Hardships endured under Diem's agroville program

SR 2087
Beep tone
Roll 87 of Vietnam Project.
635 TAKE 1
Interview with Nguyen Thi Sinh, 50.
Please tell us of the 1960 protests in which you demanded the return of your husband and children. And the reaction of the soldiers to your protests.
Nguyen Thi Sinh:
In January 1960 there was an order for a general uprising. At night we sounded the drums and the gongs. During the day the women whose husbands and children were then forced to do corvée labor for the construction of the agroville went to the military post and demanded that their husbands and children be returned to them. They said that their husbands and children had to go home and try to find a living for their families because they had been forced to do corvée labor month after month without any relief. A number of local despots, Policeman Huong among them, opened fire on us, beat us up and threatened us.
They arrested those who stepped out of the crowd and spoke and had these persons roughed up. Then they chased the rest of the people home, refusing to give in to the demands. But there were a number of soldiers who sympathized with us. These soldiers intervened, saying that the people were right because with their husbands and children forced to do corvée like that the women could not find a living for their families since they also had young children and babies to take care of. Then some people were sick and their parents were aged and weak and yet they were taken away to do corvée labor.
The sympathetic soldiers said that we were correct in our demand and that, for the families who were in distress, the husbands and children had to be released so that they could help out their families. Otherwise, the soldiers added, these families would die of starvation. During the previous protests, we had been roughed up in more ways than one.
But after we got roughed up so badly, some of the soldiers were moved and realized that we were correct in our demands so they intervened. Because of this intervention, the enemy could not remain so adamant so they released a number of men whose parents were very old, whose children were very young and whose wives had just given birth to babies. But these people were allowed to go home only for a few days before they were taken again for corvée labor. They were not released for good.
When Diem came to power what were your reactions to him? And then what were your feelings afterwards? Was he good or bad?
Nguyen Thi Sinh:
At first I did not know what the Diem regime was like. But when he carried out the agroville program and rounded the population up and turned over the graves and cut down the orchards and even uprooted the paddy fields completely, I became very outraged at the Diem regime. His activities were extremely brutal and caused the people to suffer hunger as a result. In the agroville, it could be stated that up to 70 acres of land was completely cleared. Orchards were chopped down and houses dismantled and the resident population was chased out.
Even the rice was uprooted so that that area could be quickly built into an agroville. Therefore, I realized that the regime caused the resident population there to be hungry. And the inhabitants of the surrounding areas were also relocated into this place. And the families whose houses were too distant to be moved there nevertheless had their husbands and children taken there as corvée laborers.
Hence, if you allowed the Diem regime to exist, you would continue to suffer hardship and hunger and would not be able to survive. And so when the Front came into being and said that the people should participate in a general uprising, the people were overjoyed and supported the Front enthusiastically so that the agroville could be destroyed, the husbands and children would not be forced to be corvée laborers anymore, the families would no longer suffer hunger, and the families would be united as of old. That was how we felt at the time.