Reds admit Vietnamese refugees' plight
AN urgent call to Christians throughout the free world to come to the aid of the Catholics who in defiance of last year's Geneva Agreements, are being persecuted by the Communist Vietminh, came this week from the Prime Minister of South Viet Nam, Mr. Ngo Dinh Diem.
Throughout Asia those agreements were seen from the start as a betrayal of hundreds of thousands of peace-loving Catholic peasants who are among freedom's loyalest defenders.
Yet the South Viet Nam Government, led by its Catholic Prime Minister, have faithfully tried to observe their side of the contract forced upon them by the West. But last Sunday, on his country's New Year's Day, By DOUGLAS Mr. Ngo Dinh Diem made it clear that the present situa tion cannot continue.
" In the name of the Viet Nam Government." he said in a message, "I consider it my duty to denounce before the free world and Christianity the methods of repression And inhuman coercion used by the Vietminh against people wanting to leave the Communist zone — methods which are in flagrant violation of the Geneva Agreement."
The Prime Minister gave examples of breaches of the terms. In particular, he mentioned last week's incident at Fla Lang. a town in North Viet Nam. between Vietminh troops and 10.000 Catholic refugees.
On that occasion, the Communists called in 5,006 troops to prevent Catholics from leaving for the South and to disperse them before members of the International Truce Commission arrived. Casualties among the refugees are believed to have been heavy.
Ever since the agreements were signed, thousands of Catholic refugees have been leaving all to get to the South where they may practise their religion unhindered.
Rut the Communist Government which now rules the North has been using every form of coercion to prevent their departure.
Yet Article 14 (d) of the Armistice Agreement and Geneva Declaration reads: " From the date of entry into force of the present agreement until the movement of troops is cornpletcd. any civilians residing in the ' district controlled by one party who wish to go and lime in the zone assigned to the other party shall be permitted and helped to do so by the authorities in that district."
The period concerned is. according to Article 2 of the Agreement, 300 days from the date of its entry into force.
In other words, any attempt to prevent the Catholics from leaving the Communist zone to seek refuge the South is a violation of the Agreement.
At their annual meeting in November, 1954, the Bishops of the U.S.A. condemned the "pressuie and violence " being used by the Communists to thwart the provisions of the Agreement.
And in the French National Assembly last month M. la Chambre, Minister for the Associated States ot Indo-China. said that the Vietminh authorities were making it increasingly difficult for Catholics to leave their zone.
Since then, there has been a growing number of examples of terror being used against the refugees, whose plight is in any case a pitiful one.
Reds admit k
Even the Communist paper Nhan Dan has admitted this. Describing conditions at Phat Diem, where tens ot thousands of refugees are waittog their transport to the South, the Viettninh paper wrote: "Thousands of Catholics have been pouring into Phat Diem since the end of September." Because of shortage of accommodation, many it said. were having to live in the open air. " Others are living 30 to 40 to a room . .
" After spending all their money the refugees are selling their clothes to buy rice, restricting themselves to one meal a day. Cholera and dysentry arc rife . . ."
In the Than Hoa region antiCatholic persecution is known to be growing steadily worse. Viet Nam circles report an eye witness account by a party of soldiers of the Nationhl Viet Narnese Army who recently escaped from a Vietminh P.O.W. camp. 'I hey put the number of Catholics interned in one camp there at several thousands.
Already. the " brain washing" methods perfected by the Chinese Communists are being used against the Catholics who remain under Vietminh rule. and campaigns are being conducted to obtain their signatures in support of petitions denouncing priests and missionaries as the friends of exploiting landlo
O'Connor. S.S.C.. of he r N. Patrick .Ca.tW.C. News Service, who
F has been on the spot for months, reports that he has not met one refugee who had been "permitted and helped" by the Vietminh authorities to leave their zone. But he has ample evidence to show that the way of, many of the refugees is physically blocked by the Communists and that they are manhandled by them.
It is clear that the responsibility of the West, including the people of Britain. did not end with the signing of the Agreement in Geneva. The teeming refugees who are its consequence are our responsibility, too.