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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 February 2007, 11:17 GMT
Vietnam recognises jailed poets
By Bill Hayton
BBC News, Hanoi

Map of Vietnam
The Vietnamese government has announced that it is to award a prestigious prize to four poets - 50 years after they were imprisoned and their works banned.

Hoang Cam, Le Dat, Phung Quan and Tran Dan were part of a movement which criticised life under communism but which was crushed in the late 1950s.

The four, two of whom are now dead, published their work in two magazines.

The awards seem to be part of a wider effort by Vietnam to reconcile difficult aspects of the past.

The two magazines, Giai Pham (Works of Beauty) and Nhan Van (Humanism), were launched shortly after Vietnam gained independence from France.

However this brief period of openness, in which they called for freedom of expression and debated government policies, ended two years later as the Communist Party, under the influence of China, suppressed dissent.

Poster in Hanoi marking anniversary of the Communist Party
The Communist Party is attempting greater openness
Now the Communist Party is once again experimenting with greater openness, in an effort to repair relations with some of its critics.

It is also given a Buddhist organisation permission to hold services in the next few weeks intended to promote reconciliation between former enemies.

Local media coverage of the decision to award the State Prize to the four poets has also been interesting because of the frank way in which it described how the poets were sent to re-education camps after calling for more freedom.

One of the two surviving poets, Hoang Cam, 86, was quoted as welcoming the prize - but said it was a pity it had not happened earlier.

"The prize is beautiful, but late," he said.

Country profile: Vietnam
25 Jan 07 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Vietnam
11 Jan 07 |  Country profiles
Vietnam's independence victory
05 May 04 |  Asia-Pacific


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