Of course, Hòa Hảo activists grasped the French “divide-and-rule” policies and reacted in a variety of ways. On March 24, 1948, the so-called “Ba Bần incident” took place. At this time, the French were forming units of local special troops. These companies would include 200 soldiers each, twice as much as the regular Hòa Hảo infantry companies. These units included French officers as “advisers.” Hence the French commanders believed in the loyalty of these special troops and supplied these units with modern weapons. Nonetheless, the 1st company based in Ba Bần, Long Xuyên staged a mutiny, killed all French “advisers” and defected to the anti-French maquis.
Subsequently, every time the French troops came under fire in the areas controlled by the Hòa Hảo community, the French retaliated by temporarily cutting supplies to the Hòa Hảo armed forces. However, the measure proved futile as the French military needed the Hòa Hảo counter-insurgency capabilities and were reluctant to halt all supplies anyway.
Lê Quang Vinh repeatedly rallied to the French, received weapons and supplies and then broke off with the authorities to resume fighting against the French. Although the tactic was used five times, the French were willing to welcome Lê Quang Vinh and provide him new weapons. By 1954, Lê Quang Vinh earned the nickname of “lenfant terrible” of the Hòa Hảo forces, he controlled a sizable unit of some 5,000 men.
Moreover, Lê Quang Vinhs defections into dissidence occurred with Trần Văn Soáis connivance. The French suspected that Trần Văn Soái, commander of the pro-French armed elements, secretly yet systematically supplied Lê Quang Vinhs dissident faction with arms, munitions and food. According to eyewitnesses, Lê Quang Vinh regularly, at least once every several months, paid secret nighttime visits to Trần Văn Soái headquarters. Lê Quang Vinh reported his past operations, suggested joint operations against the Việt Minh, and presented his host with a list of required supplies, including arms and cash. Trần Văn Soái reportedly grumbled: “Every time you ask for a lot of things, how could I possibly have enough supplies for you?”
In fact, Lê Quang Vinh largely relied on tested guerrilla tactics to combat the Communists and halt Việt Minh infiltration into the Hòa Hảo areas. Notably, his dissident troops managed to cut the Việt Minh supply lines from Tiền Giang to the Hậu Giang area. As a result, previous coordination between the U Minh and Đồng Tháp Communist strongholds was disrupted and the Việt Minh operations in Hậu Giang area weakened. Lê Quang Vinh managed to capture a forest area in Long Xuyên, which bordered Hà Tiên and Rạch Giá and had been previously used by the Việt Minh.
By supporting Lê Quang Vinhs units, Trần Văn Soái, given his close cooperation with the French, intended to maintain a sort of counterbalance. It also allowed Trần Văn Soái not to depart from the pro-independence and anti-colonial slogans of Huỳnh Phú Sổ.
Trần Văn Soái supported Lê Quang Vinhs plan to revitalize the Social-Democratic Party. However Soái suggested that he kept the partys activities at a low profile. By the end of 1950, Lê Quang Vinh reanimated the central committee of the Social-Democratic Party and renamed his “Revolutionary Army,” or Nghĩa Quân Cách Mạng, into the Army of the Vietnamese Social-Democratic Party, or Quân Đội Việt Nam Dân Chủ Xã Hội Đảng. Lê Quang Vinh became the partys chief military delegate and commander of the army. Some high-ranking party activists, who had refrained from active politics since 1948, moved to the areas under Lê Quang Vinhs control. Trình Quốc Khánh became the partys general secretary while Phạm Sĩ Thanh was appointed the partys chief political delegate.
It might be argued that Lê Quang Vinh, although he was the youngest of the Hòa Hảo military leaders, managed to undermine the French tactics of disconnecting the Hòa Hảo community from the political leadership of the Social-Democratic Party. Militarily, Lê Quang Vinh was known for his personal courage as he often led his troops to battle. Politically, he reportedly believed in the political leadership of the Social-Democratic Party. Hence Lê Quang Vinh helped to revive the party and voluntarily put his armed forces under the partys guidance.
Yet another Hòa Hảo military leader, namely Nguyễn Giác Ngộ, refrained from cooperating with the French. Although he gave up most of the weapons of his Nguyễn Trung Trực army and transferred the arms to the units of Trần Văn Soái and Lâm Thành Nguyên, Nguyễn Giác Ngộ declined to rally to the French.
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