Conflict with the Authorities

29 Tháng Mười 201312:00 SA(Xem: 1659)
Conflict with the Authorities

In the wake of Paris Agreements in January 1973, leaders of the Hòa Hảo community realized that the peace deal was likely to weaken the government in Saigon. Therefore, the congregation reestablished Bảo An units throughout the Hoà Hảo areas, as the means of self-defense, to cope with the unfavorable political changes.

It has been argued that the revival of the Hòa Hảo self-defense troops followed an informal agreement in mid-1974 between General Nguyễn Khoa Nam, commander of the IV Military Zone and Hòa Hảo leaders. Although the Hòa Hảo followers were harshly anti-Communist and proved to be fierce fighters, they refused to be drafted to the national army as individuals. They believed that drafted soldiers often lacked fighting spirit resulted in combat avoidance, and they always asserted their willingness to enlist, but only if they were allowed to serve in units with company strength. Less than that, they would be considered as minority soldiers and would be treated with discrimination.

As General Nguyễn Khoa Nam agreed to allow the Bảo An units to be formed, these forces expanded almost overnight. Members of self-defense troops viewed themselves as conscripts and no longer feared police harassment. During harvest time, the National police usually did not seek deserters in the Mekong Delta so as not to interfere with agricultural work. Nonetheless, in late 1974, the police detained some Bảo An activists. The Hòa Hảo followers were shocked by this move and self-defense units freed their activists by force. In response, Colonel Nhan Văn Thiệt, police chief of the IV Military Zone, reported to Saigon that the Hòa Hảo followers staged an anti-government mutiny. Remarks of Professor Nguyễn Ngọc Huy at “Vietnam Experiences 1945-1975” seminar, Glassboro University, New Jersey, April 7-8, 1986.

Subsequently, President Nguyễn Văn Thiệu ordered the dissolution of all Bảo An units. On December 12, 1974 the Interior Minister issued a directive to disarm some 50,000 Bảo An and self-defense troops in the Hòa Hảo areas rendered the agreement between General Nguyễn Khoa Nam and the Hòa Hảo leaders voided. As a result, the government not only alienated strong Hòa Hảo fighting forces, it also gained a strong opposition.

On January 29, 1975 Colonel Nhan Văn Thiệt invited Bảo An commander-in-chief Trần Hữu Bảy, aka Hai Tập, to attend a negotiation session at a private house of parliament deputy Dương Minh Quang in Long Xuyên. Yet instead of talks, Trần Hữu Bảy, Lê Trung Tuấn, Trương Minh Ký and their seven bodyguards were arrested. Afterwards, the National police detained Bảo An commanders of An Giang province, and Thốt Nốt, Huệ Đức, Hòa Bình Thạnh and Châu Thành districts. The police reportedly arrested some 600 Bảo An activists and seized 184 weapons. The government officials told the US advisers that the dissolution of Bảo An was aimed to forestalling their alleged deal with the Communists. Letter of William Cassidy. Đuốc Từ Bi, No 26, May 1, 1987. Subsequent proceedings demonstrated that the dissolution of Bảo An was a mistake because the Hòa Hảo followers never mulled any deals with the Communists.
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