The Vietnamese version of a French book on Indochinese workers in France in the 20th century’s first half was published recently, giving the public an insight into a little-known part of the history of French colonisation of Vietnam.

Associate Prof. Dr Pham Xanh from the University of Social Sciences and Humanities said the book “Immigres de Force, les Travailleurs Indochinois en France 1939-1952” (Immigrants Force, the Indochinese workers in France 1939-1952) is an in-depth study of Pierre Daum and translated into Vietnamese by Tran Huu Khanh.

Within three years since 2007, Pierre Daum searched far and wide from France’s Paris and Marseille to Vietnam’s Hanoi and remote areas and found out 25 people who are the last historical witnesses for the story.

In September 1939, France, which were colonising Vietnam then, declared war against German fascists and sent 20,000 young Vietnamese people to France to serve in the defence industry.

Among these people, just about 5 percent were educated and hailed from rich families and volunteered to work as interpreters. The rest came from poor farmer families and were forced to travel to France and then work at weapon factories. They were called Indochinese workers.

After France lost to the Nazis in June 1940, only some 4,500 of Vietnamese forced labourers were returned to their homeland. The remainder were brought to southern France to work in production sectors during wartime.

In 1942, 500 people were sent to Camargue region in the south to revive rice cultivation, and thanks to their experience, they succeeded in turning century-old saline land here into a high-yield rice production area which is now a pride of southern France.

During their stay in the foreign country, the Vietnamese workers always thought their home country. They carried out numerous activities such as distributing leaflets, displaying Vietnam’s flag, and staging strikes and protests in support of the homeland’s struggle for independence and against France’s reoccupation of Vietnam.

In 1945, Vietnam gained independence, and one year later, President Ho Chi Minh attended the Fontainebleau conference in France and was welcomed by thousands of those Indochinese workers. Later, their widespread struggle forced the French Government to carry out repatriations.

Pierre Daum’s book was first published in 2009 and made a resounding success. It was then reprinted for a number of times, adapted into films, and became the topic of many mobile exhibitions as well as workshops across France.

A number of French localities honoured the former Indochinese workers. In September 2014, a State-level monument to the 20,000 Vietnamese workers was inaugurated in Camargue.-VNA