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Born in Can Tho province in southern Vietnam, he became involved in radical politics in the 1920s and left Vietnam for Guangzhou (Canton), where he met Ho Chi Minh and entered the Whampoa Politico-Military Academy. He returned to southern Vietnam around 1930, fluent in Chinese, and joined the Indochina Communist Party (ICP). The French arrested him in that same year and incarcerated him at Poulo Condor. He regained his freedom in 1936, thanks to the liberal policies of the Popular Front. Little is know about his activities during World War II.

In 1945, he joined the ICP’s Territorial Committee for Cochinchina (Xu Uy Nam Ky) and briefly served as vice president of the Resistance and Administrative Committee for Nam Bo. He was called to Hanoi in early 1946 and assigned the tasks of supplying the southern resistance from Thailand and of developing a Khmer resistance movement capable of collaborating with the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) against the French and their Indochinese allies. In 1948, Nguyen Thanh Son took command of the powerful Committee for External Affairs in charge of administering the ICP’s policies in Cambodia and running supply missions across mainland Southeast Asia. From this point, he became the ICP/DRV’s single most important Cambodian specialist and the main architect of early Cambodian communism of an Indochinese kind. From 1949, he was in charge of the entire “Cambodian Front”, in cooperation with Vu Huu Binh in Thailand. Nguyen Thanh Son was allegedly named general in 1952 and led the DRV’s commission in charge of implementing the Geneva Accords in Cambodia. For unknown reasons, he never rose to higher positions following the end of the Indochina War. See also ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE FOR THE FRONTIER; ADVISORY GROUP 100; CHU HUY MAN; COMMITTEE FOR THE EAST, LAO ISSARA; HOANG VAN HOAN; INDOCHINESE FEDERATION; METIS; NGUYEN KHANH; PARTY AFFAIRS COMMITTEE; SON NGOC MINH.