Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 18. 26th July 1973
The PRG—An Answer To Kirk
The PRG—An Answer To Kirk
Carl Thayer, who is touring New Zealand at the invitation of the Auckland Indochina Day Committee and the Wellington Committee on Vietnam, has studied the Vietnamese situation for the last ten years. He has taught in Vietnam and visited the country as recently as last year. He is currently collating the results of his studies on the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam for a doctoral dissertation at the Australian National University in Canberra. The excerpts printed below are from his address to the Auckland Indochina Day held at Auckland University on July 14.
Why Doesn't the PRG have a capital?
Why no capital? Immediately that a ceasefire in Vietnam was to go into effect the PRG was to name its delegates to the four-party Joint Military Commission. They were to name the places where they were to be met by representatives of the United States, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the Saigon Administration to form this four party Joint Military Commission. And when they did so and flew their flag and named their places they got bombed by the Saigon Government. I think I have indicated also before, the dangers in a period of peace like the time immediately after the 1954 Geneva agreements to a government in the liberated areas that does not continue to shield itself with military forces. If a capital were to be declared as an area, I wonder how long it would be before the Saigon government physically went in and occupied it.
I've got two theories as to where a capital will be declared, but it will be declared only when the outside countries of the world have recognised both the PRG and the Thieu government and do all they can, through this representation, through this recognition, to force the Saigon parties to continue to work together and not to give any kind of aid to encourage one or the other to upset the balance and the structure of peace that should be emerging in South Vietnam.
So recognition can play a positive part in putting pressure on both sides to get on with the business of solving the problem, which is to be left to them to work out. When that encouragement comes, when the two sides stop jockeying for position and finally reach an agreement as they're supposed to have done, then and only then, one of two areas are likely to be declared a capital of Vietnam. One, ironically enough, is that district capital where I taught, in Binh Long province. The other, I would suggest, would be in Quang Tri province, immediately south of the so-called demilitarised zone. I suggest this because intelligence reports from my own government that are in the New York Times say that SAM 2 missiles are appearing in great numbers in this area, that bulldozers and cement mixers have been busy preparing old American airstrips for use. Now the missiles, it should be pointed out, are defensive. The PRG does not have an airforce to my knowledge. I think that when the moment comes they will be able to stave off what is after all the world's third largest airforce, that of the Saigon administration.
Finally, American intelligence reports tell us that 10,000 Vietnamese who left South Vietnam during the conflict, who went to the Democratic Republic of South Vietnam and have received educational training in accountancy, business and all these facets that public servants need to know, have now returned to their own portion of the country to take up posts in the PRG. I think very shortly we will see a government declare the location of its own capital and will have fully staffed itself. The only stumbling block I can really see on the horizon is that the conflict and turmoil in Cambodia must first be ended, because that constitutes a very vital factor influencing all development, all trust, between the two parties in Vietnam.
I'm happy to see my own government finally standing up to the President after so many years, and asserting what they should have done a long time ago — the power of the purse — to have him call off the bombing in Cambodia. Perhaps it will hasten the end of the Lon Nol regime and with it a solution to the Cambodian problem, and then by reverse effect maybe we can have a solution to the problem in Vietnam itself. But until the Cambodian situation is solved I can see little hope for encouraging signs and mutual trust between the two parties in South Vietnam.
Does the PRG control any territory?
First, there are liberated areas of Vietnam which, except for the military occupation by American troops in '66, have remained liberated territories since 1945. The last issue of the Far East Economic Review has shown them. If you go back and look at General Giap's book, Dienhienphu, he produces a map of the military situation at the end of the battle of Dienbienphu, which shows the liberated territories of South Vietnam. These spots, these leopard spots that he's got on his map in 1954, are precisely those spots which appear on the maps today. These are areas where the Saigon administration has never had in its control. There's been over 20 years of liberated control in these areas, so there is territory.
The second thing is that the result of the war has been to take Vietnam off the rolls as an undeveloped country in terms of statistics of being a rural country and has urbanised it fantastically by bombing the people into the cities, and I think these people constitute, if not a territorial base, then a popular base of support for the PRG. When these people are allowed to return to the free fire zones, which after all were their homes, then the enlargement of leopard spots of PRG controlled territory will increase.
Recognise the PRG
I would not press for derecognition of the Thieu regime. I think that the countries that recognise it now should recognise the PRG and, using these contacts, pressurise both these people to agree to follow and implement strictly the terms of the Paris Agreements and get on with their business, but not interfere in any other way.
The Paris Peace Agreements call for non-interference, and they limit quite strictly the kind of aid that can be given. If the United States Government would stop its material aid to the Saigon government, if it would not help replace part for part each item on their military lists, the Thieu regime would in all probability collapse very, very quickly. The people would desert it. That's certainly true. Therefore, I would think that part of the way of applying pressure on the United States is to isolate its own position by recognising the PRG and showing the United States that the world, that the international system itself, can constitute a counter-balance.
A concert of nations in the international system recognising the PRG constitutes a setback for the United States in its plan to keep the Thieu regime as the only one that is observed in the world.