Phu Quoc is considered quite promising from a tourist point of view. They come here in high season and for the winter. But half a century ago one could only dream of such a thing, the island was a terrible place of imprisonment and death of many people. In memory of the grim events, the coconut prison on Fukuoka has been turned into one of the island’s landmarks.
History and exhibits of the Coconut Prison
Under any regime and conditions in the country, there will be dissatisfied people and a place of detention will be found for them. That’s what happened on this tropical island. The prison was built by French colonists in 1949-1950. At first, both political prisoners and criminals languished in the prisons. After the French left, no more of those who were dissatisfied with the regime were imprisoned. Prisoners were forced to work on coconut plantations, hence the name of the prison.
Originally there were 12 zones on the territory, later two more were added. Each segment was divided into smaller segments, with a total of up to 3,000 people in 1 zone. As soon as the Vietnam War began and the first prisoners of war arrived, the cells filled up again. The camp was expanded and conditions tightened. It is known that torture was carried out in the prisons, the will to resist was suppressed, and intelligence was beaten out of enemy soldiers. During the Civil War, the administration formally consisted of representatives of South Vietnamese troops. Virtually everything was run by American troops.
In all, several hundred barracks were built on the island, and it was turned into a terrible place of confinement for a huge number of political and military prisoners.
In order to obtain obedience, break the will, and get the information they needed, the Coconut Prison administration invented more and more ways to torture them. One of them was a cage in which you could only sit bent over, there was not enough room for another pose. It was placed in the sun, and the Viet Cong soldiers were placed in this metal frame with a net stretched over it for several days without food and drink. These punishment cells are now installed at the entrance to the museum that was turned into a prison on Phu Quoc Island.
Another terrible tool in its simplicity and effectiveness was used to crush the will of the most resistant. Partisans were planted in an iron container. No food or water was left for them. A few days in the darkness and the heat was enough to make people lose not only their will but also their reason.
A Modern View of History
In many ways, long-standing events are embellished and presented in a favorable light. But this prison on Phu Quoc Island puts everything in its place. It is worth referring to the impassioned figures, which show that out of 40,000 prisoners more than 4,000 died in its prisons. There were up to 150 people in small rooms of about 100 m². One need only look at the conditions of the Vietnamese rebels to understand why hatred of the invaders burned brightly. Personal items, crockery, and drawings of prisoners have been preserved in the barracks. The layout, done with great care, shows that it was an entire city of pain and hatred.
The prison on Phu Quoc Island was designated a national monument in the 1990s. It was decided to restore some of the rooms and the entourage by installing mannequins in the uniform of prisoners and warders.
Visitors can now take a look around:
- houses for officers;
- the room for prisoners;
- torture chambers;
Of particular interest is the tunnel that was dug by spoons and allowed some of the prisoners to escape to freedom.
The most terrible find is considered a ditch, with the remains of more than 500 people buried in it.
There is an eerie atmosphere on the museum grounds, which is exacerbated by the silence and rustling of the small breeze. There are reconstructed torture scenes in the rooms, everything looks very naturalistic. It leaves a heavy impression after the visit, but, on the other hand, one must remember that if history is forgotten, it can happen again.
How do I get to Coconut Prison?
The museum complex is open from 7:30 to 11:00 and from 13:30 to 17:00 daily, Monday off. The mode of operation must be taken into account, so as not to get on a long break or not to arrive at closing time. Often this attraction is included in the sightseeing tour of the island or organize trips separately.
If you want to see the historical monument on your own, you should rent a bike or a cab and drive 30 minutes from the city of Truongdong. The distance to the site is short, about 30 km, but the road is very uneven and you can not gain speed. It is easier to drive from Antkhoi, which is only 3 km from the complex.
Location of Coconut Prison on the map
The price of a visit is 3,000 dong, including the services of a guide. The tour is conducted in three languages. Despite the oppressive atmosphere, the monument is visited by almost 10 thousand tourists annually. According to eyewitness accounts and feedback from staff members, former prisoners sometimes come as well.