Dalat has long been renowned as a romantic city, an attractive tourist destination, and an ideal place to live. However, few people realize that this location also has numerous traditional historical, and cultural values. The Dalat Youth Prison is now a museum and a historical relic in Da Lat, Lam Dong. This is a location for anyone interested in learning about the Vietnamese people’s past struggles and the crimes committed by the invaders.
1. The architecture of the prison
The prison is built in the shape of a closed rectangular block with stone walls encircling it. The two rows of houses on either side are mostly cells and cells; the horizontal rows of houses create two courtyards in the middle to serve the activities of inmates when they leave their cells. At the end of the corridors were three rows of cells and a sprinkler system that was used for torture. When permitted to sunbathe in the yard, inmates were only permitted to move inside the little squares marked in the yard adjacent to each cell’s door.
The prison includes eight cells separated into two sections: the male prison has six rooms and the female prison has two. Each room is around 30 m2 in size and normally holds 60-70 prisoners; however, some rooms may contain almost 100 prisoners during peak times. The two cell rooms are separated by a passageway and contain rows of solitary cells for rebellious troops. There is a stone dungeon buried below the cell corridor that has no roof and only a heavy barbed wire mesh above for the enemy to punish prisoners by dew-drying and sun-drying them.
2. Protest against the flag salute
The regulation is that the flag salute will be conducted; if the flag salute is observed, the prison will provide clothing; otherwise, they will be tortured. The prisoners did not surrender, however, by refusing to salute the flag or sing the national song, and even ripping the flag (the flag of the Saigon government).
On November 21, 1971, the youth organization dispatched 5 comrades to carry out the plan to slash open abdomen in the flag salute yard to protest the enemy’s suppression. Three comrades were able to conduct disembowel and two colleagues were found and controlled by the enemy because they did not have time to act.
3. Attack on Warden
On the evening of January 23, 1973, at the Da Lat Youth Prison, the children’s prisoners conspired to kill the warden, Nguyen Cuong, an enemy henchman. This warden frequently tortured inmates in cruel ways, such as stomping shoes and nails on the head, beating individuals with whips attached to little iron hooks, stripping garments, burning light bulbs on people’s flesh, and so on.
When a 5mm long steel rod was discovered on the cafeteria’s gutter rim, the convicts decided to utilize it as a weapon, covertly grinding a small amount every day and then ripping their garments to construct a grip. When Nguyen Cuong came on the night of January 23, 1973, the convicts repeatedly attacked him with iron rods. He was still alive, but he was injured 60% of his health and had to be hospitalized for three months.
4. Prisoner punishments in Youth Prison
Cross-cuffs, whips, barbed wire, scout sticks, and other forms of torture were used on the inmates. Furthermore, soldiers splashed cold water on inmates held in solitary confinement in cells during the winter, when the night temperature may drop below 15°C (59°F). As punishment, children who were trapped in a stone cellar were subjected to dew and sun exposure.
Guards beat three times a day, in the morning, noon, and evening, with five strokes of the whip each. They throw cold water on each individual between 9 and 10 p.m. when the temperature is at its lowest during the day.
5. The title that Da Lat Youth Prison received
The Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism designated Da Lat Youth Prison as a national revolutionary historical relic on June 22, 2009. In addition, the President has bestowed the noble title Hero of the People’s Armed Forces on a group of former political prisoners from the Youth Prison and three persons (Dang Bao Xy, Ngo Tung Chinh, and Mai Thanh Minh).
The relic of Da Lat Youth Prison is eloquent testimony of Vietnamese youth’s courageous and unbreakable revolutionary tradition. The work’s inauguration and usage have made an essential contribution to the teaching of patriotic traditions for today’s young generation, as well as better serving the demands of citizens and tourists who come to Da Lat to visit and study.