Exchange between Con Dao’s Former Political Prisoner – Lê Tú Cẩm and A Delegation of Japanese Teachers

In recent years, the War Remnants Museum has become a popular tourist attraction for both Vietnamese and international tourists. It is also a familiar location that regularly hosts exchanges between war witnesses and people of various types such as students and teachers from high schools and universities, women’s associations, etc. from many countries, especially those from Japan.

On December 27, 2018, an exchange between a delegation of teachers from Japan and former political prisoner Lê Tú Cẩm, who was detained in several prisons, including the so-called “hell on earth” - Con Dao Prison, was held at the museum. The meeting took place for a short period of time, just a few hours; however, the Japanese teachers were able to listen to the former female political prisoner’s talk about her own life and revolutionary activities.

Born and brought up in Saigon at the time when the country was being divided, Lê Tú Cẩm was educated in Gia Long School (now Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai High School), an all-girl school with a long tradition of revolutionary activities. Thus, just at the age of fifteen, she was fully aware of the country’s situation. Then, she actively participated in revolutionary activities. The initial activities of such a 15-year-old girl at Gia Long School were how to encourage and engage her friends to participate in revolutionary activities. Her distributing leaflets and causing explosions in the school in peak hours left a great impact on the student movements in Gia Long School as well as Saigon thereupon.

By the 1960s, when many people were arrested for participating in activities of the student movement, the girl Lê Tú Cẩm was forced to leave Gia Long School. Then she started to get more involved into revolutionary activities in the central of Saigon from 1963 until she was arrested in 1967 (she was only 19 years old at that time). She was detained in Saigon for a year and pronounced a suspended sentence. Afterwards, she returned to her base for a few months and then went to the central of Saigon for revolutionary activities. In 1969, she was arrested again, detained at the police station of District 3, and transferred to the Central Police Department in Thủ Đức, Tân Hiệp. She had to suffer various kinds of torture from the enemy such as torturing with water, and beating with a baton. However, they all could not change her political perspective. She still continued to participate in revolutions and campaigns with her roommates so as to improve the prison treatment right in the prison where she was detained. This activity caused the Saigon henchmen government to banish her to Con Dao Island. Right in this prison, not only did she continue her struggle but also join several activities such as organization of embroidery and knitting, and music courses, etc. They were considered a kind of weapon, a strength to struggle in the prison, and an incentive for her and her comrades to lead a happy and helpful life after being acquitted according to the conditions in the Paris Agreement. Currently, at the age of seventy one, she still works as a visiting teacher at some universities and colleges in Ho Chi Minh City, and simultaneously serves as the President of the Cultural Heritage Association of Vietnam.

In spite of a short time of exchange, the story of the life and working activities of former political prisoner Lê Tú Cẩm was unveiled to some extent. She is really a shining sample of great will in persistent, brave, and admirable struggle for young people to respect and follow. They include the youth not only in Vietnam but also in other countries around the world, especially those from Japan. It was deeply showed in Mrs. Ayako’s thoughts in the meeting: “My colleagues and I completely admire her courage and resilience in particular and the Vietnamese’s in general during the war. After returning to Japan, we will tell her story to Japanese students so that they can gain more knowledge about how hard the Vietnamese tried to struggle for their current peace".

In addition, such exchanges are valuable opportunities for the museum staff in general and the gallery guides in particular to listen to war witnesses who tell their own stories, and thereby accumulate important documentation for job development.
  Date 17/01/2019  


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