In memory of Victims of Land Reform in North Viet Nam 1950s'
NGUYEN THI NAM. A victim of Land Reform
The story of Mrs. (Madam) NGUYEN-THI-NAMAuthor: Tran-Gia-PhungTranslator: Timothy Tran
Under the (Vietnamese) communist regime, there were many cases of people being brutalized, most notably was the case of Nguyen-Thi-Nam in the so-called "Land Reform" of 1953. Before getting to know more about Mrs. Nam ("five", fifth of family siblings), readers are introduced to some background concerning the "Land Reform of communist Viet-Nam".
In the mid-20th century, when communism took roots in the North of Viet-Nam in 1945, Viet-Nam was an un-mechanized (under-developed) agricultural country, with the majority of the poor living in rural areas. The communists who organize Land Reform, though, propagandized that "the land is (to be) shared equally among farmers", but the fact is the communists wanted to control the countryside, destroy the wealthy landlords, and rob (illegally take) their land and put it into the state-run agricultural cooperative, and attempted to monopolize the entire nation's agricultural land(s).
The Land Reform was divided into five phases:1) The First phase in 1949 (Decree No. 78 / SL dated July 14, 1949).2) The Second phase of 1950 (Decree No. 20 / SL of February 12, 1950, Decree No. 89 / FL of May 22, 1950 and Decree No. 90 / FL of May 22, 1950). )3) The Third phase in early 1953, the decree on April 20, 1953.4) The Fourth phase at the end of 1953: The Decree in December 1953.5) The Fifth phase was after the Geneva Accords (20-7-1954), when Vietnam was divided, the Communists re-implemented the Land Reform by the Moratorium (Decree) of June 14, 1955 in North Viet-Nam.
In these five phases, the first two phases were relatively benign, as the communists were still in the weaker position during the struggle between the Nationalists (which included the communists) and the French colonialists - the struggle exploded into an all-out uprising (war of Independence) on 19 December 1946. Communists needed to call on the citizens of Viet-Nam (but mainly the farmers) to support and increase production to feed the troops, and to serve the needs of the battlefield. Since 1950, when the People's Republic of China and the Soviet Union pledged abundant support to (and for) the Vietnamese communists, and (the Third International Communism) specifically ordered the communists to carry out land reform in the Chinese style. The land was carried out with absolute severity from the third phase onwards. The last land reform of 1955 in North Vietnam was the most brutal, ending with the killing of 172,008 citizens who was type-casted (finger-pointed as) the "landlords". (Dang Phong, History of Vietnam's Economy, 1945-2000, Volume II: 1955-1975, Hanoi: Social Science Publishing House, p. 85.)
Nguyen Thi Nam's trial fell in the third phase in 1953. Since that year, the communists began organizing "the People's courts" to denounce the "Land-owners and the Bourgeoisies (rich and educated)". Courts are held in the reformed areas. The judge was (usually) a peasant who had worked in the defendant's home, knowing the defendant's background and family. In addition to the judge, there are also people who play the role of "attorney(s)", who denounced the victims (and served) as proof of the victim's conviction, no one plays the defense lawyer, nor did anyone dare to defend the victim(s).
The trial is not based on Law, only based on the decisions of the Reform Committee. Torture methods take place in grades (from severe, so called "mild" to brutal, so called "appropriate"), with absolute cruelty. After the victims had succumbed (usually beaten into submission), the reform panel rehearsed (all answers) before the trial. They obliged the "judge," "the attorney," and the victims to learn by heart he answer, until the court was ready to open the trial.
The trial is held at a public place in the village. Everyone in the village must attend, including relatives in the victim's family. The victim was tied up, forced to kneel in front of the judge's desk. After the court took an oath (by the accused) in accordance with the previous template, attendants and witnesses denounced the "crime" of the victims. Family members are also forced to accompany the court, accusing the victims. Finally, the "attorney" stood up to accuse the victims and proposed a sentence was decided (pre-meditated and pre-arranged) by the Reform Panel. This verdict is final and is executed immediately. Victims must accept the results of the sentence, without complain (or re-trial).
Nguyen-Thi-Nam (1906-1953) was a widow living in Hai-Phong (North Viet-Nam by the East Coast), who built up a successful career and business (owning big shops in Hai-Phong) thanks to her talents. She has many different things, including the trade of metal shards and recycled metal parts. Her shop is named Cat-Hanh-Long, so Madam Nam is also known as Mrs. (Madam) Cat-Hanh-Long.
When the communists (one part of the People of Viet-Nam) began the war against France, Madam Nam assigned her son, Nguyen-Cat (nicknamed Hoang-Cong), a sum of about 700 gold taels to contribute to the "Revolution" fund at the communist base. During the "Golden Week" in Hai-Phong (1945), Madam Nam pledged another sum of over 100 taels of gold. After the war broke out (19-12-1946), she evacuated to Thai Nguyen. Here, she bought a plantation off a French citizen, so she became a land-owner. She was active in the Thai Nguyen Women's Union and had been Chairwoman of the Thai Nguyen Women's Union for three years.
From 1945 to 1951, madam "Cat-Hanh-Long" Nguyen-Thi-Nam used her house as a secret meeting place, resting, eating, nurturing and hiding communist cadres, including high-ranking figures such as Truong Chinh, Le Duc Tho, Hoang Quoc Viet, Le Van Luong, Vo Nguyen Giap, Nguyen Chi Thanh, Le Thanh Nghi, Le Gian, Hoang Tung, etc ...
Ironically, she was among the first to be accused during the Land Reform of 1953 by those whom she had assisted. She was denounced (and accused) in the People's Court (tribunal) three times from May 22, 1953 onwards, tens of thousands attended. She was executed on 9 July 1953 in Thai-Nguyen.
According to a Hanoi-based newspaper's "The Citizen" journalist, who had the task of following up to write a report on the trial of Nguyen Thi Nam, more than 50 years later, dared to recall that when Nguyen-Thi-Nam was prosecuted, three unusual facts stood out:
1) Ho-Chi-Minh, the president (prime minister) of the government, disguised as a tied-up bearded in plain clothes,
2) Truong Chinh, general secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam, wore shaded black glasses to avoid being identified when witnessing the tribunal event,
3) After Nguyen-Thi-Nam was killed, the Communist cadre bought a very cheap coffin to bury her. Because it was so cheap, the box turned out to be too small to fit her corpse. The communist cadres stood up, stomped on the chest (torso part) of madam Nam to jam her body in; broken bones could be hear in horror. (Tran Dinh, Den Cu, California: Nguoi Viet Books, 2014, pp. 84-86.)
At the trial and execution of Nguyen-Thi-Nam, public opinion was very hot (polarized), even among communist party members, because Nam was a gentle lady, generous, a benefactor of the communist party, helping many people, even helped cover communist cadres, participating actively in communist women's work. The Communists explained that the denunciation and murder of Nguyen-Thi-Nam aimed at demonstrating that Land Reform was a proletariat struggle without prejudice of the Classes, and regardless of gender between men and women.
In order to calm the public opinion, on July 21th 1953, an article of THE CITIZEN entitled "Terrible Landlord" by an author with the initials C.B appeared on the People's Daily, denouncing landlord Nguyen-Thi-Nam and her two sons as evil folks - who killed a good many people. Eventually, it was revealed that C.B. stands for CUA BAC (meaning "Of Uncle [Ho]", the pen name of Ho-Chi-Minh; so no one dared to talk about Nguyen-Thi-Nam since (that time).
TRẦN GIA PHỤNG(Toronto, Canada)Madam / Bà Nguyễn Thị Năm (Cát Hanh Long)__1/ Land Reform: a political tool used by many communist country-members of the Third International Communism to "legally rob" previous owners of their wealth.