written language. The soviet was in charge of that in this area. Productive activities, daily life and peace and security were maintained by the soviet. It can be said that all activities were under the coordination of the soviet. The soviet also organized sport events such as soccer games and so on. So the Tet of 1931 was an all village celebration at the Cai Mu Nui in this village. The village inhabitants feasted there for three days, enjoying themselves at that central location. At that time there was a vibrant atmosphere and so it can be said that every village inhabitant participated in the soviet movement.

French suppression of the resistance movement

Nguyen Si Que:
During that period, in this village there was an army outpost manned by blue sash soldiers. It was not actually inside this village, but in Huong Thuy village which was next door. The soldiers were sent into this village. But the platoon commander was a Vietnamese. The post commander was a Frenchman. The platoon commander informed us beforehand, so the village inhabitants had time to disperse. Hence, they escaped repression. But after that there was a repression against the demonstration at Phat Lat.
This demonstration included workers and peasants. The repression caused a number of demonstrators to become injured. They shot into the crowd that day. By 1931 they sent the Legionnaires into this area. When the Legionnaires came, they came with armored vehicles and machine guns. On May 1, 1931 there was no demonstration in this area. But we sounded the gongs and the drums all night and in every place.
While we were sounding our gongs and drums, the soldiers fired into the village. But nobody was injured that night. After that, the repression continued, carried out by the Legionnaires. The Legionnaires burnt houses in the Huong Thuy hamlet of this village and then threw people into the fire. One person was burnt in this way after he had been shot. By the end of 1931 they sent into this village several hundred blue sash soldiers to carry out repression. They marched from one end of the village to the other end.
The village inhabitants had told each other that whenever a person was arrested, the rest of the inhabitants were to run out there and rescue this person. As a result, they were not able to arrest anyone at all because the village inhabitants protected the cadres. The cadres in the Central Vietnam Executive Committee were then living in this village. The last Regional Executive Committee was also placed here. The house that belongs to Mrs. Dien was the last headquarters of the Regional Executive Committee.
Afterwards, the French dug up the whole place and arrested many cadres there. During the 1930-1931 period, it can be said that the entire village population participated in the revolutionary movement. As far as the cadres were concerned, they were mostly arrested. Only a few were left. A number of those arrested returned in 1933. But the bulk returned in 1936. But the movement continued on. Even during the period when revolutionary activities were waning, we still had infrastructures here. That was during the 1933-1935 period. But the activities here were limited in scope.