What Good Changes Did I Notice?
1. The authorities at the War Remnants Museum (I think it was called War Atrocities before - so even that's a good change) have altered the propagandistic wording describing the Guillotine at the Museum from - "Last used by the Americans ....." to the correct one "Last used by the South Vietnamese Government in 1960 ...".
2. The famous picture of the girl who was napalmed and running naked - screaming - down the road now says - "That this girl was napalmed by a US Bomb". That is accurate - it was made by USA but dropped by a South Vietnamese Airforce Pilot not a US pilot.
3. There is a huge exhibition by International war photographers who covered the war in Vietnam - there is no Propaganda - just reports that were published in Western Newspapers and magazines. It really is good.
4. The Political Commissar's position in the military forces was so powerful that they had as much if not more power than the Unit Commanders. I interviewed (many moons ago) Tran Bach Dang who was the political commisar at the Cu CHI Tunnels (which my Engineer Troop searched and destroyed in Jan 1966). In my previous visit to the Tunnels The Political Commissar's sign was proudly displayed. Not so this time - it wasn't to be seen. I think that the authorities want to expunge all memory of Political Commissars being the REAL boss in the military units.
A Not So Good Thing .......
A not so good thing (which is not confined to Vietnam) is the corruption with the police (and probably with other Government employees). The system is made for corruption ..... here's how (we were told) it works in South Vietnam.
There are 80 million people in Vietnam of which 2.3 million are in the Communist Party. If you are in the Communist Party it means that your communist credentials have been checked back for 3 generations, that you will receive hospital benefits all your life and superannuation benefits when you retire. Generally most Traffic Police are members of the Party.
If you have a traffic accident or cause (or are involved) in a traffic infringement then the legal way of paying the fine is to have your licence suspended until the matter is heard in court - about a week later. You are not allowed to drive your vehicle and you attend the nominated court. Let's say the fine is $20 at the Court. If you pay half that amount (in this case being $10) to the traffic policeman at the scene then off you go - scott free. Nearly everybody pays the $10 - it seeme a no brainer!
So traffic police make around $400 a day of which about 30% goes up the line. I have heard of similar schemes in at least 5 Asian countries.
I really enjoyed talking to the tour group about my experiences in both a formal (by way of Power Point) and an informal chat. The visit back to Nui Dat and my old 1 Field Squadron position identifying the first water point (a well), the HQ position, the Officers Mess, and all the Buddhist Grave Stones.
The Caves in the Long Hai Mountains were fantastic. We had a guide who really knew his way around and was able to guide us into former HQ and accommodation positions.
In Vung Tau we were treated to a Military Museum which has uniforms and weapons going back a thousand years. The museum in Vung Tau is a personal gift to the Vietnamese people from a Britisher - Robert Taylor - valued in excess of $100 million.
I really enjoyed eating out with the group in different restaurants and the Tiger Draft Beer at the Hotel.
Are We Going Back Again?
Absolutely - on 26th Oct for 8 days. Have a look at details and photos at this link. (Your cost is $1900 plus airfare.) I intend to go on to the MiVAC Trust Project in Laos after this 8 days so let me know if you would like to join me.
Mark Dapin - a jounalist with "The Good Weekend" - came with us on the First Tour. He wrote quite a bit - really getting inside my head. I was really pleased to have Mark along, and for his great article, which you can read here. (It takes a while to open.)
So Paul, please give me your feedback, pass this on to others and let me know if you are planning to join Jimmy and me - by the way here's Jimmy's Website.
All the Best