Heroic POW risked his life for independence

At the POW Stockade on Phu Quoc Island during the war, jailers used terrible instruments of torture to break the resolve of voluntary soldiers. Not many of their attempts were successful, as such heroes like Nguyen Van Ni, commonly known as Bay Ni, with their acts of skill and bravery, continued the struggle for freedom and independence until their last breath.

        A relative with a portrait of Bay Ni

In early 1968, Bay Ni was elected by revolutionary soldiers detained at Phu Quoc Stockade to be their cell Party chief, where he would lead the struggle against the management of Camp A2.

Huong, chef prison warder, was not only imperious towards prisoners but also treated them without pity. He beat elderly people ruthlessly even if they were terribly sick.

Even a worm would turn if it was treated brutally, so a number of revolutionary soldiers in the stockade asked permission of Bay Ni to kill Huong, but Ni did not agree.

He said, “The enemy has hundreds, even thousands of bastards like Huong. You can risk your lives to kill him, and if we kill this Huong, another Huong will appear immediately. So the best policy is to find a way to get rid of him while we can still keep our lives.”

Persuaded by Bay Ni’s advice, the revolutionary prisoners decided to give up the intention of killing Huong. Instead, they turned their hatred into strength and prepared for an important confrontation with Huong, which took place on November 23, 1968, the anniversary of the Southern uprising.

On the day, the strong protest against Huong rapidly spread from Camp A2 to A3 and B2. The prisoners stood together, rose in rebellion and asked the management to fire Huong.

Under pressure, Major Thuc, deputy commander of the stockade, had no choice but to have an official negotiation with the representatives of the prisoners.

Bay Ni, on behalf of the prisoners, raised his voice in accusing Huong’s acts against the prisoners’ human rights and dignity.

Huong’s arguments were so strong that Major Thuc was eventually resigned to transferring Huong to another prison and allowing the prisoners to elect a representative board by themselves.

The success of the struggle did not last long. A few weeks later, Nhu, an even more brutal jailor appeared to take place of the prisoners’ representative board.

He resorted to more terrible instruments of torture in order to put down the undaunted spirit of the revolutionary soldiers.

Bay Ni, at the time, was transferred to the enemy’s headquarters. The enemy used horrific instruments of torture to force him to reveal the names of leaders of the Party operating in the south, but he refused to surrender to his cruel and pitiless torturers.

Bay Ni passed out during torture many times. One day, upon returning to life after near death, he shouted at the jailors and security officers of the Saigon government, who were waiting to take his oral deposition, “You, bastards and betrayers of the country!”

Bay Ni also shouted, “Down with the American invaders! Down with the lackey Nguyen Van Thieu! Long live President Ho Chi Minh!”

The torturers then taught Bay Ni a lesson by hammering nails into his knees, ankles and legs and stabling heated iron sticks through his calves.

One day in late September 1969, Bay Ni was placed in solitary confinement. He was too weak to walk.

Thanks to the prisoners’ drastic protest, Bay Ni was taken to hospital for treatment, but he could not eat or drink. In late December, he passed away.

Before 1975, nearly 40,000 prisoners of war were confined in Phu Quoc, among them, 4,000, including Bay Ni, were killed by barbarous means and buried on the island.

In 1997 Bay Ni’s body was found by the local government.

Chanh, Bay Ni’s son, flew to Phu Quoc to receive his father’s remains. Chanh said that some nails still remained in Bay Ni’s cuboids and shinbones.

In 1998, based on the proposal of Vietnam Ex-prisoners Committee, President Tran Duc Luong posthumously bestowed the title ‘Hero of the People’s Armed Forces’ to martyr Nguyen Van Ni.

This was not only an honor to the soul of Bay Ni and his family, but also to so many soldiers who had fallen in the struggle for nation's freedom and independence at Phu Quoc POW Stockade. 

By Nguyen Hai Phu- Translated by Phuong Lan

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