© Piet J. Kroonenberg, Amsterdam and WOSM, Geneva.
© Пит Крооненберг, Амстердам и ВОСД, Женева
V I E T N A M.
The history of Vietnam is very complicated. The ancestors of the Vietnamese used to live in South China but they were forced to go south and settled in the middle part of what is presently known as Vietnam. They created a country named Annam (= Pacified South). There were many wars with neighbouring nations and around 1697 they enlarged their territory by annexing the land of the Malaysian Cham in the south, including the Mekong Delta. In the 16th and 17th century Portugese missionaries established missions in the coastal areas but they were later replaced by French priests. European traders came too. The Portugese, Brittons and Dutchmen found a country full of unrest and war and so, initially, they stuck to trading in the coastal areas, later they set up some trading posts without making an attempt to colonize. Yet - as in many other places - the population did not always accept the conver- ters telling them that their ancient religions and believes were worthless and no good and that they had to abandon them and to embrace the white man's. During one such a conflict, when tempers were lost, some French missionaries were killed and in order to protect the survivors. France landed some military forces in the port of Saigon (1859) and slowly conquered the southern part of the country which in 1862 they annexed and declared to be French territory. Thereafter the French went north and also took North Vietnam which in 1885 was united with the south and thus all of Vietnam had become a French colony. Cambodia and Laos also came under French influence. The French - who later always claimed that they never had colonies like the other European nations but Overseas Departments only - in 1893 united the three
countries in the Union of Indochina. The peoples objected and the French had to experience that, however well trained and equipped, even a well organized Western army finds it difficult to cope with Jungle Warfare combined with guerrilla activities. So much so that until 1887 the French were more or less restricted to the cities and it took them until 1897 before the whole area was more or less pacified and in their grip.
Indochina consisted of 5 departments (or protectorates) led by governors and residents and the overall administration was headed by a Governour-General. French was the official language in administration and education and many Vietnamese studied at French universities and felt well at home in France. (1)
Scouting came to France in 1910. Very soon there were several organizations : Les Eclaireurs de France (open to all), Les Eclaireurs Unionistes de France (mainly protestant), Les Scouts de France (roman catholic) and Les Eclaireurs Israelites de France (jewish). They were united in Scoutisme Francais, a Federation. In 1922 French Scouting belonged to the "Founder Members" that is to those NSOs that during the 2nd International Conference (Paris 1922) founded the World Movement. (See THE UNDAUNTED I, Chapter one.)
Like all European countries with possessions in other parts of the world, France also sent to her Overseas Departments civil servants, medical personnel, teachers etc. who often brought their families. Amongst the adults there were Scout and Guide leaders and amongst the kids guides and scouts. The first French Scout Units, exclusively for the French children, made their appearance in Vietnam in the 1920s, and were registered with either the Eclaireurs de France or the Scouts de France. In a similar way scouting began in the colonies of many other European countries and always the scouting activities of the "whites" attracted the attention of the local youngsters who wanted to join in the fun Scouting was offering. Some were able to enter a French group but soon Vietnamese-only-groups were also founded. The first Vietnamese group was created in Hanoi in 1930 by Tran Van Khac - a name to remember. Very soon more groups were founded in Hanoi e.g. one belonging to a school and apparently lead by a Mr Imbert, the school's director. Another founder was Hoang Dao Thuy who introduced Vietnamese Cub Scouting. The groups united in the Hoi Huong Dao Bac Ky or Tonkinese Scout Association with Tran Van Khac as its Commissioner General. Hoang Dao Thuy succeeded him as such when in 1932 Tran Van Khac moved to the southern part of Vietnam, at the time also known as Cochinchina. He introduced and stimulated Scouting in that part of the country. The Cochinchinese Scout Association or Hoi Huong Dao Nam Ky was founded in 1932 followed by the Annamese Scout Association or Hoi Huong Dao Trung Ky in Central
Vietnam (also known as Annam) in 1934. Apparently Tran Van Khac was the motor of all these activities which he did not restrict to Vietnam only as he also went to Cambodia and prepared the introduction of scouting in that country.
The three Vietnamese associations registered with the Eclaireurs de France in Paris.
In 1936 Scoutisme Francais, the French Federation sent one of its top leaders Andre Lefebvre, a leader of the Eclaireurs de France, to Vietnam in order to investigate on the situation of Scouting in Indochina (= Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos) and to submit proposals for establishing official relationships with the French Movements. He ended his visit giving a training course for Vietnamese leaders at the Dalat training centre.
Back home Andre Lefebvre, in the official magazine of the Eclaireurs de France, published aarticle describing his visit to Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. He reported that initially Scouting was very much restricted to the cities and the larger towns such as Saigon, Hanoi etc. etc. but was now spreading. Further that he was pleased to have found that Vietnamese Scouting had grown considerably in numbers and popularity. There were 54 groups. But, with the exception of the capital Saigon, most of the regional and district commissioners were still found to be Frenchmen. The movement received the support of important, leading and influential locals such as King Bao-Dai, the last Emperor of Vietnam (abdicated in 1945) and His Royal Highness Prince Norodom Monireth of Cambodia. The lattter had taken such an interest in the movement that he made the Scout Promise during a ceremony arranged by Tran Van Khac and accepted the appointment of Federal Commissioner thus greatly influencing and promoting the further development and popularity of scouting in Cambodia. The Emperor Bao-Dai offered the Scout Association of Annam Hoi Huong Dao Trung Ky a large plot of land in the Bach-Ma mountains near Hu‚ for the construction of the first scouting training centre.
Having studied Andre Lefebvre's report the Federation Scouting Francais decided to send to Vietnam Raymond Schlemmer. He, a former French Naval Officer, was in charge of the Le Breuil Training Centre of the Scouts de France in France. One of his assignments was to create unity in Indochinese Scouting. The many religions and nationalities had resulted in there being groups of various denominations and nationalities. He convinced the Vietnamese leaders to unite and form one organisation. So Tokinese Hoi Huong Dao Bac Ky, Cochinchinese Hoi Huong Dao Nam Ky and Annamese Hoi Huong Dao Trung Ky joined forces and created an overall organisation known as the Federation Cochinchinoise des Associations de Scoutisme
and the Federation became an associate member of Scouting Francais, also meaning membership of the World Movement.
Tran Van Khac and Hoang Dao Thuy, as mentioned above, were destined to become the top leaders. The former as the Federation's President, the latter as its Chief Scout from 1932- 1945. Hoang Dao Thuy was a very pleasant, likeable man and a moderate, a popular person, liked by all. He was nicknamed "Ho Sut" or "The Tiger with a Broken Tooth" as one of his front teeth was broken, but also indicating that he was a strong man who had an aversion to quarrels and was very much in favour of compromises.
An important part in the development of Vietnamese Scouting was played by a Rover Crew named "Lam-Son". Most of its Rovers were students some of whom went to French Universities. Later they were prominent and influential people not only in Vietnamese Scouting but - in post war times - in the country's two governments as well. (2)
All the time promising young Vietnamese leaders had been invited to come to France for a thorough scout training and one of them Ta Quang Buu, Hoang Dao Thuy's son-in-law, went to Gilwell Park, England, to return not only as a Gilwellian but also as a Deputy Camp Chief (DCC) and consequently entitled to organize and lead Gilwell Courses in Vietnam. In 1937 a Gilwell Training Centre was opened and Ta Quand Buu was put in charge. In 1939 there were 17 groups in the city of Hanoi in the north, 10 in Annam in the central part and 29 in the rest of the country, including Saigon.
As members of the French Contingent to the 5th World Jamboree (1937) in Vogelenzang in the Netherlands some Vietnamese scouts and scoutleaders participated but they were mainly studying in France where some all-Vietnamese groups were operating.
In September 1939 Nazi-Germany attacked Poland when it refused to give in to Hitler's demands and shortly thereafter England and France were also at war with Nazi Germany, World War II (1939-1945) had begun. Poland having been beaten by Nazi-Germany and stabbed in the back by the Soviet Union, there set in a period or relative quiet on the western front, a period known as "the Phoney War". On their bank of the River Rhine the Germans had created their impenetrable Siegfried Line and the French had build their also impenetrable - mainly underground - fortifications named the Magniot Line. During autumn 1939 and winter 1939/1940 some shots were fired accross the river and there were some exchanges of artillery fire, but for the rest it was all quiet on the Western Front.
But on May 10th, 1940 the German Blitz Krieg offensive began. Nazi armies violated the borders of neutral Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands thus outflanking the Magniot Line and entering France from the north. Such was the surprise that neither the French Army nor the British Expeditionary Force was able to stop the German advance. Paris was taken, the British forces - almost encircled - had to withdraw from the Dunkirk beaches and France had to sign an armistice on June 21st, 1940. The victorious Nazis divided France in an occupied territory under German Army control, and an un-occupied part that became known as "unoccupied or independent Vichy France". Its capital the city of Vichy. A tiny bit of south eastern France the Nazis threw to Fascist Italy as a reward for the fact that - when the Germans had almost finished the work - Mussolini, the Duce, on June 11th, had stabbed France in the back, had attacked and had been driven back !
This situation caused a split. Some Frenchmen could not accept the German victory over France. They intended to continue the war until France would be liberated again and they united in the "Free French", led from London by General Charles De Gaulle. Soon Free French Forces were formed in England and Free French naval units were operating from British ports. Some of the Overseas Departments sided with the Free French but others remained loyal to the Vichy Government and neutral in the further conflict. Indochina, of which Vietnam was a part, belonged to the latter and stood with Vichy. But Vichy was weak and could do little for
its loyal Overseas Departments.
When in September 1939 the Second World War in Europe had begun everything was still very quiet and normal in Vietnam. In 1940 Vietnamese Scouting celebrated its 10th anniversary with a camp at Rung Sat. When France had been occupied by the Germans, cummunicating with Scouting Francais became impossible and it was decided to create the Huong Dao Viet Nam, the HDVN or National Vietnamese Scouting Organisation. Its NHQ in Hanoi. In 1941 a national camp was held.
In December 1941 Japan entered the war with its surprise attack on the US Naval Base Pearl Harbour (Hawaii). At the same time its invasion fleets were landing troops on the coasts of Malaysia, the Philippines and a little later the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia). But even before its attacks, Japan from its occupied parts of China - with which it had been at war many years - had already infiltrated into French Indochina and the Vichy government was powerless and could not stop them and neither could the Frenchmen on the spot. When the Far East War had begun nothing restrained the Japanese from landing more troops and occupying the country. But whereas elsewhere, on the Philippines, in Malaysia, Singapore and the Dutch East Indies, all the Europeans were interned in camps, the French in Vietnam and the other parts of Indochina were not. That is until March 1944 when the Japanese took over and the Frenchmen were also removed from the scene and also detained in camps. The reason why was that Vichy France was co-operating or rather colaborating with Japan's ally Nazi-Germany, and innitially the Japanese did not consider Vietnam as being enemy territory. The French administrative machinery was permitted to carry on, be it under Japanese supervision. This situation, Whites being controled by Asians, was hitherto unknown and something brand new, and did not go unnoticed. The Vietnamese - as all other peoples living in colonies - had always resented the White supremacy and were of the opinion that the people was very well
able to rule the country without the French, provided the leaders-to-be had had a good education and who better to provide same than the French. So many of the well-to-do Vietnamese sent their children to France to study at the universities. (1). Others, particularly the poorer, came under the influence of communism and a Vietnamese Communist Party was founded illegally. It, with the support of the Soviet Union, also sent promising, young party members to Europe for further training.
One of them was Nguyen Tat Tahnh (19/05/1890 - 03/09/1969), nicknamed Nguyen Ai Quoc or Nguyen the Patriot (!) and after World War Two world wide known as Ho Chi Minh. As he greatly influenced scouting's further history and development, it is essential to pay some attention to him. His father was a rather well-to-do person, but also a patriot. In 1911 he signed on as a steward in a French boat and got to France, but also England, Germany and the USA.
In 1919 he joined the French Socialist Party but as early as 1920 he was one of the founders of the French communist party. In 1924 he went to Moscow for a special training and later still the Komintern (Communist International), a body set up to spread communism all over the world, sent him to China as its agent, where he operated from 1925 - 1927. From 1933 - 1938 studied in Moscow at the Party Academy. Thereafter he was sent to China again to support Mao Tse Tung, the leader of the communist Chinese army fighting the Japanese who were in occupation of large parts of China. But in 1941 he received orders from Moscow to return to Vietnam.
During the Japanese era, in particular in southern Vietnam, in 1941, an organisation came to being named Viet Nam Doc Lap Minh Hoi or the Vietnam Independence League better known as the Viet Minh. It was a guerrilla force in which nationalists and communists united.
They were supplied and supported by the Allied airforces, and harassed the Japanese, but also made it quite clear that they were not in favour of the return of the French administration, desiring independence once the war would be over. The shrewd communists - having other plans and intending to establish a communist Vietnam (but not mentioning this) - were also involved, but stayed well in the background, so as - at this stage - not to alarm the real nationalists too much.
By the time that the Japanese infiltrated and when in March 1944 they interned the French, Huong Dao Viet Nam had already been Vietnamized though there were still some French leaders and scouts active. When the French had been taken out of circulation by the Japanese, they - no doubt - were missed, but the capable Vietnamese leaders were very well able to cope. In Japan the government had disbanded and banned the Japanese Scout Movement as it did in the countries it conquered. Whether such a measure was officially taken in Vietnam has not been traced. At the grass root level scouts used to still meet but the developments came to a standstill. Also many Vietnamese scouts, rovers and leaders joined the Viet-Minh and no doubt played a useful part thanks to their training. Hoang Dao Thuy, one of Scouting's Founder Fathers, was a high ranking officer in the partisans.
June 6th, 1944, D(ecision)-Day, the Invasion. Allied forces, including the Free French, stormed the Normandy beaches, penetrated Adolf Hitler's Atlantic Wall and slowly at first but a little later quite swiftly France was being liberated by the Allies and the Maquis, the FrenchUnderground and armed Resistance. The latter liberated Paris when the Free French Army and the Americans were approaching its outskirts. The Vichy government, or what was left of it, escaped to Germany. General de Gaulle and his Free French took over.
In Vietnam, Laos and Combodia, Japan now turned really nasty and all remaining Frenchmen and their loyal locals were taken out of circulation. Japan never intended to promote the independence of the former British, Dutch and French colonies nor that of the Philippines, a US dependency. They simply wished to take over and colonize them themselves. They never made promises, just used the nationalists and some of them fell for it. But in 1944 they realised that the war in Europe would be over soon and that thereafter all Allied power and strength would be concentrated on them. They changed their tune, spoke of the Liberation of South East Asia, a New Order under Japanese leadership and independence. Thus they promoted already excisting feelings of nationalism and they planted a booby-trap which would cause the Allies or rather the former colonial rulers lots of trouble in the years thereafter.
Hoping to get the Asian peoples on its side in the coming final stage of the war, the Japan offered the nationalists the Independence, be it under their supervision. Such celebrations and ceremonies were staged when the war was almost over.
In the Dutch East Indies Sukarno was permitted to declare the Republic of Indonesia. In Vietnam, August 1945, the Japanese gracefully handed over Vietnam to the nationalist and rebel Son Ngac Than.
Already having lost thousands of young men and realising that an invasion of Japan might cost them millions of lives more, the Allies decided to end the war by using the recently developped nuclear weapons. The only two atomic bombs ever used in anger (so far) were dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This ended the war in the Far East. Japan on September 2nd, 1945 signed the unconditional surrender on board an American man-of-war in the Tokyo Bay.
In the northern part of Vietnam the Japanese were disarmed by the Chinese Nationalist forces, in the southern area by the British Army. But both allied forces also met the Vietminh which emerged from the jungles and entered the cities. Emperor Boa Dai abdicated in favor of the Viet-Minh, which set up a provisory government in Hanoi under the leadership of Ho Chi Minh, who as head of same, on August 19thm 1945 proclaimed the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
The French had meanwhile been released from the internment camps. Thinking that nothing had changed during the war, they set out to restore their regime, not taking seriously or ignoring the Vietminh Nationalists. (The Dutch made the same mistake in Indonesia.) But it soon dawned on them that the Vietnamese, like many others, felt quite capable of taking their own destiny and government into their own hands - or rather in those of their leaders, most of whom had studied at French Universities etc. - and that they refused to accept French authority any longer. There was some fighting.
In March 1946 the first negotiations were held in Fountainebleau near Paris and Ho Chi Minh was present. The French were forced to recognize Vietnamese independence. Yet - trying tokeep a finger on the pulse and in order to keep some supervision and influence - they proposed that Vietnam would be part of an Indochinese Federation which in turn would be part of a French Union. But that was not what the Viet Minh had in mind. They wanted the French out definitely. So in the night of December 19, 1946 the Viet Minh took up arms again and launched attacks against the French forces. The first Vietnam War began and ended when the remaining French forces (mainly Foreign Legion), surrounded in the city of Dien Bien Phu, surrendered to the Viet Minh on May 7th, 1954. In July 1954 the last French military forces were withdrawn from Vietnam and the French era was over forever.
In 1945 Ho Chi Minh, head of government, was approached by the scoutleaders who had been serving in the Viet-Minh partisans. They informed him of their intentions to re-activate the Huong Dao Viet Nam (the National Vietnamese Scouting Organization) and actually did so in November 1945, but this time as a truly National Scout Organisation, the emphasis on National, and seeking the World Movement's recognition. But it still had a long way to go.
In December 1945 Hoang Dao Thuy organized a large scout camp in Hanoi to celebrate the "Victory of the Revolution". Ho Chi Minh visited the camp and was greeted by the organizer and camp chief and Tran Duy Hung, mayor of Hanoi and member of the influential Rover Crew "Lam Son" (2a, 2b, 3a.)
Ho Chi Minh had expressed some undertanding of the scouting ideals, and seemed especially attracted by the world brotherhood and the equality of all scouts which indeed did fit in the communist ideology. Yet he told the leadership to go ahead but to convert the movement into the "Scouts Patriots" , an organisation with a communist flavour. Some leaders were in favour, some - in particular the roman catholics and the protestants - rejected the idea. One in favour was Nguyen Huu Dang (3a). One opposing was influential Vo Thanh Minh. He spoke to Ho Chi Minh and urgently requested him not to carry out his plans and to let scouting exist as the non-political organization it had been and should be in accordance with the international rules. The name change was put to the vote but the majority voted against and the name adopted was Hoi Huong Dao Viet Nam. Hoang Van Quy was elected Commissioner General. Ho Chi Minh signed a degree recognizing the association and also accepted to be its Honorary President.
Vietnam was independent but its troubles were not over. HoChi Minh openly declared that Vietnam was to become a communist People's Republic, a one party state under his leadership. Not all the Vietnamese Nationalists fancied this idea and there was opposition and a division in the Viet-Minh, the nationalist separating themselves from the communists.
A second nationalistic government had already been set up. It came to clashes between the nationalists and the communists. In July 1954 an international conference was called at Geneva and a temporary solution was found in dividing Vietnam into two separate states.
Communist North Vietnam, capital Hanoi under the leadership of Ho Tsji Mnh and South Vietnam with Saigon as its capital under the leadership of Ngo Dinh Diem, a roman catholic. Thousands of Vietnamese were hitting the roads, some going to the North, others going to the South.
Prominent Scoutleader Vo-Thanh-Minh (about whom more later) was not at all in favour of the division of his beloved country and attracted international attention when he protested in a striking way. Having arrived in Geneva during the conference, he pitched his tent - of all places
- right in the middle of the Garden of the United Nation's Palais des Nations - spoke to the press and went on hunger strike. To no avail and he returned to South Vietnam to dedicate his further life to Scouting.
Little is known regarding what happened to Scouting in North Vietnam after 1954. But - as it was said - the movement thereafter " quickly joined the population on the path of revolution". There was - at first in North Vietnam only (after 1975 in all of Vietnam) a Communnist Youth Organization, a Pioneer type youth movement with - initially - a compulsory - and later- a more relaxed, voluntary membership. Whether the "Scouts Patriots" that Ho Chi Minh advocated have ever been and whether they were the basic of the Communist Youth Organization could not be traced. Neither whether the scouts that sided with Ho Chi Minh had any influence e.g. by introducing the scouting methods.
When it was decided (1954) to divide Vietnam in North and South, the NHQ of the National Scout Organization Hoi Huong Dao Viet Nam was moved from Hanoi to Saigon.
Girls had been involved in Scouting almost from the start. But the Roman Catholic Church had a lot of influence and, apparently, as in many other countries it was - in the early days - opposed to Guiding for its girls. It expected the "rough sides and elements of Scouting" to be harmful to the girls' tender souls and characters and was afraid too that they might be losing their feminine charms turning into "tomboys" or "she-men". Ofcourse there were girls of other denominations and the first girl scout units were created within the scout movement. Rather late, in 1957, a separate South Vietnamese Girl Guide Association was founded to be recognized as an official member by WAGGGS in 1966.
In the South Vietnam Scouting developped reasonably well. In 1957 a leaders training centre "Tung Nguyen" was opened in Dalat under the leadership of DCC Cung Giu Nquyen, later to be succeeded by Mai Ngoc Lieu. World Movement's Representatives came to visit and it was found that the movement met all the requirements and (1957), as HOI-HUONG-DAO VIET- NAM, the movement was recognized by the International (now World) Committee and admitted to the World Movement.
In 1959 the Vietnamese scouts were celebrating the 30th anniversary of their Scouting with a National Camp at Trang Bom and a contingent went to the 10th World Jamboree near Mount Makeling in the Philippines (1959).
All seemed well but not for long.
South Vietnam, as mentioned earlier, was led by Ngo Dinh Diem. He was a fierce anti- communist but made the terrible mistake of lumping all his opponents together and branding them all as being communists. This caused difficulties and discontent and in 1960 some of his opponents took up arms and created a new partisan movement. The communists in the north and the south jumped at the opportunity to infiltrate the discontents and gradually the partisan movement was brought under their influence and got to be known as the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam better known as the Viet-Cong (Cong = communist). Whereupon the real democrats, also opposing the regime, gradually left the Viet Cong.
Ofcourse the Viet-Cong could count on North Vietnam's full support. The latter in turn was supported by the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China, who liked nothing better than a bit of unrest in South East Asia which might promote the spreading of communism and the increase of their influences. Arms and other equipment were being provided and used. But North Vietnam "volunteers" were also rushing in to join and reinforce the Viet-Cong brothers in their fight for the "liberation" of South Vietnam.
At the same time in other parts of the Far East communist take-overs were tried but were sometimes prevented (Indonesia) or communist partisans were causing a lot of trouble without succeeding (Malaysia).
This was the period of the Cold War between the Free Western World and the communist block. The one side led by the United States of America and the other side under the direction of Moscow. The Americans and the Australians got worried and wanted to prevent the growth of communist influence in the Far East. So they decided to support South Vietnam, at first sending arms and equipment, then small units of military advisors only, but soon getting involved on a much larger scale and sending thousands of soldiers to do the real fighting.
Meanwhile the "secret and silent" North Vietnamese support to the Viet-Cong also underwent a drastical change. "Volunteers" the size of complete North Vietnamese army units were now sent and thereafter the North Vietnamese army was officially marching in as well. Soon all were involved in the fighting which had turned into a full and open war but still with a lot of guerilla elements. The US Army, which so far had never lost a war, was now faced with a problem and was taught a lesson which the Germans (in Europe), the French (in Vietnam and North Africa) the British (on Cyprus in Palestine and Kenya) and the Russians (in Ukraine) had learned, viz that a modern army, however well trained and well equiped, is not always a match for querillas who are almost invisible. The one moment acting as peaceful workers in the fields, the next moment grabbing their hidden arms and opening up. During the Tet offensive (1968) the South Vietnamese and the Americans could only just stop the Viet-Cong from reaching Saigon's outskirts and could only just repel them with tanks, their superior artillery and the airforce. But slowly South Vietnam - step by step - was conquered by the opponents.
As was to be exptected this war also influenced Vietnamese Scouting. Leaders and Rover Scouts were called up for military service and many were killed in action. The younger scouts and guides were rendering their services to the hard hit population, the majority of which was reduced to poverty, reason why, in total despair, it sometimes joined the Viet Cong or at least supported it.
Many scouts and leaders, either in the armed forces or as a result of the fighting in which civilians got entrapped, lost their lives or just vanished into thin air. Some well known leaders were lost. Vo-Thanh-Minh, the one that out of protest, once pitched his tent in the garden of the UN building in Geneva (as mentioned earlier), during the Ted offensive led an action to come to the resque of the many civilian victims. He was taken prisoners by the Viet-Cong and vanished forever. Tran-Dien, the national commissioner for Rover Scouts and an opposition senator in the South Vietnamese parliament, was also seen to be caught during the Ted offensive and disappeared without a trace. Both are supposed to have been executed immediately after their capture.
Despite everything Scouting carried on and under the circumstances it cannot have been very pleasant as by now real war was being waged in the country. Yet the movement managed to celebrate its 40th anniversary with another National Camp at Thu Duc. The camp's name was Suoi Tien or Fairy's Source. US scouts participated in the event. In 1971 a fair Vietnamese contingent participated in the 13th World Jamboree at Asagiri Heights in Japan. In 1974 another National Camp was organized in Thu Duc, near Saigon, named "Tu Luc" (=Self Reliance) Camp. A 1975 census revealed that there were 17.000 scouts in South Vietnam.
Meanwhile the population of the United States of America had enough of the war and thegovernment slowly withdrew its forces from Vietnam. Feeling that the end was near, large numbers of South Vietnamese left the country and in the end it was just the city of Saigon which was still defended by South Vietnamese troops and a handful of Americans. But the latter were just protecting their retreat and in May 1975 the world, Life-on-TV, watched those dramatic and chaotic moments when the last Americans and some Vietnamese were lifted out of the American embassy by US Navy helicopters. In the city Viet-Cong or North Vietnamese snipers were already in evidence and not much later the victorious Viet-Cong and
North Vietnamese troops marched into the city and took over.
South Vietnam was reunited with North Vietnam and the two carried on as the People's Republic of Vietnam. Capital Hanoi. The city of Saigon was renamed to be Ho Tsji Min City, thus was honoured their great leader who had died on September 3rd, 1969. As usual the new authorities began by cleansing the country of all those who had opposed them but also of those who might become a danger to them as - when left alone - they might become leaders of a future opposition or resistance. All those suspected of having leader's capacities, such as university professors, teachers, other intelectuals, not forgetting scoutleaders, were arrested and if not killed immediately they were sent to "re-eduction camps" which most of them did not survive. Scouting and Guiding ceased to be and were banned, disbanded and persecuted. South Vietnam disappeared behind the Bamboo Curtain, which was as effective as the Iron Curtain in Europe.
Thousands, having served the South Vietnamese government and the American Forces, defending their freedom and country, had already fled the country and in the years thereafter many more thousands tried an escape. In larger and smaller boats they set sail for the open sea. Thousands did not make it, starved or drowned when their overloaded, frail vessels sank. If they were lucky these "boat refugees", as they were called, were picked up by passing container or other seagoing vessels. The countries whose flags these ships were flying were obliged to offer them refuge. So apart from the United Sates, which had its fair share of refugees, sea going nations like Great Britain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Germany etc also accommodated many. But France was the Vietnameses' favourite country the more so as most of them spoke French and so the language was not a problem as in other countries.
Some were less lucky when they did not meet foreign ships on the high seas and their crafts stranded on the beaches of Malaysia, Indonesia or the Philippines. They were put in camps with nowhere else to go and only the International Red Cross to care. But even then the scouts among them united, helped their compatriots and gave to but also received valuable assistance from the United Nations' High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Red Cross. They even provided scout uniforms and other equipment.
And so many Vietnamese scouts and guides settled in countries foreign to them. Wheresoever they landed in sufficient quantitites they founded Vietnamese groups and resumed their scouting activities. They communicated with the National Bureaus of the Scout organisations in their new countries of residence, were given support and the possibility of joining the movement as special groups. Individual scouts and guides were made welcome by local groups.
After the fall of Saigon and the communist victory in Vietnam, Some of members of the Hoi Huong Dao Viet Nam NHQ staff had also managed to escape. Nguyen Quang Minh, a former Secretary General, settled in the USA and with others undertook action to communicate with the Vietnamese scouts scattered all over the world and he also reported back to WOSM's World Bureau in Geneva. Hoi Huong-Dao Viet-Nam, having been a recognized NSO and a member of the World Movement, the Vietnamese - in the past - had been involved in the World Conference's many and lengthy discussions regarding the Exile Movements and they understood full well that it was no use creating just another one, the World Movement not being able to recognise and admit movements not operating within the national boundaries of their country. (See Chapter One of THE UNDAUNTED I) It came to a meeting between WOSM's Secretary General Laszlo Nagy and the Vietnamese top leadership. The latter first of all and uppermost wanting their scouts to remain members of the World Movement able to enjoy all the benefits and training possibilites. Emphasizing this they discussed the matter with WOSM's Secretary General and in mutual agreement it was decided that no Vietnamese Movement-in-Exile would be founded. So, in co-operation with WOSM's Secreary General it was agreed to urge all Vietnamese groups, all over the world, to join the NSOs of their new countries of residence. The NSOs in turn were asked to give these groups a special status within their movements, allowing them the use their own language and traditions, permitting them to wear a (South) Vietnamese flag badge in addition to the national badges of the country involved. Further it was agreed that a "Liaison Office of Vietnamese Scouting Abroad" would be established, chaired by Mai Ngoc Lieu and Nguyen Quang acting as Secretary General (1976-1979). In 1983, following a meeting in California/USA, a Vietnamese co- ordinating committee was created named Hoi-Dong Trung-Uong Hong-Dao Vietnam or International Central Committee of Vietnamese Scouting (ICCVS), initially based in Houston, Texas, USA. Its first President was Tran Van Khac, in 1930 one of the founders of the first all- Vietnamese groups in Hanoi, later the stimulator of scouting in the south of Vietnam and later still its President. He too had managed to leave Saigon and had settled in Canada. Once again this loyal veteran was very active, encouraging the establishing of many groups in that country. He retired from ICCVS in 1985 and passed away in 1994. The Presidency was than taken over by Nguyen Van Tho who had been President of Vietnamese Scouting when Saigon was taken by the Communists and in the nineties he was succeeded by Vinh Dao, presently residing in France. (Who has been very helpful to the author.)
The Committee, true to the agreement with WOSM, as such never acted as a NHQ of a Vietnamese Exile Movement but restricted itself to assisting, promoting and sponsering the groups in their various new countries of residence.
There being thousands of Vietnamese refugees in many countries such as the USA, Great Britain, Norway, Australia, Japan, Great Britain, the Netherlands and Germany and others, many groups were founded and they all joined the NSOs of their new countries of residence. In France - ofcourse - there had always been Vietnamese groups. In the beginning mainly consisting of students. When France had left Vietnam and the country obtained its independence, some more Vietnamese, who, for reasons of their own, could not stay in their country of birth, came to France for a more permanent stay, and more groups had been founded. The membership of which was now augmented by the new refugees and later supplemented by "boat refugees". They were found in Ile de France (Paris, Lognes, Saint- Quentin-en-Yvelines and Evry) but also in Limoges, Mote, Lyon, Brest, Strasbourg and Troyes. An arrangement was made with de Federation de Scoutisme Francais which offered the groups an associated membership. Consequently the Vietnamese participated in all activities and training programs the French associations were offering and - also important - thus were WOSM members. The French movements always aimed at, with the help of the Scouting system and method, to accelerate and promote the integration of Vietnamese Youth in the French society. It is not surprising that Hoi-Dong Trung-Uong Huong-Dao Vietnam (= International Central Committee of Vietnamese Scouting) later moved its seat to Guyancourt/France and in the nineties it was led by Vinh Dao. The Committee organized and led several International Camps in various parts of the world and Vietnamese scouts were flown in from all over the world to participate. The first one was held in Jambville/France in 1985, followed by similar camps in Canada, Austalia and the USA.
"Meanwhile the world has changed a lot. In 1989 the European Iron Curtain was opened The Berlin Wall - its main symbol - , came tumbling down. The communist system of the East Block countries collapsed. The Soviet Union ceased to be. The Cold War was over. Even the People's Republic of China relaxed and Vietnam, sealed off from the world for decades, also opened its borders to visitors again. Apart from American and other foreign tourists even the American veterans of the Vietnam war were welcome to come and see the country once more. Western products as Coca-Cola etc. were made available again.
In the former Eastblock countries Scouting and Guiding either revived or were founded - for the first time. So one wonders about Scouting in Vietnam. It has been rpoven that despite the communist regime scouting has never been routed out. In particular in Roman Catholic circles it was kept alive. Will it ever revive officially ? One day it
certainly will !
© Piet J. Kroonenberg, Amsterdam, January, 2000. FOOTNOTES.
1) One of the things that history teaches is that a nation - with an ancient civilization and many old traditions - once conquered and ruled by a foreign, mostly European power, in the long run feels the urge to become independent. The colonizers, aware of this, always did everything to nip in the bud all awaking nationalism. But on the other hand most of the colonial powers also provided education. Not only locally. Bright, promising youngsters were enabled to go to European universities. On arrival they met the people by whom they were accepted on equal terms. Such contrary to what they were used to experiencing in their homelands where there was always - and after their return would be again - a barrier between the "whites" and them. Buth having completed their studies, on return to their homelands, they in no way felt inferior to the "whites" in charge and they considered themselves very well capable of running their own country. The only problem was how to attain this. Some chose the democratic way, whereas others thought this a process far too slow and applied other means, such as armed rebellion. Nationalists they all were.
World War Two interrupted the pursuit of independence but on the other hand promoted it. The Japanese infiltration was not welcomed and, when the Japanese had removed the Vichy Government, it was considered to be no improvement of the general situation but more as a replacement of the one colonizer by the other.
2a) Most of the Vietnamese scout leaders and older scouts were nationalists. The "Lam-Son" Rover Crew was something special. Some of its Rover Scouts were students and some of them studied at French Universities. They were also very keen Scouts and played an important role in the development of Vietnamese Scouting. But they also belonged to those Vietnamese who were of the opinion that they, with their education and background, were very well capable of leading their own country and that they did not necessarily need the French to do it for them. So they joined the partisans of the Vietminh which harassed the Japanese but made it also quite clear that a return of the French administration would not be tolerated either. When the French had been evicted but the country had been split in two independent states scouts were found in both parts. They were all good scouts but also nationalists. Some of them thought that Ho Tsji Minh's communist system was the right thing for Vietnam and so they sided with him, whereas others stuck to South Vietnam.
2b) Some "LAM-SON" Rovers went on to obtain high ranks in the South as well as the North Vietnam governments. In Ho Tsji Minh's North Vietnamese administration Pham Ngoc Thach, a medical doctor, became Minister for Health, Mai Van Bo North Vietman's ambassador to France in the 1980s. Ta Quang Buu who in the 1940s he had been Chief Commissioner of the Scouts in Central Vietnam was appointed Deputy Defence Minister and as such, on behalf of the Vietcong, signed the Geneva agreements in 1954 and later became Minister for Higher Education. Tran Duy Hung, another medical doctor, in the late fourties and the fifties was mayor of the city of Hanoi. DCC Ta Quang Buu, Hoang Dao Thuy's son-in-law was North Vietnam's Vice-Minister of Defence and was in its delegation to the 1956 Geneva Conference which divided Vietnam. On the other side were two other "LAM-SON" Rovers, Cung Cung Giu and Tran Van Tuyen. Tran Van Tuyen in 1948 was appointed Minister of Information in the South Vietnamese Republic and later acted as Deputy Prime Minister of same. After the communist victory in 1975 he was sent to a re-education camp where he died in 1976. Cung Giu Nguyen, a writer and a scholar, was a DCC and a long time in charge of the movement's leaders' training.
3a) Nguyen Huu Dang was also one of the LAM-SON Rovers that played an important part in pre-war Vietnamese Scouting. He was also involved in the "Association Promoting the development of the Vietnamese language and the introduction of the European alphabet".
Further he was a prominent prostestant. A convinced bachelor leading a very Spartan life-style without any luxeries. But he was also a very humble person who kept a low profile, despite the fact that he was an important and prominent worker in Scouting, his church and his language association. He always very much remained a vaque, unknown figure in the three of them refusing to step into the limelight and reluctant to accept the acclaim his work entitled him to. So it came as a complete surprise to all knowing him when in August 1945 they read in the press that Ho Tsji Minh had appointed him to be his Minister of Education, Youth Work and Culture. It was revealed that during his Scouting leadership, as well as his membership of the Protestant Church and his work for the Language Association, he had for a considerable long time been a secret member of the - in pre-war times illegal - communist party and that he had even been a member of its Polit Bureau, its top leadership. All the time his task had been to influence the intellectuals and attract them to the party and secondly he had been forming communist cells and "planting moles" in the organisations he was working for.
He - a Scout - obviously wanted to keep Scouting going and certainly he had no problem with Ho-Tsji-Minh's wish to turn Scouting into a communist youth movement with an outward scouting appearance. He arranged a "spontaneous" meeting with the Chief Scout Hoang Dao Thuy, the latter's son-in-law Ta Quand Buu and some other important leaders and tried to persuade them to join the communists and, most important of all, to bring the Scout Movement to the benefit of its members. Struck by unbelieve those present had to discover that their long serving, trusted brother scout revealed himself as an equally long serving communist infiltrator and mole. Flabbergasted they left and went their separate ways, never to meet again.
3b) Nguyen Huu Dang's friends and former friends had another surprise coming. The North Vietnamese government pretended to introduce more openness and launched a campaign officially named "One Hundred Flowers Blossom" inviting and encouraging intellectuals to openly criticize the government's policies and actions. Now, amongst other things, Ho Chi Minh and his government in communist North Vietnam introduced agrarian reforms like the ones Mao Tse Tung had carried out in the People's Republic of China. Further was also demanded liberalisation of the government, more freedom of expression and creation, real democracy with a more humane attitude towards the people. But when the invited criticism came forward, there were mass arrests, and it was proven that the government's true aim had been to identify hidden opponents to the regime.
The surprise was that, in 1956, Nguyen Huu Dang was officially named as and accused of being the leader of a large group of North Vietnamese writers, medical people and other intellectuals known as the "Flower Men". After their arrests Nguyen Huu Dang and his followers disappeared without a trace into the "black hole" of history during one of the well staged purification processes that were so often used to rid the party of its discontents and disappointed.
Either he had become a burden to the party and an excuse had to be found to expell and get rid of him, or - the accusation was correct and truthful - which is not certain - and he really was the "Flower Men's" leader and spokesman, it might have been a sign that he turned away from the marxist-leninist conviction and desired a "communism with a humane face". The possibility of a disappointment in the system and a changed point of view are not to be ruled out. The Vietnamese and other scouts that knew him prefered not to remember him as the "false brother" but as one of the culprits of circumstances that he, an idealist, did not quite understand or had not had in his grip. He - like many Christians - knew that the first followers of Jesus had lived in communities, the well-to-do and the rich caring for and sharing with the poor and no one in want of anything. A real and pure communist or socialist life style that had not lasted very long. Add to this the Scouting ideals of World Wide Brotherhood and equality of all as well as the patriotic feelings and, the combination of it all may well have confused his thinking in such a way that he may have thought that the fullfilment of his idealistic dreams were to be found in communism, as so many others Christians did. Until they found that
Communism was a stonehard, surpressing dictatorship that had nothing in common with democratic-socialism.