Alejandra Arévalo

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Les Lính Thó: l’oubli forcé
( The Lính Thó: the forced oblivion) Ongoing

Between 1939 and 1942 around 20,000 Vietnamese men were forcibly transported from the port of Haiphong to the costs of Marseille to work as unskilled laborers in the French armament industry and rice fields.
By this time, the French government had an Indigenous, North African and Colonial Manpower Service (MOI) attached to the Mi- nistry of Labor, which had the right to recruit colonial labor in crisis situations. Most of the workers spent their first nights in the pri- son of Baumettes in Marseille and were then distribu- ted to different cities. They were considered efficient and rather fast workers, but not as material for the war field; that was the task for the men coming from the African colonies.
In 1945, at the end of the Second World War and with the beginning of the Vietnam War, the fleets desti- ned for the repatriation of Vietnamese workers were all assigned to the French Navy to calm the airs of rebellion in Indochina. Thus, some 15,000 Annamite workers and soldiers were blocked in French territory for nearly 10 years. Some of these workers decided to remain in France since they had formed families and a stable life.
According to the research of journalist Pierre Daum, by 2013, only five or fewer workers were still alive in France. However, it is in recent years that an attempt has been made to rescue the memory of these men through documentary research. This is how the story of these men is unveiled, which are not only accounts of two wars, but testimonies of the French colonial and post-colonial power that has been kept silent. It shows how the French colonial power forced thou- sands of men, not only from Indochina, to work and live in degrading conditions under the pretext of racial superiority.
It is a historical episode that contains the lives of more than 20,000 Vietnamese men and thousands of others from different nations under
The focus lies on the family memory of the descendants of these workers. For many of the sons and daughters, the story of their fathers was
not known to them, since for many it was a traumaIt is an ongoing project that seeks to question the European colonial and post-colonial power and at the same time, it aims to reframe the individual and collective memory.


© Alejandra Arévalo 2023