Guidebook Grimmace at the Coconut Tree Prison

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Grimmace at the Coconut Tree Prison

Visiting Coconut Tree Prison is “like stepping into a house of horrors,” says Saigon For 91 Days. “There are about two dozen sheds populated by mannequins with faces twisted into permanent grimaces of pain, being subjected to all manner of hellish torment.” It’s worth bearing in mind the reason for opening this prison to tourists -- “to promote the government’s version of history: namely, that the Viet Cong were brave soldiers, and their enemies cruel monsters.” Located at the far end of Phu Quoc island, the prison memorial is like a “live re-enactment of the Josef Goebbels Handbook, complete with (American) mannequins torturing (Vietnamese) mannequins and a set of instructions for each torment,” says A Broad Abroad.    

The Coconut Tree Prison was constructed by the French during the Indochina War, explains Saigon For 91 Days, “but didn’t become truly notorious until the American War, when it fell under the purview of the South Vietnamese army.” After the end of hostilities, the prison was closed, but re-opened in 1996 as a “national landmark.” Over the course of the war, Phu Quoc Prison held over 40,000 POWs and political prisoners who “suffered tremendously,” writes The Culture Trip.

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