Besides many attractive attractions such as Ninh Kieu Wharf, Cai Rang Floating Market, Tay Do Night Market… coming to Can Tho still has many interesting eco-tourism areas and historical relics that have gone through many ups and downs. Among them, Can Tho Grand Prison (Vietnamese: Khám Lớn Cần Thơ) is one of the famous attractions that attracts a large number of those who love and learn about the nation’s history.
As the largest prison in the Mekong Delta Region during the French colonial period, Can Tho Grand Prison was once a fear that made anyone who heard its name shudder. Not only is it a prison to hold prisoners, this place is also a hellish place that witnessed many barbaric crimes committed by the French colonialists to extinguish the courageous and indomitable will of Vietnamese revolutionary soldiers.
General information about Can Tho Grand Prison
The Grand Prison is located at No. 8, Ngo Gia Tu Street, Tan An Ward, Ninh Kieu District, Can Tho City. It was built by the French colonialists in the years 1878-1886 as a governing tool of the colonial government at that time. Existing for more than a hundred years, this place is evidence of the crimes of colonialists and imperialists as well as an eloquent testament to the indomitable spirit of the Vietnamese people.
On June 28, 1996, the Ministry of Culture issued a decision to recognize the Can Tho Grand Prison as a national historical relic. According to old documents, after occupying Cochinchina in 1867, the French colonialists established Can Tho, investing in the construction of many military and economic projects. Besides the flashy scale of those works, the French colonialists did not forget to build a large-scale, solid prison, adjacent to Tham Bien Palace, at the same level as the Can Tho provincial government office, called Prison Provinciale (provincial prison) to strengthen the governing apparatus.
It is called Grand Prison because it is the largest prison on the mainland in Mekong Delta region, focusing on detaining patriotic prisoners who have received serious sentences, pose a danger to the ruling regime, or often commit serious crimes. During the American puppet period, the name was changed to “Reeducation Center”, after the day of peace, people still used to call it “Can Tho Grand Prison”.
After the day of national unification, the large examination area was retained into the Hau Giang – Can Tho historical relic museum, many items were preserved and restored. The gallery also preserves many artifacts and images for visitors such as pillowcases, sweaters, handkerchiefs, jewelry… that female prisoners brought or made while in detention.
Unique architecture built separately
Looking from the front the main gate is arch-shaped, on the left side of the gate is the on-duty supervisor’s house, on the right is the office and residence of the head supervisor. The Grand Prison is surrounded by a wall from 3.6m to 5m high, covered with pieces of bottles and barbed wire.
At each corner of the wall is a 6m high watchtower with guards and floodlights at night to control prisoners. Inside the large prison, there are 21 collective cells and many solitary confinement cells.
Between the prison rows is a large yard for prisoners to sunbathe.
In this yard, the colonialists and imperialists also built pagodas and churches to show respect for the prisoners’ beliefs and religion.
Around 1963, two rows of houses were built on the yard behind the temple, the ground floor had no walls – for a time it was used as a vocational guidance house for prisoners…
The prescribed capacity in each collective cell is only about 30 to 40 people, but sometimes the number of prisoners reaches 70 to 80 people.
Here, they often torture prisoners with very brutal means and tools like in the Middle Ages. In addition to torture and interrogation, the food rations for all prisoners are very miserable and harsh, such as eating moldy rice, bitter fish sauce, rotten fish… every day each prisoner is only given 1 to 2 cans of water to drink leads to very serious health depletion. Many revolutionary soldiers have sacrificed their lives on this prison. The remaining people were infected with all kinds of diseases: scabies, malaria, typhoid, tuberculosis… For special political prisoners, the enemy was locked up in solitary confinement cells for whippings, coercion, and torture until exhausted.
If you are a history lover, this place will definitely awaken the fire of passion in you. After visiting Can Tho Grand Prision, you can stop by Can Tho Museum to learn more about the nation’s history.