Escape from Bạc Liêu to Saigon

29 Tháng Mười 201312:00 SA(Xem: 1868)
Escape from Bạc Liêu to Saigon

As all efforts to isolate the founder of the Hòa Hảo Buddhism failed to materialize, the French colonial authorities decided to exile Huỳnh Phú Sổ to Laos. In all of the locations of his displacement in Vietnam and despite official restrictions, Huỳnh Phú Sổ managed to gain new adherents. Hence, instead of separating the founder of the Hòa Hảo Buddhism from his followers, by removing Huỳnh Phú Sổ from Hòa Hảo village, the French police actually helped to create new centers of Hòa Hảo Buddhism in the other provinces of Cochinchina. Not surprisingly, the colonial authorities were weary of the continued dissemination of Hòa Hảo Buddhism and decided to remove Huỳnh Phú Sổ to a foreign destination, namely to the Lao Kingdom.

However, news of the planned removal somehow leaked out and became known to the Hòa Hảo followers. According to Antoin Savani, Bạc Liêu had become a hub of the Hòa Hảo agitation with clear anti-French overtones. Hence, since early 1942 the provincial authorities suggested to return Huỳnh Phú Sổ to Hòa Hảo village. However, the Governor Generals office decided to remove him to Laos. Just several days before the planned transfer of Huỳnh Phú Sổ, a group of his devoted followers including Lương Trọng Tường, Bùi Văn Trung, Ngô Quang Điều secured his release. They were assisted by an officer of the Japanese secret police, Kempeitai, named Kimura as well as Trần Văn Son, a driver.

However, Lâm Thơ Cưus son Lâm Ngọc Thạch provided a different version of Huỳnh Phú Sổs escape. He argued that in the aftermath of Caodaist leader Phạm Công Tắcs exile to Madagascar, the adherents of Hòa Hảo Buddhism were worried over the fate of their leader. In September 1942, one of Huỳnh Phú Sổs trusted disciples named Biện Hùm warned Lâm Thơ Cưu that plans were made to remove their leader to a foreign destination, which would be similar to Phạm Công Tắcs exile. Lâm Thơ Cưu suggested that the Japanese were to be involved in a rescue and immediately contacted the Kempeitai officers in Saigon. Lâm Thơ Cưu urged the Japanese to provide a military vehicle to secure Huỳnh Phú Sổs release. The Kempeitai men refused to become directly involved; however, they assigned officer Kishi, presumably a covert operator, and a driver Ba Xạ with a private car.

On 12 October 1942, the group headed by Lâm Thơ Cưu and backed by the Japanese, removed Huỳnh Phú Sổ from the house of Võ Văn Giỏi in Bạc Liêu. Unfortunately, the driver got lost and instead of driving North towards Saigon he headed South to the Cà Mau Peninsula. Moreover, their car broke down near Tắc Vân area. Hence, officer Kishi had to take another vehicle from one local official named Triều Châu. Subsequently, they returned to Bạc Liêu. Due to this delay, the French police had time to prepare and intercept the fugitives.

In the area of Trung Lương near Mỹ Tho the police blocked the road. Kishis driver attempted to circumvent the barrier but failed and the car crashed. Huỳnh Phú Sổ, Kishi and Lâm Thơ Cưu were slightly injured. The police arrested them and moved the group to Saigon.

Nevertheless, as soon as the Japanese Embassy interfered, all the detainees were released. The Kempeitai officers immediately transferred them into the compound of the Japanese Trade representative office on Rue Lefèbre in Saigon. Huỳnh Phú Sổ was given a Japanese identification card, therefore, he effectively circumvented the French jurisdiction. Shortly afterwards, Lâm Thơ Cưu, Lương Trọng Tường, Lê Công Bộ, Mai Văn Dậu, Nguyễn Ngọc Tố, Quan Hữu Kim, and Trần Văn Tâm became his trusted aids or were appointed as his political advisers.
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