"Our people never leave a field without a fight.… Do not ask us to flee like frightened deer without staging a battle. I shall never ask my people to do such a thing. Not until the jungles die and the mountains crumble and the heavens fallon us. Never! Never! Never!" That is how the war in Vietnam started, when old Pho Muc Gia, chief of the small Kor tribe, consisting of not more than 4,700 members, refused to follow the "line" which demanded respect for the peace established by the Geneva Agreements while the Diem dictatorship was butchering his tribe and the rest of the population of South Vietnam. The ninety-year-old man also pointedly told the communist cadre who was bringing him the "line": "Some time ago you were real warriors. We fought together like a single body. Now we see that you do not belong any longer to the underground. If you did you would back us and you would not ask us to flee.… That was in 1959. The cadre who a few years later told this story to the Australian journalist Wilfred Burchett was the same man who tried to influence the old tribal chief. The arguments of the old man were more powerful and convincing, especially for the Vietminh veteran who had fought against the French and who was now in charge of bringing the line of "coexistence" to the tribesmen. But the tribesmen knew nothing of the Geneva Agreements—and they couldn't have read them if they had known about them. All they knew was that the land was theirs and that one must never flee without a fight. They went ahead on their own: they ambushed the local garrison, killing everyone inside and taking their weapons; then and only then did they accept retiring to safer areas.
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