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French Intervention (1883 AD - 1954 AD)

Vietnamese were no happier living under French domination than they had been under the Chinese. In 1893, Emperor Ham Nghi and Phan Dinh Phung organised a royalist movement, Can Voung staged an unsuccessful uprising at Ha Tinh. The Can Vuong movement lasted until one of the leaders was killed by a traitor.

Vietnamese were no happier living under French domination than they had been under the Chinese. In 1893, Emperor Ham Nghi and Phan Dinh Phung organised a royalist movement, Can Voung staged an unsuccessful uprising at Ha Tinh. The Can Vuong movement lasted until one of the leaders was killed by a traitor. Emperor Duy Tan's effort to form a revolutionary movement saw to his rapid replacement as sovereign of Viet Nam by Khai Dinh. By the end of the 19th century, various nationalist resistance movements have been formed. The most radical group was the Eastward Movement led by Phan Boi Chau and Cuong De. It was established in 1907 and among the aristocrats and intellectuals involved in the group were names such as Phan Chau Trinh and Prince Cuoung De, Prince Canh's great-grandson. In an effort to break away from royalist thinking, they embraced the idea of democracy.

Anti Colonial Struggle

Vietnam French DominationPoor economic conditions contributed to native hostility to French rule. Although French occupation brought improvements in transportation and communications, and contributed to the growth of commerce and manufacturing, colonialism contributed little improvement in livelihood of the population. In the countryside, peasants struggled under heavy taxes and high rents. Workers in factories, in coal mines, and on rubber plantations laboured in abysmal conditions for low wages.

By the early 1920s, nationalist parties began to demand reform and independence. In 1930 the revolutionary Ho Chi Minh formed the Indochinese Communist party. Until World War II started in 1939, such groups received no success. In 1940, however, Japan demanded and received the rights to place Vietnam under military occupation, restricting the local French administration to figurehead authority.

Seizing the opportunity, the Communists organised the broad Viet Minh Front and prepared to launch an uprising at the war's end. The Viet Minh (Viet Nam Doc Lap Dong Minh/League for the Independence of Vietnam) emphasised moderate reform and national independence rather than specifically Communist aims.

When the Japanese surrendered to the Allies in August 1945, Viet Minh forces arose throughout Vietnam and declared the establishment of an independent republic in Hanoi. Ho Chih Minh proclaimed himself President of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. In an attempt to camouflage the existence of communism within the government, the Indochinese Communist Party announced its dissolution in November. But in reality, it still functioned, albeit illegally and secretly.

The French, however, were unwilling to concede independence and in October drove the Viet Minh and other nationalist groups out of the south. For more than a year the French and the Viet Minh sought a negotiated solution, but the talks, held in France, failed to resolve differences, and war broke out in December 1946.

Expulsion of French

French DominationThe conflict lasted for nearly eight years. The Viet Minh retreated into the hills to build up their forces while the French formed a rival Vietnamese government under Emperor Bao Dai, the last ruler of the Nguyen dynasty, in populated areas along the coast. Viet Minh forces lacked the strength to defeat the French and generally restricted their activities to guerrilla warfare.

In 1953-1954 the French fortified a base at Dien Bien Phu. After months of siege and heavy casualties, the Viet Minh overran the fortress in a decisive battle. As a consequence, the French government could no longer resist pressure from a war-weary populace at home and in June 1954, agreed to hold negotiations to end the war. At a conference held in Geneva, the two sides accepted an interim compromise to end the war. They divided the country at the 17th parallel, with the Viet Minh in the North and the French and their Vietnamese supporters in the South. To avoid permanent partition, a political protocol was drawn up, calling for national elections to reunify the country two years after the signing of the treaty.

Partition

After Geneva, the Viet Minh in Hanoi refrained from armed struggle and began to build a Communist society. In the southern capital, Saigon, Bao Dai soon gave way to a new regime under the staunch anti-Communist president Ngo Dinh Diem. With diplomatic support from the United States, Diem refused to hold elections and attempted to destroy Communist influence in the South. By 1959, however, Diem was in trouble. His unwillingness to tolerate domestic opposition, alleged favouritism of fellow Roman Catholics, and the failure of his social and economic programs seriously alienated key groups in the populace and led to rising unrest. The Communists decided it was time to resume their revolutionary battle. Soon, the United States would be drawn into this war that had left many scarred for life, mentally and physically.


 
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