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Wednesday, 2 May 1973
Page: 1618

Mr DOYLE (Lilley) - Now that all American soldiers have been withdrawn from Vietnam and peace there is slowly becoming a reality, most Australians are likely to breathe a sigh of relief and not worry any more about what goes on there. I hope that Australians will not forget about Vietnam, because a legacy of foreign involvement still remains after the troops have left. I refer to the political prisoners still in South Vietnamese gaols. No one knows how many political prisoners are kept in South Vietnamese gaols but some reports have suggested that there may be up to 300,000 imprisoned for political offences by the present and previous South Vietnamese governments. Forty thousand were arrested within a few weeks, according to President Thieu's Press secretary in a statement made on 8 November last year. Many of them would be neutralists or communist sympathisers but many are young students and workers imprisoned because they have dared to speak out against aspects of the present regime or who merely spoke out in the name of God and humanity against the way the war in Vietnam was being waged.

Mr Robinson (MCPHERSON, QUEENSLAND) - They are communists.

Mr DOYLE - Of course honourable members opposite believe that communists are not human beings. I am making a plea particularly on behalf of students and young people who have been gaoled in South Vietnam by the authorities.

Mr Robinson (MCPHERSON, QUEENSLAND) - Communist sympathisers.

Mr DOYLE - Anybody who is not a Liberal happens to be a communist, in the eyes of some people. Let me mention by way of example the saturation bombing, the removal of peasants from their traditional homes, the effects of the war on the Vietnamese people themselves, the degradation, the refugees and the children orphaned by the war. The arbitrary arrest and imprisonment of many political prisoners was made easier by the new constitution pushed through the Vietnamese Parliament by President Thieu. The constitution which described communists and procommunist neutralists as persons who commit acts of propaganda for an incitement of neutralism could have been and was applied so sweepingly that many thousands of Vietnamese - many of them often by mistake - who would never regard themselves as even communist sympathisers were gaoled as political prisoners. I suggest that if they are ever released their political ideas might have changed somewhat.

Another disturbing aspect about these political prisoners is that, with the signing of the ceasefire settlement, many of them are not being freed. This was meant to be. part of the agreement between North and South Vietnam. President Thieu's Government is doing this by a massive reclassification of political offenders. By this measure thousands of gaoled antiThieu politicians, students and intellectuals are bypassed in any mass release of political prisoners. Alternatively, the Government has been recharging political prisoners with criminal offences and even reclassifying criminals as political prisoners so that they can be traded off as such. We have heard a lot recently in the papers and on television about the treatment of American prisoners of war, including tales of torture, starvation and ill treatment generally. This sort of thing seems to have been matched by the South Vietnamese in their treatment of political prisoners. According to a bulletin from the Young Christian Workers of South Vietnam, the following forms of torture have been applied specifically to political prisoners: Intense beating of the soles of the feet, legs and chest; electric shock; soapy water, dirty oil and garbage forced into their mouths provoking vomiting through the nose; periods in water filled metal tanks in which they are struck. Women and girls have received special attention, from being raped to the insertion of Coke bottles and live eels in the genital organs. To these physical tortures are added the tortures of humiliating persons in order to destroy the human element in them.

Some American companies have even profited from the treatment and torture of prisoners. They have supplied - for a good price, of course - cages in which prisoners are kept and tortured. The American Govern ment's aid program also has provided many millions of dollars to expand and renovate South Vietnamese prisons and detention centres and to provide them with technical resources. According to Michael T. Klare in his book War Without End', the United States financed the relocation of thousands of political prisoners from mainland gaols to the prison island of Con Son, the site of the notorious tiger cage cells. After 2 United States Congressmen visited the inhuman tiger cages in 1970 more American money was used to build 288 new isolation cells at Con Son. The torturing and ill treatment of political prisoners is abhorrent, whatever side practices it, and must be condemned by all.

In the general joy over the release of the American prisoners of war we must not forget the plight of the many thousands of political prisoners still rotting in South Vietnamese gaols. Unlike the previous Government with its cynical 'don't care' attitude, the new Labor Government promptly protested against the continued bombing of North Vietnam. Surely we should also be calling for the release of all political prisoners in South Vietnam as soon as possible and for humane treatment for those who remain imprisoned.

Mr Robinson (MCPHERSON, QUEENSLAND) - And in North Vietnam.

Mr DOYLE - And in North Vietnam, certainly - any political prisoners held in gaol.

Mr Giles - Where have you been hiding your head?

Mr DOYLE - If I had one like yours I would have been hiding it for a long time. We fought for democracy in South Vietnam, and young Australians who were not given a democratic right in choosing to fight that cause died there. We should continue our fight for a democratic South Vietnam by calling for the continued release of political prisoners. The other evening my colleague the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh) made a special plea for those young Christian students who have been imprisoned in South Vietnam - not communists but political prisoners - who are being held there against their will and are being tortured. 1 think that is a good attitude and I join with him in asking for the release of those people.

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