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1973: Vietnam observers' struggle for peace

VIDEO : Foreign troops begin withdrawal from Vietnam

International inspection teams in Vietnam have been sent into the countryside to monitor the truce agreed last Saturday in Paris.

The International Commission of Control and Supervision (ICCS) was created at the Paris Peace Accords - signed by the US, the Vietcong, North Vietnam and South Vietnam - on 27 January and includes delegates from Hungary, Poland, Canada and Indonesia.

But the warring parties have been unable to agree the details of the settlement and fighting has continued in spite of the ceasefire.

About 3,500 communists have been killed by South Vietnamese troops, who claim they have suffered similar numbers of casualties over the past week.

Observers on their way

The ICCS announced yesterday it was not going to wait for the reconciliation meeting between the Vietcong and South Vietnamese in Paris tomorrow.

Seven teams of observers are on their way to establish regional headquarters in the provincial capitals of Quang Nam, Thua Thien, Pleiku, Pham Thiet, Bien Hoa, My Tho and Can Tho.

They had already set up a skeleton presence in three of the areas after the Joint Military Commission met to produce guidelines for the ICCS on 2 February.

The Military Commission - comprising Vietcong, South Vietnam, North Vietnam and the US - is responsible for the security and transport arrangements of the ICCS.

A spokesman for the ICCS said they will be settling into their areas until the Military Commission has laid down the infrastructure for them to move to the fronts and supervise the ceasefire.

Senior figures from the Military Commission met in Saigon on 29 January to decide how demarcation lines should be drawn between the South Vietnamese and communist Vietcong armies in South Vietnam.

Under the terms of the peace agreement the ICCS is to establish regional and sub-regional administrations, with headquarters in 26 towns and 12 observation teams based in the demilitarised zone below the Seventeenth Parallel.

In Context
Fighting continued in four main areas in spite of ICCS activities.

On the northern Quang Tri front there was a heavy artillery battle as both sides tried to prevent any further ground advances.

In Quang Ngai and Binh Dinh provinces there were a series of clashes over the North-South highway in a mainly communist-controlled area.

North and south of Pleiku, in the Central Highlands, the South Vietnamese also fought to keep the roads free.

In the Northern Delta and north of Saigon the battles were over the control of hamlets.

But the fighting became less intensive and moves towards peace continued.

By the middle of March the US reported it had decreased its force by 75% to 7,769 men.

The Vietnam War finally ended with the fall of Saigon in April 1975 and the reunification of the country under communist rule.


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