VietNamNet Bridge – Being jailed in Chi Hoa Prison for advocating Vietnam’s revolution, Mr. André Marcel Menras (French) was named Ho Cuong Quyet (Ho standing for Ho Chi Minh and Cuong Quyet meaning determination) by his inmates. In 2009, he was the first foreigner who was granted the Vietnamese citizenship.
Mr. Ho Cuong Quyet is the first foreigner who was naturalized in Vietnam.
Born in a poor peasant family in southern France, in 1967, André Marcel graduated from the Pedagogy University of Montpellier City. A year later, he went to Vietnam to work as a teacher at the School of Blaise Pascal in Da Nang City, under a cultural cooperation program between the French government and the government of Republic of Vietnam.
In 1969, he moved to the Le Quy Don School in Saigon. Coming from a peaceful country, André was heartbreaking to see Vietnamese people falling under the guns of the U.S. army. “I could not bear. If you are a man, a teacher, no one can accept that. I thought I have to do something to contribute to prevent the destruction of a country,” André said.
In July 1970, he and his fellow Jean Pierre Debris hung the flag of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam in front of the House of Representatives of the Republic of Vietnam (now the HCM City Opera House) and spread leaflets demanding the U.S. and Allied withdrawal from Vietnam.
André said, then he did not know about communism or politics, he only wanted a country to have the right to self-determination, foreign troops to pull back from Vietnam, so that real peace could return in South Vietnam. He and his friend hung the flag to show their love for peace. Because of this action, André was detained for two and a half years at the Chi Hoa Prison in Saigon.
In the Chi Hoa prison, André and his friends were said to be stubborn by refusing to bow, to salute the flag of the Republic of Vietnam, just singing a song of liberation.
Referring to his fellow prisoner, an English teacher who gave him the name Ho Cuong Quyet, André cried.
He said the fellow prisoner gave André and Jean Pierre Debris two names Ho Cuong Quyet and Ho Tat Thang, meaning Tat Thang (Sure of Victory). At first he did not accept the name because he did not dare to have the last name of President Ho Chi Minh. But then he promised to receive the name when he has the opportunity to be a citizen of Vietnam.
André was released and expelled from Vietnam on 01/01/1973, 27 days before the Paris Agreement was signed. However, he secretly collected a list of political prisoners being held in Con Dao, Chi Hoa, Tan Hiep and Phu Quoc prisons and sent the list to Ms. Pham Thi Minh, a member of the delegation of the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam to help refute the allegations of the Republic of Vietnam and the U.S. delegation that there was no political prisoners in South Vietnam.
Along with Jean Pierre Debris, André wrote the book ” We Accuse: Back from Saigon’s Prisons in France.” The book has been published with several hundred thousand copies and translated into seven languages.
With the dedication to Vietnam, in 2002, he was recognized as the honorary citizenship of HCM City. In the same year, he founded the French-Vietnamese Association of Education Development and Exchange (ADEP) and served as the president.
André is the main character in two documentary films made in Vietnam “Mr. Tay Viet Cong” and “André Menras, a Vietnamese.” He also wrote and directed the documentary “Vietnam’s Hoang Sa, the pain of loss” in 2011, which was translated into five languages.
In 2009, André Marcel was the first foreigner who was granted the Vietnamese citizenship by former president Nguyen Minh Triet.
Each time returning to Vietnam, Ho Cuong Quyet often visits the HCM City Cemetery and burned incense to his fellow prisoner, who gave the Vietnamese name to him. He promised to the soul of his fellow prisoner and promised himself that he will never be indifference to humans.
Compiled by Le Ha