Con Dao Prison is the largest and almost the oldest prison in Vietnam. With more than 110 years of existence through two resistance wars against the French colonialists and the American imperialists, this place imprisoned and exiled tens of thousands of soldiers, intellectuals and patriots. If Con Dao prison was considered “hell on earth”, then Con Dao tiger cage was “hell within hell”.

Con Dao tiger cage solitary confinement area – Hell within hell

The tiger cage in Con Dao prison is an isolated prison built in 1940 to imprison particularly dangerous political prisoners. This was also the place where prisoners were tortured most brutally in the prison system of Con Dao prison. There were once thousands of prisoners who were tortured and thousands of revolutionary soldiers and patriots who were exiled by barbaric tortures here.

Con Dao prison

Con Dao prison with a look from above

The tiger cage was built over two different historical periods. The tiger cage was built by the French in 1940 and the tiger cage was built by the US puppet in 1971. In 1979, the Con Dao tiger cage was recognized by the Government as a national historical relic site. This is a destination that any tourist traveling to Con Dao wants to learn about.

Discover the secret of crime in Con Dao tiger cage

Con Dao tiger cage is a place that hides the barbaric secrets of the invaders. The tiger cage was built in two camps, corresponding to the period of resistance against French colonialism and American imperialism, called the French-style tiger cage and the American-style tiger cage.

French-style tiger cage

The French-style tiger cage is Phu Tuong camp, secretly built by the French colonialists in 1940 to detain and torture political prisoners. This place has a total area of 5475 m². The tiger cages were built secretly between two layers of walls. The prisoners were blindfolded when they were brought here.

Phu Tuong camp

The entrance to Phu Tuong camp

The French-style tiger cage has 120 solitary confinement rooms divided into 2 zones, each zone has 60 rooms. The cells are 1.45m x 2.5m wide.

Con Dao tiger case

At peak times, there can be 1 – 12 people locked in one room. Eating, sleeping, and cleaning all on the spot were extremely miserable. Not only for male, female political prisoners was also detained here, and the most famous one was former Vice President Truong My Hoa.

Con Dao prison

Above the tiger cage is a system of bars and corridors for prison guards to move around and easily observe below. They often use sticks with iron tips to torture prisoners along with other forms of torture such as pouring dirty water, throwing lime powder, and did not allow bathing…

Con Dao tiger case

The French-style Con Dao tiger cage also has a system of 60 roofless solariums. In these rooms, prison guards stripped them of their clothes and brutally beat and tortured prisoners. Then they left the prisoners exposed to the sun and rain.

American-style tiger cage

American-style tiger cage or Phu Binh camp was built by the US and his puppet army. This place has a total area of 25,768 m², including 4 zones: AB, CD, EF, GH. Each block has 2 blocks, each block has 48 isolated rooms and a total of 384 solitary confinement cells. This is a typical American-style prison, designed by American experts and built by American contractors using US dollars as aid.

Phu Binh camp in Con Dao

Entrance gate to Phu Binh camp

The cell here is about 5 meters wide, without a bed. Each room can hold 8 – 10 people, eating and cleaning on site. Prisoners were shackled, lying on damp cement floors, tortured regularly, and the toilet tank was not emptied for several weeks.

Con Dao prison

These prisoners were shackled 24/7. During the first 10 days of being sentenced to prison, prisoners provided bland rice and half a liter of water (and the food in Con Dao prison is only dried, soy sauce, and fish sauce, which if left for a long time becomes bitter and sour).

Every day, prison guards take prisoners to do hard work. In the evening, they force prisoners to take off all their clothes for the prison guards to search before entering the cell and going to bed naked.

Con Dao prison

Prisoners have to do hard work such as going to the sea to collect coral to burn into lime powder, going to the forest to mine stone, carve wood, and clean ships.

The American puppets took advantage of the harshness of nature to exile people. Above the cells is a low cement corrugated iron roof. During the day it’s sunny and the heat is scorching.

Con Dao tiger case

At night, the cold and damp cement floor causes soil gas to rise. Prisoners are locked inside, so they suffer more wear and tear. Prisoners detained here are often subjected to cruel and brutal torture such as nailed into body, having their teeth chiseled, being doused with boiling water, burning wire and stabbing into their body…

The American-style Con Dao tiger cage is a center for leprosy. Con Dao political prisoners’ struggle (1973 – 1975). This is also the first place to know that Saigon was completely liberated on April 30, 1975. At 8 a.m. on May 1, 1975, “Hell on Earth” ended after 113 years.

The secret tiger cage was revealed

To hide their crimes, the French colonialists and American imperialists secretly built the tiger cage. And they could not imagine that one day the secret would be revealed. Around the early 1970s, the anti-war movement was at a height. Many students who took to the streets to protest against the war were arrested and taken to Con Dao. Under pressure from domestic and international public opinion, five young people who had been imprisoned in Phu Tuong camp were released to Saigon.

Con Dao tiger case

At the same time, domestic and international public opinion raised rumors about the tiger cage prison camp, but investigations turned up no evidence. After being released, the five students mentioned above memorized a map with instructions on how to enter the tiger’s cage and sent it to international journalists. In June 1970, an inspection team consisting of American congressmen and international journalists was sent to Con Dao to find the truth. And the tiger’s cage appeared.

Con Dao Prison

Under questioning from the US House of Representatives and pressure from major newspapers around the world, the Saigon government was forced to transfer 480 political prisoners being held in the tiger cage out. The tiger cage was destroyed and turned into a place to raise rabbits to appease public opinion.

When coming to Con Dao, it seems that no tourist wants to miss the opportunity to explore the tiger cage. The re-enacted images of colonial and imperialist brutality make anyone who comes here choked with emotion.

Source: collected by An

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