On July 19th, we have a busy day in Hanoi. At nine o’clock, we meet with the U. S. Embassy officials. At lunchtime, we meet with a journalist from Associate Press. In the afternoon, we think we’ll meet with an officer from the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (although our meeting is not confirmed). Of course, the topic of conversation will be a small cemetery, across Thac Ba lake, outside the village of Lang Da. The lake is a beautiful sight, and the VNG intends that it become an ecological tourist destination, a modern idea found in a country determined maintain relevance in a competitive world.
Several decades ago, Lang Da was not such a welcoming sight for the men who occupied the reeducation camp in the forest. Twenty-seven men died in the camp while it was in operation, most likely from hardship and disease. At TRC, we don’t dwell on notions like justification or accountability for the camp. We come for the twenty-seven buried at the camp who want to go home.
TRC has this opportunity by permission of the VNG. The government is allowing TRC to recover all the remains, and to take DNA samples to match the remains with their families. Regardless of what may have happened at Lang Da in the past decades, today Vietnam demonstrates that it belongs in this modern world among nations who also have faced their difficult pasts. TRC recognizes the cooperation of the VNG at Lang Da, and we hope that the cooperation continues as TRC seeks the remains at other camps.