History of Phu Quoc

The richest and most prosperous land

The name has been given since 1671 when a Chinese Mac Cuu, on his expedition into the Gulf of Thailand, found this archipelago as the richest and most prosperous land to settle down in. Phu Quoc is the largest island of Vietnam, with an extremely interesting history, associated with the Mac family in the early days of reclaiming this land nearly 400 years ago. The Lords Nguyen and then Nguyen Dynasty had the merit of maintaining peace and stability and developing this land before the six provinces including (Phu Quoc) Ha Tien Province fell into the hands of the French Colonists on June 24, 1867.

According to the wikiwand.com website, in 1671, a Chinese named Mac Cuu (Moc Kinh Cuu), a native of Leizhou, Guangdong province, brought his family, soldiers, and some scholars (about 400 people) on a boat to leave from Fujian to the South Sea. After many days at sea, Mac Cuu’s group set foot on a wasteland in the Gulf of Thailand. After investigating and knowing that this land was under Chenla’s influence, the delegation immediately found a way to Oudong to seek asylum, but at that time there was chaos within Chenla. Mac Cuu met Nac Ong Thu (Ang Sur – Jayajettha III) and stayed together until 1681.

In 1680, Mac Cuu established a number of hamlets scattered from Vung Thom, Trong Ke, Can Vot, Rach Gia, Ha Tien, and Ca Mau which quickly became an important trading port. There were settlement villages located close to the sea, quite convenient for boats to come and go, there were also hamlets on high ground along Giang Thanh, Cai Lon, Ganh Hao and Ong Doc rivers for farming.

Returning to the process of expanding the new land of Mac Cuu, he established 7 casinos along the coast such as Man Kham (Peam), Long Ky (Ream), Can Bot (Kampot), Huong Uc (Kompong Som), Sai Mat (Cheal Meas), Linh Quynh (Rach Gia) and Phu Quoc (Koh Tral). The capital was located at Man Kham (the port of the Man, i.e. the Khmer), later changed to Can Khau (Can Khao or Can Cao). Rumors about this prosperous land spread further and further, so Chinese immigrants from all over the Gulf of Thailand asked to come here to settle down.

Next, in 1724, Mac Cuu once again offered all of his land and was appointed admiral to guard this territory by Lord Nguyen, and at the same time changed the name of Can Khau area to Long Ho palace. Until 1729, Long Ho Dinh was famous as the richest land in the Gulf of Thailand.

In 1735 Mac Cuu died, his son Mac Si Lan (later renamed Mac Thien Tu) was appointed admiral, succeeding his father to rule Long Ho palace. Because of the dedication of the Mac family, Ninh Vuong Nguyen Phuc Tru raised the Mac family to the rank of king. Long Ho Dinh at that time was renamed Ha Tien town.

In 1739, Mac Thien Tu established four more districts: Long Xuyen (Ca Mau), Kien Giang (Rach Gia), Tran Giang (Can Tho) and Tran Di (Northern Bac Lieu). In 1755, Nac Nguyen asked Mac Thien Tu to offer the Nguyen Lord the territory including Tam Bon (in Can Tho) and Loi Lap (Long Xuyen) to be ruled by Nam Vang.

In 1758, Lord Nguyen made Nac Ton (Ang Ton II) king and was given additional territory of Tam Phong Long (Chau Doc and Sa Dec). Nac Ton personally gave Mac Thien Tu the territory of 5 provinces in the Southwest-Southern Chan Lap region, including Huong Uc (Kompong Som), Can Bot (Kampot), Truc Sam (Chung Rum), Sai Mat (Cheal Meas) and Linh Quynh (coastal region), and the sea ​​from the commune of Sré Ambel (to the village of Peam).

In general, it was the entire coastal area surrounding Phu Quoc Island. After that, Mac Thien Tu gave it all to King Nguyen Phuc Khoat. These were just wastelands, no Khmer people lived here because of the swamps and floods all year round. The Martial King merged all new lands into Ha Tien town, then assigned Mac Thien Tu to rule.

In the year of Dinh Mui (1787), Lord Nguyen Anh regained the land of Ha Tien from the Siamese. In 1788, Nguyen Anh brought the two regions Kien Giang and Long Xuyen into Vinh Tran (later Vinh Long). It was this Phu Quoc Island that brought him back so that he later returned to the mainland to collect troops, defeat Tay Son, found the Nguyen Dynasty in 1802, and ascend the throne, with the alias Gia Long. But in the Nguyen Dynasty, Gia Long (Nguyen Anh) separated these two regions and returned them to Ha Tien town as before.

During the reign of King Tu Duc until the French occupied Ha Tien (1847-1867), Ha Tien province consisted of 1 government (An Bien government) with 3 districts: Ha Chau, Kien Giang and Long Xuyen. The former districts belonging to the Quang Bien government (Can Bot land (Kampot), Vung Thom) returned to Cambodia.

Thus, Ha Tien province of the Nguyen Dynasty stretched along the Gulf of Thailand (West Sea), from Ca Mau to Ha Tien, sometimes to Kampot province and Sihanoukville city (Kompong Som) of Cambodia, bordered to the West by Cambodia, with An Giang province of the Nguyen Dynasty, the Northwest, North, and Northeast adjacent to Cambodia.

On June 24, 1867, Ha Tien province was occupied by the French colonialists. After many years, the Ha Tien area was divided into complex administrative units, from time to time. The French built the hardest prison in Phu Quoc to retain the nationalists. The Vietnamese Republic took control of Phu Quoc and continued this prison until 1975. After the reunification of North and South Vietnam, Phu Quoc became a quaint fishing village and famous for pepper and Nuoc Man or Phu Quoc Fish Sauce in Vietnam and around the world.

After many historical events, Phu Quoc Island has been a part of Vietnam’s flesh and blood. This land, rich in culture and history of the Vietnamese people, is located in the Gulf of Thailand, close to Cambodia. The island city of Phu Quoc today has many tourist resources waiting for visitors to explore, discover and experience.

Imprint of the first Nguyen Emperor in Phu Quoc

In the middle of 1783, the Tay Son army continued to attack Nguyen Nguyen Anh (1762-1820). In a desperate situation, Nguyen Anh and the remnants of his army had to flee to Phu Quoc island. It was this island that brought him back so that he could later return to the mainland to collect troops, defeat Tay Son, establish the Nguyen Dynasty in 1802 and ascend to the throne, named Gia Long.

It is said that, during a run from the Tay Son insurgents, Nguyen Anh, his wife, children, and soldiers had to flee to the area of ​​Ong Doi Cape, An Thoi archipelago, Phu Quoc. This is a large mountain range running to the sea, the tip is facing east, the terrain is quite dangerous. However, upon coming here, the food was exhausted, and the vegetables picked in the forest were not enough to feed the army.

When the army’s heart sank, Nguyen Anh’s mind was confused. He stomped his feet, slammed his sword into the ground, raised his face to the sky and exclaimed: “If heaven allows me to be king, he will give me fresh water and food. “. After the groan, fresh water suddenly poured out from the point of the sword that had just been inserted. Then fish from the open sea suddenly swarmed around Ong Doi Cape. Fresh water and fish helped Lord Nguyen and his soldiers overcome this harrowing situation. This fish has since been named the Anchovy.

Ong Doi Cape is now in An Thoi town, located near the naval base of Region 5. It has a beautiful strait, clear sea water, and smooth sand. Currently, there are many large tourism projects under construction. Tourists come to Ong Doi Cape to take pictures of the place where Nguyen Anh set foot and drink the strange freshwater of Gieng Tien or Fairy Well. Many superstitious people also believe that well water has healing powers.

There is also a stone “Throne” weighing tons, looking east. The temple has the words “Cao Hoang De Gia Long” and still smells of smoke day and night. Ong Doi cape sea area is also a place where visitors enjoy swimming, snorkeling, and fishing…

The battle of national hero Nguyen Trung Truc

Another famous historical figure – National hero Nguyen Trung Truc (1838 -1868), leader of the anti-French movement in the second half of the 19th century in the South, had to flee to Phu Quoc island when in danger.

At dawn on June 16, 1868, Nguyen Trung Truc’s insurgent army suddenly attacked Kien Giang fort (now the area where the People’s Committee of Kien Giang province is located), killing 5 French officers, 67 soldiers, and collecting many guns and ammunition. However, after this victory, a few days later the French command in My Tho mobilized counterattack forces. Because the enemy army was too strong, Nguyen Trung Truc had to withdraw to Hon Chong (Kien Luong) and then cross the sea to Phu Quoc island, stationed in the forest in Cua Can commune.

In September 1868, the French continued to mobilize powerful forces to Phu Quoc Island to pursue the Nguyen Trung Truc insurgent army. The insurgents fought fiercely for months on the island. After arresting Nguyen Trung Truc, on October 27, 1868, the French authorities brought him to be executed at Rach Gia market. Before his death, he wrote a poem and affirmatively declared: “Bao giờ người Tây nhổ hết cỏ nước Nam thì mới hết người Nam đánh Tây” “When the westerner pulls up all our roots, only then will we fight him.”

After Nguyen Trung Truc’s death, temples worshiping this brave national hero sprang up in most of the western provinces. At the communal house in the forest in Hamlet 2, Cua Can Commune (Phu Quoc), people also built a longhouse to store the battle boat of the insurgent Nguyen Trung Truc. The artifacts of the insurgents are displayed in solemn positions by the Coi Nguon museum on Phu Quoc Island.

Near the mouth of Cua Can river is the tomb of General Ba Lon – the wife of General Nguyen Trung Truc, which is also embellished and looked after by the people day and night. People on Phu Quoc island still circulate the story that: Nguyen Trung Truc’s wife gave birth to a child but lacked milk to breastfeed.

Knowing this, the French army ordered that whoever breastfed Nguyen Trung Truc’s child would die for three generations. Villagers in Cua Can were afraid to give milk. Going to beg for milk in the whole village, no one fed him. Nguyen Trung Truc’s wife got on a boat to cross the sea to the mainland to save her child, but the boat ran aground and the mother and child died. The place Cua Can was born from there.

After Ba Lon passed away, in Cua Can commune, anyone who gave birth to a child could not take care of it. People said that the Great General hated people, so whoever gave birth to a child was taken away. If people in Cua Can want to raise their children, they have to go to another place to give birth, and after the breastfeeding period, they dare to bring them home. General Lon’s grave was found on April 27, 1963, in Dong Ba area, hamlet 3, Cua Can commune. Every year on the 18th and 19th day of the 8th lunar month, people hold a ceremony to worship her.

Phu Quoc Prison is likened to “Hell on Earth”, built during the French period, about 40 hectares wide, called “Coconut Camp”, holding nearly 14,000 people.

At the end of 1955, President Ngo Dinh Diem, of the Government of the Republic of Vietnam, built a prison at the old Coconut Tree Campsite with an area of ​​4 hectares, dividing the prison into zones: Male prison area, residential area, prison for women, and prison for the elderly, named “Coconut Training Camp”.

History books record that, in 1966, the war escalated, leading to an increase in the number of prisoners. The government of the Republic of Vietnam built an additional prison of more than 400 hectares, 2 km from the old Coconut Tree camp. There are 12 areas, numbered from 1 to 12. Each zone had 4 subdivisions A, B, C, D.

Each division had 9 rooms for prisoners to live in, 2 rooms for interviews, fines, or solitary confinement. Each detention area had an area of ​​100 m2, holding from 70 to 120 people. The solitary confinement areas were only 30m2, but at peak times, they held up to 180 people or more. Around each subdivision, there were 4 sentry points that were guarded 24h with 10 mobile sentries.

The prison was surrounded by 10 layers of barbed wire, surrounded by non-residents, and completely isolated from the outside. Every day, there were 2 vehicles patrolling continuously around the detention area, at night there were also teams entering the fence to control the movement.

Phu Quoc prison became the largest prisoner detention center of the Republic of Vietnam, holding up to 40,000 prisoners of which 4,000 soldiers were killed by brutal torture.

Coming to Phu Quoc prison, through the introduction of the guides and fact-finding, we can feel the barbarism of the prison’s terrible torture punishments through the reconstructed model. One of the most savage beatings was crucifixion.

They used old, rusty nails 3-7cm long to hammer into their fingers, neck joints, knees, etc., after being nailed, the prisoners’ bones would crumble. They also used high-pressure lamps to shine in prisoners’ eyes to fry their pupils.

The barbed-wire cage kept prisoners outdoors day and night. In the narrow cage one could neither stand nor sit, the sand below was burning, and the barbed wire above was eviscerating. In addition, they also forced prisoners to turn their heads into iron plates to scratch their skin and bleed…

Many soldiers could not stand those barbaric tortures and died here. It is estimated that about 4,000 soldiers lost their lives and tens of thousands of soldiers carried injuries and disabilities for life.

Painful and indignant at their cruelty, the soldiers repeatedly organized prison escapes. The most famous is the miraculous escape of more than 20 soldiers by tunnel (120m long, 0.6m wide) dug by themselves with spoons and iron pieces for many months.

In 1995, the historical site of Phu Quoc Prison was recognized as a national relic. This is the most realistic depiction of the brutality and barbarism of the enemy. Now, the war has passed, but Phu Quoc prison is still the haunt of revolutionary soldiers and tourists.

5 myths about Phu Quoc prison

  1. Phu Quoc prison is not Con Dao prison
  2. Phu Quoc prison is a historical relic, and has been discontinued, not a prison anymore
  3. Phu Quoc prison was built by the French – the US used it, but the Vietnamese ruled it
  4. The current Phu Quoc prison monument is not the original but is restored
  5. In Phu Quoc prison, prisoners were only held but not buried.