Journalist Thai Duy and Soldiers on death row

W.Minh Tuan

At Dai Doan Ket newspaper, there is journalist Thai Duy, one of the most prestigious journalists in the Vietnamese press. He is now retired. During the Vietnam War, he and many other journalists went to the South to work as a war correspondent, participating in battles with the communist army to get news to write articles, praising the feats of the liberation army. Journalist Thai Duy has the pseudonym Tran Dinh Van.

Under the pseudonym Tran Dinh Van, he wrote the book tittled “Live like Him-Song Nhu Anh”, about heroic martyr Nguyen Van Troi, and his wife, Quyen. I remembered when I was in high school, I learned this piece wich was printed in the textbook. When I joined Dai Doan Ket newspaper in early 1984, I knew that journalist Thai Duy-Tran Dinh Van also worked here, I felt very honored.

On the occasion of Tet in 1984, when I had just worked at Dai Doan Ket newspaper for a few months, journalist Thai Duy wrote a famous article titled “Long Dan-People heart“, about the Vietnamese people’s longing for freedom and democracy, about the people’s desire for the party and the state to listen to their voices. That issue of Tet newspaper sold out very quickly, people crowded together to Dai Doan Ket newspaper headquarters to ask to buy that issue.

Some young reporters like us, such as Thu Phuong, Quoc Khanh, and Minh Tuan, set up a table on the sidewalk of Ba Trieu street, outside the headquarters of Dai Doan Ket newspaper, to sell newspapers during Tet. That year’s Tet newspaper sold out so quickly, every now and then, we had to go to back inside the office to get more newspapers for sale. We don’t understand why the issue sold out so quickly. We have not read that article “Long Dan” written by journalist Thai Duy.

After some moments, many newspaper buyers asked “Is there an issue with the article “Long Dan”?”, then we found out that the reason why the newspaper sold out quickly was because of that article. So we young reporters took the article out and read it voraciously.

It was only after reading that article that I dimly understood for the first time what the longing for freedom and democracy was. After the war, journalists Tran Dinh Van-Thai Duy mainly wrote about demanding issues of freedom and democracy, about the market mechanism.

In 1987-1988, when I was doing an investigative report on the case of Dong Tien, Hai Hung, now Hung Yen province, journalist Thai Duy began to write a series of articles about “Soldiers on death row”. During the Vietnam War, the old Saigon government captured many communists, or communist sympathizers, who were in the student movement. Many of these people were sentenced to death by the old Saigon government, some were executed by shooting, some are in prison waiting to be shot.

And fortunately, the war ended in 1975, these “death prisoners” were saved. But these resilient revolutionary soldiers, who were willing to sacrifice their whole lives for the party and country, after being rescued from the prisons of the old Saigon government, many – not all – were forgotten, lived in extremely miserable life, poverty. The communist government does not care about these soldiers on death row any more after Vietnam war ended.

Journalist Thai Duy has mobilized benefactors to help the “soldiers on death row”, and wrote a series of articles published in Dai Doan Ket newspaper about the plight of the “soldiers on death row”, urged party and state to pay attention to solving legitimate interests for them, not to let them live in poverty, miserable, wretched. Many “death row inmates” say that they actually don’t ask for much, because they understand that “the country is still in trouble”, but they only have one wish to visit Hanoi, the capital of the country, and to visit Uncle Ho’s Mausoleum. During the 21-year resistance war in 1954-1975, and if you include 9 years of war with the French, a total of 30 years of war, many Vietnamese people followed the communist party just because of the image of Uncle Ho, and the image of Hanoi, the capital, the heart of the country.

But at that time, the war had ended for more than 10 years, and they still had not been to Hanoi to visit Uncle Ho’s Mausoleum. It was their last and sacred wish. These people are also sincere, kind, and innocent like Chau’s father in the story I mentioned in the reporting about the injustice of Ms. Luu Thanh Chau’s family in Can Tho.

After a series of articles by journalist Thai Duy, the Vietnamese government became interested in the status of the brave warriors of the war, which are now abandoned. The “soldiers on death row” were gathered, taken to Hanoi, visited Uncle Ho’s Mausoleum, and were subsidized by the state with necessary social benefits.

Dai Doan Ket newspaper also held a solemn reception for “death row” soldiers. Although the correction is late, it is also a good deed by the party and state of Vietnam for those who have made merit to the country. And recently the policy of awarding the title of “Vietnamese Heroic Mothers” – mothers whose children died in the Vietnam War. The “heroic Vietnamese mothers” were given “Houses of gratitude” by the state, houses built and provided free of charge to Mothers, gave savings books with several million dong, donated medicines,,,.

Correction is rather late, but better than never. Many Mothers died prior to this policy.

Many gratitude houses were built through tangerines, only lived for a few months damaged, leaking, cracked walls, subsided floors,,,..

The press, including Dai Doan Ket newspaper, published articles denouncing these “bad gratitude houses”, asking the government to solve them, and take action against them. The house builder’s companies were a lie, making many “Vietnamese Heroic Mothers” even more miserable. The policy of awarding the title “Vietnamese Heroic Mother” has many good aspects, but it is also heavily formal.

Many places make houses that are too disturbing, in unfavorable locations, even near the garbage dump, near the stinky sewage sewer, to give to Heroic Mothers, then invite the press for a press conference, publish newspapers, put on radio and television to gain prestige for the locality, for leaders. However, after that, the “gratitude” houses were degraded and damaged, no one cared.

Journalist Thai Duy was the first journalist in Vietnam to write about new business models when there was no “renovation” policy in Vietnam. The most famous is the series on “Long An Mechanism”, talking about how Long An province dared to “break through the barrier”, that is, dared not to implement some draconian policies of the state, dared to implement some policies on its own, encourage economic sectors.

When I first joined Dai Doan Ket newspaper in 1984, young reporters and I attended many journalism classes taught by journalist Thai Duy. At that time, he boldly criticized the way of writing “pink painting”, only wrote praise, did not dare to write criticism. Writing “pink painting”, praising was the method of the Vietnamese press during the Vietnam War. After the liberation day, such one-way writing became more and more popular, despite the increasing social negativity. Journalist Thai Duy was very opposed to this one-way highlighting.

Everywhere, in every society, every country, there are journalists with bad morals, poor qualifications, writing articles that distort the truth, write for money, or cowardly, do not dare to write the truth.

But there are also brave, talented journalists who write not for money, dare to write the truth, dare to take responsibility for themselves, not afraid of threatening forces.

In my opinion, Dai Doan Ket newspaper in Vietnam is one of the newspapers that have had many talented and brave journalists, such as Thai Duy, Lua Moi, Xuan Thu, Tran Bao Hung, Minh Tuan, Quoc Khanh, Nguyen Thi Bao Ngoc, Hai Yen, Thu Thuy,,

We young journalists have learned a lot from journalist Thai Duy, especially about the courage and self-responsibility of the writer. He also encouraged us to study a lot on our own, not just hold on to the knowledge we learned in universities. He encouraged us young journalists to read a lot to improve our understanding and knowledge, so that we can have a correct view of the affairs of society.

“A journalist with poor knowledge, lack of understanding, will only be the one who was to ask by others to command. These poor knowledges journlists are slaves of others only,” he told us.

That was my first teacher, and also my biggest teacher in journalism. ///

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