The special national relic, Phu Quoc prison, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Kien Giang province. The evidence of colonialism, imperialism, and also of the staunch spirit of Vietnamese revolutionary soldiers are shown clearly in here.
About Phu Quoc prison
Phu Quoc prison in Cay Dua village, Kien Giang province, was built by French colonialists to imprison Vietnamese patriots. In 1967, the Saigon regime rebuilt the prison, which went under several names Cay Dua (Coconut Tree) prison, Phu Quoc Jail of Prisoners of War, and Phu Quoc Communist POWs’ Jail.
Covering 400 ha, it was the biggest prison in the south and at one point detained up to 40,000 prisoners, including many political prisoners.
Phu Quoc prison comprises 12 main sections numbering from 1 to 12. Area numbers 13 and 14 were added in 1972. Each section could accommodate 3,000 prisoners and was surrounded by 10 to 15 layers of barbed wire. In addition to fulltime prison guards, often there were 4 fully equipped battalions guarding the prison.
A historical relic
Vo Thi Thu Ha of Phu Quoc prison says that from 1967 to 1973, 4,000 prisoners died and thousands became disabled.
“Foreign visitors to Phu Quoc prison felt indignant with the prison torture. They cried often and said they could never imagine of such brutal torture by their countrymen,” said Ms Thu Ha.
Prisoners of war were severely and brutally tortured. They suffered from pre-emptive attacks in an attempt to force confession. In the following days, they were severely beaten. They were hung on hot steel scaffoldings and burned, beaten or shot. They also had to climb up and down thorny trees. Prison guard smashed finger and toe nails of prisoners and broke their teeth.
Mr. Vasseul, a visitor from France said “Like other prisons in Saigon and Con Dao, there were many barbaric methods of torture in Phu Quoc. Prisoners were confined to tiny rooms and hot containers. The more they were tortured, the more determined to stand up against the enemy the prisoners were.”
The famous site of Phu Quoc prison is the Tiger’s cage, which is 1 by 2 meters covered with barbed wire. In the Tiger’s cage, prisoners could not lie down, stand or sit because if they moved they would be scratched and cut open by barbed wire.
When it was hot, prison guards placed a furnace next to the container and when it was cold, the guards poured more water into the container. The prisoners were nailed in ankles, knees, and even the head. Excavations to search for soldier remains found some 10 cm-long nails in leg bones, knee bones, and skull.
This evidence is kept at the display area of Phu Quoc prison. Khanh Ngoc, a tourist from Hanoi said “We could never imagine of such brutal and barbaric torture in human life. We cried, admired the strong will of our predecessors, and felt grateful for their sacrifices for today’s independence and freedom.”
Phu Quoc prison receives tens of thousands of visitors every year. Among them, many are former prisoners. During the war, Phu Quoc prison was a school for patriots to sharpen their personality and fighting spirit. Today, it is a place for younger generations to learn more about the staunch spirit and sacrifices of their predecessors.
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