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French colonial-era Thua Phu Prison reopens to tourists in Vietnam's Hue City

Thursday, December 31, 2020, 13:22 GMT+7
French colonial-era Thua Phu Prison reopens to tourists in Vietnam's Hue City
A cell block at Thua Phu Prison in Thua Thien-Hue Province, central Vietnam.

Thua Phu Prison, a historical landmark in Thua Thien-Hue Province, located in central Vietnam, has reopened its doors to tourists after a years-long renovation.

A reopening ceremony for Thua Phu Prison was held on December 22 by the History Museum of Thua Thien-Hue.

Thua Phu Prison was initially a part of the Thuy Su Barracks, a residential area for marines during the Nguyen Dynasty in Vietnam.

In 1899, French colonialists partnered with the then-government to transform the barracks into a prison to serve the Thua Thien-Hue area.

During the French administration and following takeover by American forces, the premise was continually expanded to include bulwarks and watchtowers. 

Several famous Vietnamese revolutionaries were held at Thua Phu throughout its history, including Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap and many key figures from the uprising of the Nghe Tinh Soviets in the early 1930s.

A former prisoner (middle) visits his cell in Thua Phu Prison.

A former prisoner (middle) visits his cell in Thua Phu Prison in Thua Thien-Hue Province, central Vietnam.

After the success of the 1945 August Revolution, which led to the French and Japanese withdrawing from Vietnam, authorities demolished the majority of Thua Phu Prison, saving just a few chambers for the detention of pro-Japanese government individuals.

Thua Phu was once again taken over by the French after their attempt to return to Indochina in 1946.

In 1954, the Ngo Dinh Can authority of the Republic of Vietnam constructed new solitary confinement chambers and basement cells to keep members of the Communist Party and other revolutionaries.

Vo Thi Buoi, a former inmate at Thua Phu Prison, said she was captured at the age of 15 by an American troop while serving as a mail carrier in 1968.

“Many protests against the Americans and Saigon authorities were held by inmates in the prison. Wardens tried to suppress dissension with violence, torture, and cutting off water to the cells,” Buoi recounted.

Visitors attend an exhibition at Thua Phu Prison.

Visitors attend an exhibition at Thua Phu Prison in Thua Thien-Hue Province, central Vietnam.

Nguyen Duc Loc, director of the History Museum of Thua Thien-Hue, said the preservation and restoration project at Thua Phu Prison fully reconditioned the remaining items, such as the watchtowers, the two-story buildings erected under the Saigon authority takeover, blockhouses, the old bulwarks, gates, internal roads, and the cells that kept To Huu – a famous poet and politician.

The restoration project cost VND2.3 billion (US$99,700).

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