THE VIETNAMESE GULAG by Doan Van & David Chanoff Toai

THE VIETNAMESE GULAG

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A young, idealistic South Vietnamese who sympathized with the Vietcong and, in the early 70's, led open student protests against the Thieu regime, sees his country transformed into an oppressive, highly regimented Communist dictatorship. Toai now lives in the US. Imprisoned briefly by the Thieu police for opposing the government, soon after the fall of Saigon Toai was again imprisoned, this time by the revolutionaries he had supported and actively helped. No charges were ever brought, no trial held. During his interrogations, all he learned was that though the communists know he was a supporter, they believed he wasn't quite supportive enough--because he refused invitations to become a full-fledged Vietcong member--thereby subjecting himself to party discipline. He evaded the formal commitment because he preferred to operate as a free-lancer, his own man. The party took this as a degree of personal independence it could not tolerate, probably because it would set a bad example for others. Toai spent 28 months in a small prison in a Saigon suburb. He was kept in isolation, then in a cell with 71 others. They were so tightly packed that no one could lie on his back to sleep and when one turned, all had to turn. The inmates spent 24 hours a day in the cell, with no recreation or exercise periods. Toai was tortured by being placed in an isolation cell with his left wrist handcuffed to his right ankle and his right wrist to his left ankle and left that way for three weeks; the cuffs were taken off only twice a day for five minutes so he could use the toilet. This is the first full-length description by a Vietnamese of what has happened to the Southern population since the Northern takeover. He says it has been turned into a ""giant prison camp."" "". . .the apparatus of control was as tight as possible (given the number of people to be watched), with watchers set over groups of families, blocks, neighborhoods, and districts. Within the party itself, the monitoring was constant. . . At every level, fear was the motivator."" A compelling story, replete with echoes of Kafka, Koestler and Solzhenitzyn.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1986
Publisher: Simon & Schuster