Hung H. Nguyen, Nghia M. Vo
Tân Lạp-Vĩnh Phú: Hell on Earth
         As soon as the wake-up bell rang, cadres guided the "competition campaign" to open barracks' doors. They went from one place to another before unlocking the Colonels' barrack last some thirty minutes later. The designated prisoner on call and his two aides (changing everyday) rushed out to receive the morning ration along with freshly boiled water to distribute to men in their barrack.

         Barely had the food been distributed that the bell signaling the beginning of the workday rang again. Inmates rushed to the courtyard while munching on their breakfast. The unfinished portions were shoved into their pockets to be eaten later. Those who failed to eat their breakfast would feel weak after doing hard labor and eventually would underperform. They would be singled out and subjected to "criticism" later at night. Being frequently "criticized" during night sessions could result in untoward consequences.

         The morning portion of "sắn duôi" was small, about the size of a fist. Those who had a weak stomach like myself had to chew it slowly. Others would have no problem digesting it.

         While waiting for the cadres to give the signal to march out of the camp, the "thi đua" made their rounds to check inmates' garb for the "camp number." They brought with them a wooden block slightly larger than a fist and imprinted with the camp number in black ink to stamp the back of shirts and both sides of the pants. Garbs with faded out numbers had to be restamped. The goal was to distinguish inmates from nearby villagers and to allow easy capture of potential escapees. Newly arrived inmates were immediately stamped with the "camp number" as soon as they stepped into the camp courtyard
        Please read the rest of the story in THE LANDS OF FREEDOM.
Back