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Sunday, 21 August 2011

Of assassinations and hippies. Saigon. Vietnam memories 1965 1975



Of assassinations and hippies. Saigon. Vietnam

Any young man with long hair tended to get arrested. I rather approved as I have always been a 'short back and sides' person. But cars decorated with flowers obviously represented 'the flower people' therefore anti-war hippies therefore pro-communists. I believe Singapore at that time had some law against beards. All of this was repressive of course. The South never seemed to be able to install any patriotic fervour in its people. I did some teaching at the university at this time but avoided any close associations with the students.

A member of KC's family was assassinated. Her family was of course very large and at times it was difficult to distinguish the exact relationship of everybody. The Prime Minister, a very old, rather popular figure called Hung, was an uncle. She could remember driving up to Dalat with him at night once, which goes to show how the situation on the ground had changed. I can remember seeing him riding around Vung Tau on a bicycle. Popular but very much of a figure head in the continual rivalvry between Thieu and Nguyen Cao Khy.

Anyway this fellow who was assassinated had been the Minister of Education. He was adamantly against students going abroad to continue their studies and not coming back again. He tried to put a stop to it. The students of course were mostly the sons of the rich and powerful. I can't remember if he had a grenade thrown into his car or if it was booby trapped. I don't think in fact the story was ever very clear. It was said to be the work of the Viet Cong but there was also some doubt over that. It was felt that he had created many enemies amongst the ruling class in the south.

I remember all this because of a very silly incident to do with me. I accompanied KC to pay my respects to the family of the assassinated minister. Whilst there I had to pray a moment before the family altar. To do this I had to remove my shoes. Whilst kneeling I remembered I had the most enormous hole in one of my socks. My mother would have been horrified. Perhaps the people present were too overcome with grief to take much notice.

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