Page 6, 13th August 1954

13th August 1954
Page 6
Page 6, 13th August 1954 — Migrations will sway elections

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Organisations: French army
People: Ngo Dinh Diem
Locations: Hanoi


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Migrations will sway elections

mr HE French authorities In Indo-China are afraid that

the Vietminh forces, already In effective control of over 7,000 villages In the Red River Delta, may hinder the flow of refugees—many thousands of them Catholics—to southern Vietnam with a view to winning the crucial elections that take place in two years' time.

Reports from French and American correspondents tell how anti-Communists north of the 17th Parallel are being eubjected to threats, promises and physical violence designed to persuade them to stay when the French leave.

The New York Heredd Tribune calls it the "battle of evacuation."

Thousands of refugees arriving in Hanoi on their way south have been pursued by Communists, who are bringing a heavy pressure of propaganda to hear on them in the heart of this tragic city.

It was originally thought that 1,000,000 inhabitants of the delta would evacuate before the Vietminh take over completely next May. French observers now fear that only Government officials and army officers—who could not hope to survive the Red regime and comparatively few others will make their way south.

Premier's appeal

A mass evacuation is essential to Premier Ngo Dinh Diem's hope that the anti-Communists will win the elections which will decide the future of the whole country, for there is little likelihood of anti-Red nvootrtMhg in the Vietminh controlled The native population of the south is 9,500,000—at least 1,000,000 less than in Ho-Chi-Minh's territory.

The Catholic Premier has therefore appealed to northern Vietnamese to join the migrations to the south and, with United States help, has launched a $20,000,000 programme to move and resettle 700,000 evacuees, including 40,000 loyal tribesmen on the Chinese border.

The Vietminh troops are reported to have maintained sharp attacks against 50 French and Vietnamese outposts right up to the deadline fixed for the truce.

Vietnamese who fled to Hanoi reported that the Reds had iliat executed several "unfriendly' village elders and had plundered Catholic settlements.

A portrait of Ho-Chi-Minh is now displayed in the cathedral at Namd inh.

Thousands of Catholic refugees are streaming into Hanoi in French army and commercial trucks, topheavy buses and on foot from their homes and farms in towns and villages within a radius of 30 miles overflow the schools and public buildings.

No panic—yet

Some are said to have been robbed of their money by Vietminh sympathisers. Homeless and penniless, they are dependent on the charity of the faithful of the city for food and shelter. There is no panic there as yet—the Reds are not expected for two months.

The refugees. moving parish groups wearing scapulars over their brown cotton clothing and rosaries and medals round their necks, are lost in a city which many of them are seeing for the first time, but salute happily whenever they set eyes on a priest. native or foreign.

Twenty two emergency refugee centres have been set up. Four thousand Catholics from the Bacninh area are packed into one school, where they sleep on the floor. Another 2,000 have found refuge inside the plush-lined municipal theatre. The Canadian Redemptorists are caring for 5,000 refugees in their grounds. It is thought that 20,000 Catholics left Bac-ninh before the Reds took

over and that 10,000 fled from Sontay. Smaller numbers came from other areas around the north Vietnam delta. Many just failed to get out in time.

From the Hue vicariate in Central Vietnam, cut by the demarcation line, it is reported that 20,000 Catholics would like to move south.

Great though these numbers are, they are small compared with the size of the migrations for which Premier Ngo Dinh Diem hopes and prays, and it remains to be seen how many of those now on the move will he held back by Communist pressure.

Anxiety about Communist treatment of the Catholic population is heavily underlined by the record of the past. Some toleration has been exercised in regions not fully domin ated by the Reds. But elsewhere Catholics have been systematically persecuted.

Campaigns of hate have been instigated against the Bishops; priests and people have had Marxist "reeducation" courses thrust on them; all the apostolic work of the clergy has been severely hampered by the authorities, and it is forbidden to teach catechism to the children.

Crushed • by overwhelming taxation, the religious congregations have in some cases been driven to closing their houses.

Today the Red menace is moving farther on—and closing in.

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