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Friday, 18 May 2007

Students take over the Cambodian Embassy. Saigon. Vietnam

During the South Vietnamese incursion into Cambodia there was a lot of ill feeling. The students occupied the Cambodian Embassy which was just around the corner from the school. At first I was often there with other journalists seeing if the police would assault it. As I knew some of the students I took to visiting them inside and discussing the situation. The government appeared to be keeping everything low key and avoiding a direct confrontation.

One day at twelve o'clock as our classes were leaving the school a mob of students surged out of the end of the lane and, mixed with our pupils. Suddenly the riot police appeared at the other end and charged the students. Both sides must have been expecting each other and our hapless pupils got caught up in the middle. The students and pupils took refuge in the school and shut the iron gates. The police then bombarded us with tear gas. As we couldn't get away the situation became very uncomfortable. The teachers managed to maintain the gates closed whilst trying to calm the police down. The students generally tried to avoid a physical combat with the police if possible and were now pretending to be pupils at the school. Eventually order was restored. I closed the school down for the rest of the day. Mrs Contento, the Directrice, was not happy about that but she had not been there in the morning.

A day or two later the ploice stormed the embassy at three o'clock in the morning and put an end to the occupation.

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