|In 1962, the government of South Vietnam and the United States began the implementation of the Strategic Hamlet Program. The strategy was to isolate the rural population from contact with and influence by the Viet Cong. Villagers were rounded up and moved to communal locations where they could be protected and governed by the more “trusted” South Vietnamese government. Below is an image of a then, newly constructed hamlet village with militia guards.
It should come as no surprise that the half-baked program was a massive failure. To ensure the villagers would not return to their traditional homes, the houses were burned by South Vietnamese troops which did little to endear the villagers to their “official government.”
American GI Zippo lighters were quite handy in igniting a rice straw roof of what the GI’s referred to as a “hooch.” Several images of GI lighters are shown below in about the same time period. The sentiments of the GI’s are pretty clear.
Surprisingly, few people realized that the villagers not only wanted to remain in their familiar ancestral home but their ancestors were buried in tombs in the nearby rice paddies. Although many Vietnamese would say they were Buddhist or maybe Catholic, their religion is a fusion of Chinese beliefs, Confucianism, Taoism, ancestor worship and Vietnamese animism. Central to Vietnamese life and death is that the position of the grave is important to family fortunes. Moreover, passed ancestors are thought to help and protect the family with their graves located close to the house in rural areas. One could say that, over time, the remains of the buried support the rice their descendants depend on. Whereas, cremation is common in Buddhism, it is the exception in Vietnam.
On October 23, 2019, the bodies of 31 Vietnamese men and 8 women were discovered to be dead in a refrigerated container lorry as they were being smuggled into Britain via a circuitous route through Africa and the Middle East. They ranged in age from 15 to 44 and had undergone extreme hardship and risk in search of employment. There ensued a debate as to what to do with the remains. The initial reaction was to cremate the bodies and return the ashes back home. Although seven of the 39 were cremated, the remaining families begged for their bodies to be returned to be properly buried.
Recognizing the importance of physical burial in Vietnam, our company headquartered in London, chose to work with the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs to underwrite a substantial portion of the cost of the return of the remains home. The program was completed on November 30, 2019.
The other tragedy is Vietnam is home to one of the greatest expanding economies in the world. Over the twenty-year period of our operations in Vietnam, we have placed an emphasis on building schools such as this primary school where the Prime Minister during that time joined us to break ground at the beginning of our journey there. By chance, we arrived early so we were placed in the Cuu Chi Communist Party Headquarters. On the wall was a plaque dedicated to mothers who had sacrificed four or more children to the war effort. There were four of them listed.
We have also underwritten scholarship programs for advanced students to develop their skill sets. The youth of Vietnam are eager to learn and have a very strong work ethic.
Therefore, the tragedy of the 39 Vietnamese deaths in Essex, Britain is they were leaving Vietnam with an outstanding economic future to seek their fortune in another country that is undergoing considerable economic confusion. Britain seeks to leave the European Union on economic terms that are unknown at this point in time with a GDP rate growth that is a fraction of that in Vietnam. Accordingly, the only way to prevent future situations like that in Essex is education and training at home coupled with communication of the opportunities that are present there.