Re-Education Centers

Depicted here are Southern Vietnamese soldiers that were gathered and sent to “re-education” centers by the Viet Cong. These facilities operated as prison camps that were ran by the Communist government to contain Southern Vietnamese political members after the end of the Vietnam War. It is estimated at around 500,000 to 1 million people were processed in “re-education” centers like these. However, this practice was not exclusive performed by the North as Ngo Dinh Diem, the president of South Vietnam, also enforced re-education centers to house suspected communists.

Typically, these centers would be set up in former South Vietnamese detention centers that were constructed during the Vietnam War. In other instances, they would be constructed in remote, rural areas which would make escape as well as rescue unfeasible. These locations would emphasize a difficult-to-navigate environment such as islands, jungles, and forest areas. Some notable examples of these centers include Lang Da, which exists North West from Hanoi and Hỏa Lò Prison in Hanoi.

At these centers, people were subject to political indoctrination that included Communist party rhetoric and of American imperialism. Since a majority of the individuals held at these facilities were Southern Vietnamese, many were forced to give confessions of their crimes against the Communist government which ranged from being a military official to acting as a mail clerk. In addition to “re-education”, subjects were put to intensive physical labor that ranged from clearing the environment to mine field sweeping. Those who underperformed were subject to beatings and solitary confinement. This sort of treatment resulted in death through exhaustion, disease, and malnutrition.

The end of “re-education” centers came about with the North guided government of South Vietnam announced that those would stay in the centers for an additional three years before they would get released. Even upon released, individuals would be placed under strict regulations and have countless restrictions placed on them to the point that they barely qualify as citizens of Vietnam. This resulted in an influx of Vietnamese people becoming boat people in order to avoid being sent to “re-education” centers. The majority of the individuals still being held in “re-education” centers were later released when in 1989, the United States government persuaded the Vietnamese government to free them. 

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