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Le dictionnaire

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CAM LY, MASSACRE

Refers to the French police force’s execution of 20 Vietnamese prisoners in reprisal for the Democratic Republic of Vietnam’s (DRV) killing of a French police officer in Dalat in May 1951. In this month, the DRV’s Phan Nhu Thach Commando Unit apparently attempted to capture alive Victor Haasz, a métis working in the Sûreté fédérale in Dalat, in order to force the French to release Vietnamese political prisoners in custody there. When Haasz tried to flee, the commando ended up killing him on 11 May 1951. At 19H00, three hours after the shooting, local French authorities transferred 20 Vietnamese political prisoners into a truck and took them to a secret location located deep in the jungle near the Cam Ly creek. Of the 20 prisoners all were executed except for Nguyen Thi Lang, who miraculously survived nine gunshot wounds and wandered out of the woods to safety. This execution sparked an outcry of protest among Vietnamese, including Queen Nam Phuong herself, and revealed one of the more savage sides of the Indochina War. Henri Jumeau, the acting chief of the police in Dalat, was suspended and briefly jailed on 24 May 1951 for ordering the execution. Also arrested for organizing the mass execution was Tran Dinh Que, the mayor of Dalat. Le Xuan, who would become famous as the future sister-in-law to Ngo Dinh Diem, lived in Dalat at the time of the executions. She told the press that the entire affair showed that one Eurasian life equalled twenty Vietnamese lives and had it been a Frenchman, she added, forty Vietnamese would have had to die in exchange. Settler opinion disagreed radically. Europeans living in Dalat and elsewhere in Indochina were largely favorable to Jumeau. Settlers would have agreed, however, with Le Xuan when she noted that Dalat was no longer an “oasis of peace”. It will, she concluded, “become a terrorized and unbreathable city like the other ones”. One of the Associated State of Vietnam’s most zealous anti-terrorist specialists was determined not to let that happen. On 24 June 1951, Nguyen Vam Tam personally reorganized the police services in Dalat and arrested the Viet Minh squad responsible for Haasz’s murder. The French Communist Party did much to bring this massacre to the attention of the French public. See also FRANÇAIS D’INDOCHINE; HÉRAULT, MASSACRE; MY THUY, MASSACRE; PUBLIC OPINION; TORTURE.