Uprising in the agrovilles

SR 2086/1
Beep tone
Roll 86 of Vietnam Project
629 Take 1
Interview with Tran Thi Tuyet, 43.
Please tell us about the agrovilles, what life was like in there.
Tran Thi Tuyet:
When the war ended and peace came back again, life was quite easy. The population put up truck gardens, orchards, and paddy fields. Life was quite easy. Life from 1954 to 1956 and even 1957 was relatively easy.
But when the Diem's agroville program was carried out, then in the village of An Hiep an area of several dozens hectares was carved out in order to build an agroville. This area included orchards, paddy fields, houses and graves belonging to the inhabitants of the village.
In order to build the agroville, the resident population had to be moved to another area. Then all the orchards were destroyed and the graves bulldozed.
The inhabitants of the villages in the surrounding area were then forced to work on the construction of the agroville. Therefore, they rounded the population of An Binh Tay where I was living up every day and herded them to the village of An Hiep to do corvée labor.
A policeman named Duong was a very brutal one. Every day he rounded people up, herded them away, and dismantled the houses to clear the ground for the construction of the agroville. Therefore, the life of the general population was extremely hard and difficult at that time.
Young men were press-ganged into the army, middle aged people were forced to do corvée labor and to build the agrovilles, houses were destroyed and graves were bulldozed. Therefore, life was in utter confusion. The population suffered terribly. The outrage of the inhabitant of An hiep and the villages in the Ba Tri area was to the extreme.
Therefore, at one time the people staged an uprising. They beat on the drums and the wooden gongs and struggled to be able to go back to their former villages in order to produce again. They demanded that their former orchards and paddy fields be returned to them so that they could produce and earn a living again.
During the uprising, there were young people who could not suppress their anger and so they, on their own, fetched knives and killed the policeman named Duong. They said that if the policeman named Duong was allowed to live, they would not be allowed to go back to their former places again. So they killed him in order to be able to go back to their former villages and to avoid having to do corvée labor for the regime.
Therefore, during the uprising, when the population heard the sounds of the drums and the gongs and the news that the liberation or revolutionary forces were coming in order to help them in the uprising and to help change their lives and bring back a life of comfort and happiness to the population, every inhabitant became so eager that he just went out there and helped destroy the agroville, the strategic hamlet, so as to be able to return to their former places.
For all these reasons, the people were quite confident in and quite supportive of the revolution. Hence, during the first phrase of the uprising, the popular movement was very forceful. This was because everybody was very angry.
Everyone had been forced to do corvée labor, everyone had been relocated into the strategic hamlet and everyone had been forced to leave their homes. Therefore, the people had become very outraged. And so when there was an order for uprising, people just participated wholeheartedly.
This was especially because the policy of concentrating the population into the agroville and press ganging the young men into the army had created disruptions in the lives of the population. The uprising would then liberate the population, allowing them freedom to go back to their former villages to lead normal lives and to produce again. The idea that they would not be driven out of their homes again and that their graveyards would not be bulldozed again and that life would be normal again made people extremely eager.
Therefore, during the first few nights of the uprising, whenever the people heard the sounds of the drums and the gongs they automatically, without having to be prodded by anybody at all, went out there to participate. And those who had blood debts with the people – now, the young and healthy people, without anybody telling them to do so, would take up knives and chased after the despotic policemen so as to be able to go back to their former patches of land again. So this was what things were like in the agrovilles during the uprising.
630 Take 1
Please describe to us again the dismantling of the agroville in 1960.
Tran Thi Tuyet:
About the dismantling of the agroville, when the population received orders for the uprising and heard the drums and the gongs, they just rushed out there to destroy the agroville in the hope of getting to go back to their former places. I myself also participated in the beating of the drums and the gongs.
The young men, and especially the self defense forces of the regime itself, got extremely mad when they got relocated here. The said that if they did not kill this policeman named Duong then they would remain shut up in the agroville forever. Therefore, they took up knives and killed this policeman.
The young women also participated by beating the drums and the gongs. And this was what I did. While the young men killed the policeman named Duong, a number of other agroville authorities were also taken before the people and had their crimes of the previous years in concentrating the population into the agroville and in subjecting the people to all kinds of hardship and suffering pointed out to them. We asked them to admit their crimes before the villagers.
Now, there was this peasant and a young man, whose names I just can't remember at this point, who chopped this policeman Duong in revenge. Other villagers participated in the uprising by beating the drums and the gongs and pointing at the faces of the other policemen, the director of the agroville and the despotic soldiers, saying: "It was because of you people that we have had to suffer during the last few years. It was because of you that we had to abandon our house, our gardens, our paddy fields and our graves. It was because of you that we have had to suffer poverty and hunger."
When the population did this, the local despots and the director of the agroville became very humbled and asked that their crimes be forgiven. I myself at that time participated by beating the drums and the gongs and by pulling downs the signs and slogans which they posted on the walls of every house.
In every house there was a slogan saying "We vow to annihilate the Viet Cong." This meant that people were made to vow that they would not support the Communists. There were also portraits of Diem everywhere.
At that time, in the agroville, the inhabitants automatically pulled down all the signs and slogans and burnt up the agroville in order to be able to go back to their native villages. This was what it was like during the uprising.
631 Take 1
Now, at the time you helped destroy the agroville, who did you think was responsible for the agroville? Did you think that it was just Diem himself who did this?
Tran Thi Tuyet:
At that time I thought that it was because of Diem. But I also thought that the Americans were behind the policy. It was the American policy to have the agrovilles constructed, but it was Diem himself who was responsible for carrying out the policy.
But the people who carried out the repression against us in the local area were the secret police, the regular police, the hamlet chiefs and the agroville directors. Therefore, although the general population understood who were responsible for the policy, they also knew that the people who affected them directly were the local despots: the soldiers, the guards, the village chief, the policeman Duong, and the agroville security forces. Therefore, the people also hated those who affected them directly.

Widespread support for the National Liberation Front

The Liberation Front was founded then, in 1960. Did you have any thought on the Front at that time?
Tran Thi Tuyet:
The Revolutionary Front, you mean?
That's correct.
Tran Thi Tuyet:
At that time, the Front was just founded. I was then in the agroville and I realized that the only way not to remain locked up forever in the agrovilles, the strategic hamlets and the New Life hamlets was to follow the Front.
I thought that only with the birth of the Front would the press-ganging of the young people into the army and the turning over of the graves end. Without the birth of the Front to help organize uprisings in order to bring in a new life then the inhabitants of An Hiep and An Binh Tay and other villages in this general area would suffer forever.
Therefore, in my opinion, the only out was to follow the revolution, to follow the Front. Only this will give peace and life again. Otherwise, we would end up dead under the US/Diem regime.
My husband was press-ganged into the army, my family forced into the agroville and I myself forced to work for them every day. There was hardly a day when we could rest. The graves of our ancestors were turned over and dug up.
Therefore, when I heard about the uprising I was overjoyed. Everybody was happy, so happy that they could not sleep. We waited for the Liberation forces to come to us eagerly day and night to help us wipe out all the repression and suffering and to return us to the kind of life which we enjoyed right after peace came.
Life then was plentiful. We had abundant orchards, full rice bins, and a lot of pigs and chicken. Life was really plentiful and comfortable. But with the presence of the agrovilles, life became extremely harsh and difficult.
We had to abandon our houses, our paddy fields, and the graves – the graves were bulldozed and turned over. The above was my thought when the Front came into being.