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327 Section IV, C. VIETNAM (SOUTH) Reproduced from Maung Maung, “Vietnam (South)” in The Guardian II, no. 5 (March 1955): 29–31, by permission of Daw Khin Myint, wife of the late Dr Maung Maung. What is the Vietnam equation? Is Vietnam equal to the young Foreign Office protocol officer, Vu Khae Thu who waited for us at the airport while we drove into Saigon from Pnom-Penh (Cambodia) by car? Pleasant, eager to be of service, quick to understand, ready with solutions. “I understand,” he responded to me with great warmth when I complained that we could’nt get proper hotel accommodation, “I shall write to Hotel Majestic straight away, and requisition a suite for you. As Foreign Office, we can do that, you know.” He wrote, he requisitioned, he said very important people from the Republic of the Union of Burma were in Saigon, and the Hotel must throw out some of its Americans or French occupants (not in so many words, but something hinting that) and provide room. He sent me a copy of the letter, properly certified it as “true copy”. But the Hotel was unimpressed by our importance. We did not get any rooms, leave alone a suite. I tried to console Vu Khae Thu, and encouraged him 04C DrMaung.indd 327 1/24/08 3:34:02 PM Reproduced from Dr Maung Maung: Gentleman, Scholar, Patriot by Robert H. Taylor (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2008). This version was obtained electronically direct from the publisher on condition that copyright is not infringed. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior permission of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. Individual articles are available at 328 DR MAUNG MAUNG: Gentleman, Scholar, Patriot to take the blow like a man, but he was unconsoled. “What will you think of Saigon and Vietnam,” he kept saying, “it was very bad of the Hotel Majestic, you know.” After a moment’s thinking, he got a bright idea. “You know,” he said, “I could try the Hotel Continental for you. I could write from the Foreign Office.” I knew he could. I knew he would. But I stopped him. I did not want to get him hurt again; I liked him too much for that. I knew, as V.K. probably knew too, that Saigon did not belong to the Vietnamese. x x x x x Or must Vietnam be equated to Tran-van-Tuyen, a sober nationalist of 40, writer, historian, publisher, one-time minister of information, now fighting for his country’s freedom as an “independent.” Tuyen is president of the board of governors of the Vietnam press agency. When I met him1 he had almost just returned from the Geneva conference on Indo-China where he advised the Vietnamese delegation . Tuyen was keen, hopeful but sad. Saigon, he admitted was the city where the Vietnamese were foreigners. The French and the Americans were thick in intrigue. America had just sent General Lawton Collins as special ambassador with a special mission to make a special survey and report back specially and directly to President Eisenhower who would then make a special (and major) decision on how to save Vietnam from the Vietnamese. The French were indignant and impotent; their ardour was there but their performance was gone; but their very presence confused matters. In the midst of intrigue, the Vietnamese themselves were divided. There was crisis in the army. The young, dashing, popular General Hinh had openly defied Premier Diem, and rumours and speculation were wild in the streets. At last Hinh was packed off to Paris where Bao Dai dallied with the women. And Hinh was dismissed from the service, while Diem with the massive support of Collins became secure in power. Tuyen and I discussed the situation at length. He was hopeful that beneath all this layer of intrigue, foreign interference, apathy, there lay in the hearts of people a stubborn resistance, a passionate desire for freedom. The problem, he said, was to break through the layer and reach and stir the hearts of the people. How could that be done, I asked, and would 04C DrMaung.indd 328 1/24/08 3:34:02 PM Vietnam (South) 329 he be a part of the new resurgence? Tuyen was yet uncertain how. He was still groping. But he was certain he would be a part of it. That was why he refused all offers of cabinet...


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