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Indochina refugee crisis
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Indochina refugee crisis was the large outflow of people from the
former French colonies of Indochina comprising the countries
ofVietnam, Cambodia, and Laos after communist governments were
established in 1975. Over the next 25 years and out of a total Indochinese
population in 1975 of 56 million, more than 3 million people would
undertake the dangerous journey to become refugees in other countries of
Southeast Asia or China. Hundreds of thousands may have died in their
attempt to flee. More than 2.5 million Indochinese were resettled, mostly in
North America and Europe. Five hundred thousand were repatriated, either
voluntarily or involuntarily.

A map of French Indochina. North and South Vietnam were divided
north of the city of Hue and had different governments from 1954 until
1976 when the country was formally re-united.
The Indochinese refugees consisted of a number of different peoples,
including the Vietnamese boat people, the Sino-
Vietnamese Hoa, Cambodians fleeing the Khmer Rouge and hunger,
ethnic Laotians, Hmong and other highland peoples of Laos,


and Montagnard, the highland peoples of Vietnam. They fled to nearby
countries to seek temporary asylum and most requested
permanentresettlement in third countries. The refugee outflow and
humanitarian crisis was especially acute in 1979 and 1980.
Reverberations of the Indochina refugee crisis continued into the 21st
century. The last of the boat people was repatriated from Malaysia in 2005
and Thailand deported 4,000 Hmong refugees in 2009.

1 Fall of Saigon 1975
2 Hmong refugees
3 Lowland Lao refugees
4 Hoa
5 Boat people
6 Vietnamese land refugees
7 Cambodians
8 Montagnards
9 Indochinese resettled and repatriated
10 See also
11 References
Fall of Saigon 1975[edit]
Main articles: Fall of Saigon, Operation Frequent Wind, Operation New
Life and Operation New Arrivals

South Vietnamese refugees arrive on a U.S. Navy vessel during Operation
Frequent Wind.


In Spring 1975, the armies of North Vietnam and the Viet Cong advanced
rapidly southward and by early April the defeat and occupation of South
Vietnam by the north was nearly certain. During the Vietnam War, nearly
one million Vietnamese had been employed by the U.S. government or
were family members of former employees and were believed to be in
danger of persecution or execution by the conquering North Vietnamese.
Fearing that rumors of evacuation would cause panic in the South
Vietnamese population, extensive planning began only on April 18, 1975
when U.S. PresidentGerald Ford created an inter-agency task force to
"coordinate...evacuation of U.S. citizens, Vietnamese citizens, and third-
country nationals from Vietnam." By that time the military forces of North
Vietnam were nearly in the outskirts of Saigon and the population of the city
was swelled by hundreds of thousands of people displaced from areas
already overrun by the communist armies.

The large-scale evacuation of Vietnamese by American military transport
aircraft began on April 23 from Tan Son Nhut airport in Saigon. North
Vietnamese rockets were fired at Tan Son Nhut on April 29, killing two
American marines, and the airport was closed later that day. Thousands of
Vietnamese and Americans were still clustered inside the American
Embassy and in the streets around the Embassy awaiting evacuation. All
that afternoon and night, military helicopters landed on the roof of the
Embassy and carried evacuees to U.S. navy ships waiting off shore. Tens
of thousands of Vietnamese evacuated themselves, primarily by taking
boats out to sea and demanding to be picked up by the navy. Early on the
morning of April 30, the last Americans, 11 marines, were evacuated by
helicopter from the Embassy roof. Many Vietnamese and third country
nationals awaiting or hoping for evacuation were left behind.

The total number of Vietnamese evacuated totaled 138,000. Most of them
were taken by navy ships to Guam for processing to enter the United
States and from there they were flown to one of four military bases: Fort
Chaffee in Arkansas, Camp Pendleton in California, Fort Indiantown Gap in
Pennsylvania, and Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. 130,000 Vietnamese
were resettled in every U.S. state over the next few months. A few
thousand refugees were resettled in other countries, especially Canada, or
elected to return to Vietnam.

Hmong refugees[edit]
Main article: Hmong people


The Hmong and other highland peoples of Laos were U.S. allies in the
Vietnam War, fending off for more than a decade the Pathet Lao and the
North Vietnamese army. By May 1975, however, the communist armies
were advancing on the last Hmong stronghold at Long Tieng. Fearing that
the communists would carry out their threat to exterminate the
Hmong, CIA agent Jerry Daniels organized an evacuation of close
associates and Hmong military officers, including General Vang Pao, the
Hmong commander. Using civilian aircraft and pilots, about 2,000 Hmong
were evacuated by air to Thailand from May 10 to 14, 1975.

Unanticipated was that many Hmong would follow their leaders to Thailand,
traveling on foot through high mountains, eluding soldiers, and crossing
the Mekong River. Thousands died during the difficult journey. About
40,000 Hmong fled to Thailand in 1975 and more followed in the next few
years. Most Hmong and other highlanders were housed at the Ban Vinai
refugee camp. The U.S. did not initially contemplate resettlement of
Hmong, believing that they would be incapable of adapting to life in the
U.S. Lobbying by Americans who had worked with the Hmong caused a
change in policy. 140,200 Hmong and other highland peoples were
resettled worldwide from 1975 until 1997, the great majority in the United
States. The Hmong resettlement program continued until 2005, the U.S. in
2004 taking in 9,201 Hmong who were living atWat Tham Krabok in

A few thousand Hmong were resettled in France and about 1,000 were
resettled in the small country of French Guiana where they became
prosperous growing vegetables for the local market.

Lowland Lao refugees[edit]
Main article: Laotian diaspora
Along with the Hmong and other highland peoples a large number of
lowland, ethnic Lao, crossed the Mekong River into Thailand. Between
1975 and 1995, the number of Laotians refugees, including both Hmong
and lowland Lao, totalled 360,000. Most of the lowland Lao fleeing their
country were urbanized and educated; many were former employees of the
U.S. government. They were housed mostly at Nong Khai Refugee
Camp just across the river from Laos. Between 1975 and 1997, 183,907
ethnic Lao were resettled worldwide.

Main article: Hoa people


The Hoa were ethnic Chinese living in Vietnam, especially in
the Cholon area of Saigon. In 1975, an estimated one to two million Hoa
lived in Vietnam and they owned or controlled most of the commerce of
South Vietnam. After South and North Vietnam were united under a single
communist government in 1976, the new government began to transform
the economy from capitalist to socialist. The people most impacted were
the Hoa.
The Hoa were threatened with being sent as agricultural
workers in the New Economic Zones (state farms) set up by the
Government. Hoa businesses in Saigon were confiscated causing street
fights between Hoa and ethnic Vietnamese. Beginning in April 1978 about
450,000 Hoa would go to overland to China or by boat to Hong Kong during
the next few years. 265,000 Hoa, mainly land arrivals, would be resettled in
China. Between 1975 and 1999, 143,700 Vietnamese refugees, mostly
Hoa arriving by sea in Hong Kong, were resettled in other countries. More
than 67,000 were repatriated to Vietnam.

Relations between China and Vietnam deteriorated, partly because of the
repression of the Hoa. The "Boat People" (see below) were largely Hoa. In
February 1979, China invaded Vietnam and briefly occupied parts of the
north. The Vietnamese government initiated a policy of encouraging the
Hoa to leave the country and charging them a fee of several thousand
dollars to do so. Because of the outflow, the Hoa population of Vietnam
declined during the 1980s.

Boat people[edit]
Main article: Vietnamese boat people



Vietnamese boat people awaiting rescue.
The North Vietnamese takeover of the south was described initially as a
"velvety transition of power," and few refugees left the country after the fall
of Saigon. However, over time the communist rule became more
repressive. One million or more people were sent to "re-education" camps,
often for several years, and the government attempted to destroy private
enterprise, especially businesses owned by the Hoa. In September 1978,
1,220 "boat people" left Vietnam on an old ship and landed in Indonesia.
That was the beginning of a flood of refugees arriving monthly by boat in
Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Hong Kong, and other countries. The
number of boat people arriving monthly on foreign shores peaked at 56,000
in June 1979.

The Philippine Refugee Processing Centerbecame the temporary home of
many Indochinese refugees en route to resettlement countries in the
Most of the boat people left Vietnam in decrepit, leaky, overcrowded boats.
They encountered storms, shortages of water and food, and, most
seriously, pirates in the South China Sea and Gulf of Thailand. Merchant
ships encountering boats in distress often refused to pick up the refugees
for fear that no country would allow them to unload the refugees. Thai and
Malay pirates attacked many of the small boats, raping and kidnapping
women and stealing the possessions of the passengers. Authorities of the
countries where they arrived often "pushed off" the refugee boats, refusing
to allow them to land. The United Nations High Commission for
Refugees estimated that between 200,000 and 400,000 boat people died at
Other estimates compiled are that 10% to 70% of the 1 -2 million
Vietnamese boat people died in transit.



The continued arrival of more and more boat people precipitated a political
crisis with the Southeastern Asian countries refusing to allow additional
refugees to land on their shores unless European and North American
countries would promise resettlement to them. At a UN conference on
refugees in Geneva in July 1979, the Western countries agreed to accept
260,000 refugees per year, up from 125,000, for resettlement, to facilitate
processing of refugees, and to contribute additional funds to refugee
assistance. Most importantly, the Vietnamese government promised to
stem the flow of refugees and to cooperate in the Orderly Departure
Program under which Vietnamese could apply for resettlement without
leaving their homeland. The numbers of boat people leaving Vietnam
quickly dropped off to more manageable numbers.
In only four years,
1979 and 1982, during the height of the humanitarian crisis, twenty
Western countries, led by the United States, Australia, France, and
Canada, accepted 623,800 Indochinese refugees for resettlement, most of
them boat people. Resettlement continued until the 1990s. Under the
Orderly Departure Program and Comprehensive Plan of Action more than
600,000 additional Vietnamese were resettled abroad between 1980 and

Vietnamese land refugees[edit]
About 40,000 Vietnamese made their way to Thailand by land through
Cambodia in the 1980s. Most of them were housed in Thai border camps
until resettled abroad.

Main article: Cambodian humanitarian crisis

Refugee houses in Nong Samet camp in 1984. In the early days of the
camp, refugees lived in tents or huts made of whatever material was


The conquest of Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge in April 1975 caused an
outflow of more than 300,000 ethnic Chinese, ethnic Vietnamese, and
Cambodians to Vietnam despite the unsettled political conditions there.
However, only a few thousand Cambodians escaped the Khmer Rouge to
Thailand as the border was guarded and seeded with minefields.

On December 25, 1978, Vietnam invaded Cambodia and overthrew the
Khmer Rouge government. The Khmer Rouge and other resistance groups
fled into the mountains and the border areas, but the people of the ravaged
countryone to three million of whom had been killed by the Khmer
Rougefaced starvation and hundreds of thousands of them arrived at the
border of Thailand seeking food and safety. The Thai refused to recognize
the Cambodians as refugees but housed some of them in camps inside
Thailand at Sa Kaeo and Khao-I-Dang. Most Cambodians were stopped at
the border and took up residence in chaotic camps straddling the border
between Cambodia and Thailand. Early arrivals at Sa Kaeo, mostly Khmer
Rouge and their families fleeing the Vietnamese army, were in the last
extremity of starvation. By the end of 1979, about 750,000 Cambodians
were believed to be in Thailand, in the border camps, or near the border
attempting to cross into Thailand. The Thai "pushed back" many of the
Cambodians attempting to cross, most notably at Preah Vihear
Temple where thousands of Cambodians died in a mine field.

The international response to the Cambodian humanitarian crisis was to set
up a "land bridge." International aid and relief agencies began distributing
food, seed, and farm tools to Cambodians who came to the border and
returned to the interior of the country to resume farming. By January 1980,
10,000 Cambodians arrived every day on foot, bicycle, or oxcart, and each
received 10 to 30 kilograms of rice. By January 1981, when the program
ended, more than 700,000 Cambodians had received food, seeds, and
farm implements and the threat of famine within Cambodia had abated.

In Thailand and in border camps, however, were hundreds of thousands of
Cambodians. 260,000 of them were resettled abroad in the 1980s and
1990s. 390,000 were repatriated to Cambodia, mostly from 1991 to 1993,
as the result of a peace agreement, the disarmament of contending
factions, and the withdrawal of the Vietnamese army from Cambodia.

Main article: Montagnard (Vietnam)


About one million highland peoples, called Montagnards, lived in Vietnam
in 1975. Although the Montagnards were firm allies of the United States,
especially the Green Berets, very few of them were among the 1975
evacuees from Saigon. Their guerilla war against the Vietnamese
communists continued for the next 15 years, and a few Montagnards fled
across the border to remote, jungle areas of Cambodia sandwiched
between the hostile Khmer Rouge and Vietnamese. The Montagnards were
largely forgotten but in 1986, 212 escaped to Thailand and were resettled
in Raleigh, North Carolina. In 1992, the UNHCR discovered another group
of 400 living in Cambodia. Humanitarian workers, the UNHCR, and former
Green Berets took up their cause and, shortly, they were resettled
in Greensboro, North Carolina.
A total of 9,000 Montagnards were
eventually resettled in the United States.

Indochinese resettled and repatriated[edit]
The following table lists the number of Indochinese resettled in the leading
countries and the world from 1975 to 1997. A few thousand have been
resettled since 1997, mostly in the United States.
883,317 251,334 152,748 1,287,399


320,000 320,000
and 170,000
Chinese and
who fled the


Rouge in
China 263,000

nearly all
Canada 163,415 17,274 21,489 202,178

Australia 157,863 10,239 17,605 185,700

France 46,348 34,236 38,598 119,182

Germany 28,916 1,706 998 31,620

24,267 346 381 24,994

6,099 1,350 5,995 13,344

Netherlands 11,546 33 523 12,102

Japan 8,231 1,273 1,223 10,727

Norway 10,066 2 178 10,246


10,000 10,000



Switzerland 7,304 593 1,717 9,614

Sweden 9,099 26 214 9,339

Denmark 7,007 12 51 7,070

Belgium 5,158 989 896 7,043

10,343 4,694 8,268 25,605

1,642,179 324,107 580,884 2,547,170

Source: Robinson, W. Courtland Terms of Refuge United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees, London: Zed Books, 1998 p. 270, 276,
Appendix 2; Far Eastern Economic Review, June 23, 1978, p. 20
Indochinese repatriated, voluntarily or involuntarily, to their home countries
with assistance from UNHCR totalled 525,000 between 1975 and 1997.
These included 390,000 Cambodians, 127,000 Vietnamese, and 27,000
Laotians. Many more thousands returned of their own accord or remained
surreptitiously in their country of refuge.

See also[edit]
Bidong Island
Comprehensive Plan of Action
Galang Refugee Camp
Nong Chan Refugee Camp
Nong Samet Refugee Camp
Operation New Life
Operation New Arrivals
Orderly Departure Program


Philippine Refugee Processing Center
Preah Vihear Temple
Sa Kaeo Refugee Camp
Sham Shui Po Barracks
Vietnamese people in Hong Kong
Wat Tham Krabok
Yvette Pierpaoli
French Indochina
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
French Indochina
Colonial protectorate federation of France





"La Marseillaise"


Green: French Indochina
Dark gray: Other French possessions
Darkest gray: French Republic
Capital Saigon (18871902)
Hanoi (19021939)
Da Lat (19391945)
Hanoi (1945-1954)
Languages French, Vietnamese,Khmer, Lao andChinese
Religion Buddhism, Taoism,Confucianism,Catholicism
Government Federation of French colonial possessions
General List of Governors-General
Historical era New Imperialism

17 October 1887

Addition of
Laos 3 October 1893

of (North)
(proclaimed) 2 September 1945

of Laos 22 October 1953



of Cambodia 9 November 1953

of (South)
Vietnam 21 July 1954

1935 737,000 km(284,557 sq mi)

1935 est. 21,599,582
Density 29.3 /km (75.9 /sq mi)
Currency French Indochinese piastre
Today part of Cambodia


Indochina in 1891 (from Le Monde Illustr).
1. Panorama of Lac-Ka.
2. Yun-nan, in the quay of Hanoi.
3. Flooded street of Hanoi.
4. Landing stage of Hanoi
French Indochina (French: Indochine
franaise; Khmer: , Vietnamese: n
g Dng thuc Php, pronounced [om z tu

fp], frequently abbreviated to ng Php), officially
known as the Indochinese
Federation (French: Fdration indochinoise) since
1947, was part of the French colonial empire in
southeast Asia. A federation of the
three Vietnameseregions, Tonkin (North), Annam (Ce
ntral), and Cochinchina (South), as well as Cambodia,
was formed in 1887.


Laos was added in 1893 and Kouang-Tchou-Wan
(Guangzhouwan) in 1900. The capital was moved
from Saigon (in Cochinchina) to Hanoi (Tonkin) in
1902 and again to Da Lat (Annam) in 1939 until 1945,
when it moved back to Hanoi.
After the Fall of France during World War II, the
colony was administered by Vichy France and was
under Japanese supervision until a brief period of full
Japanese control between March and August 1945.
Beginning in May 1941, the Viet Minh, a communist
army led by Ho Chi Minh, began a revolt against
French rule known as the First Indochina War.
In Saigon, the anti-Communist State of Vietnam, led
by former Emperor Bo i, was granted
independence in 1949. Following the Geneva Accord
of 1954, the Viet Minh became the government
of North Vietnam, although the Bo i government
continued to rule in South Vietnam.
1 First French interventions
o 1.1 19th century
2 Establishment of French Indochina
o 2.1 Vietnamese rebellions
o 2.2 Franco-Siamese war (1893)
o 2.3 Further encroachments on Siam (19041907)
o 2.4 Yn Bi mutiny (1930)
o 2.5 French-Thai War (19401941)
3 Population
4 Economy
o 4.1 Infrastructure
5 World War II
6 First Indochina War
7 Geneva Agreements
8 See also
9 Notes


10 References
11 External links
First French interventions[edit]
Main articles: FranceVietnam relations and French
assistance to Nguyn nh
FranceVietnam relations started as early as the 17th
century with the mission of
the Jesuitmissionary Alexandre de Rhodes. At this
time, Vietnam was only just beginning to occupy
theMekong Delta, former territory of the Indianized
kingdom of Champa which they had defeated in

European involvement in Vietnam was confined to
trade during the 18th century. In 1787,Pigneau de
Bhaine, a French Catholic priest, petitioned the
French government and organized French military
volunteers to aid Nguyn nh in retaking lands his
family lost to the Ty Sn. Pigneau died in Viet Nam
but his troops fought on until 1802 in the French
assistance to Nguyn nh.
19th century[edit]
France was heavily involved in Vietnam in the 19th
century; protecting the work of the Paris Foreign
Missions Society in the country was often presented
as a justification. For its part, theNguyn
Dynasty increasingly saw Catholic missionaries as a
political threat; courtesans, for example, an influential
faction in the dynastic system, feared for their status
in a society influenced by an insistence on
In 1858, the brief period of unification under
the Nguyn Dynasty ended with a successful attack
on Da Nang by French Admiral Charles Rigault de
Genouilly under the orders ofNapoleon III.
Diplomat Charles de Montigny's mission having failed,
Genouilly's mission was to stop attempts to expel
Catholic missionaries. His orders were to stop the


persecution of missionaries and assure the
unimpeded propagation of the faith.

In September 1858, fourteen French gunships, 3,000
men and 300 Filipino troops provided by the
attacked the port of Tourane (present
day Da Nang), causing significant damage and
occupying the city. After a few months, Rigault had to
leave the city due to supply issues and illnesses.

Sailing south, De Genouilly then captured the poorly
defended city of Saigon on 18 February 1859. On 13
April 1862, the Vietnamese government was forced to
cede the three provinces of Bin Ha, Gia
nh and nh Tng to France. De Genouilly was
criticized for his actions and was replaced by Admiral
Page in November, 1859, with instructions to obtain a
treaty protecting the Catholic faith in Vietnam, but
refrain from territorial gains.

French policy four years later saw a reversal, with the
French continuing to accumulate territory. In 1862,
France obtained concessions from Emperor T c,
ceding three treaty ports in Annam and Tonkin, and
all of Cochinchina, the latter being formally declared a
French territory in 1864. In 1867 the provinces
of Chu c, H Tin and Vnh Long were added to
French-controlled territory.
In 1863, the Cambodian king Norodom had requested
the establishment of a French protectorate over his
country. In 1867, Siam (modern Thailand)
renounced suzerainty over Cambodia and officially
recognized the 1863 French protectorate on
Cambodia, in exchange for the control
of Battambang and Siem Reap provinces which
officially became part of Thailand. (These provinces
would be ceded back to Cambodia by a border treaty
between France and Siam in 1906).
Establishment of French Indochina[edit]


French marine infantrymen in Tonkin, 1884

The expansion of French Indochina (in blue).
France obtained control over northern Vietnam
following its victory over China in the Sino-French
War (188485). French Indochina was formed in


October 1887
from Annam,Tonkin, Cochinchina (which together
form modern Vietnam) and the Kingdom of
Cambodia; Laos was added after theFranco-Siamese
War in 1893.
The federation lasted until 1954. In the four
protectorates, the French formally left the local rulers
in power, who were the Emperors of Vietnam, Kings
of Cambodia, and Kings of Luang Prabang, but in fact
gathered all powers in their hands, the local rulers
acting only as figureheads.
Vietnamese rebellions[edit]
French troops landed in Vietnam in 1858 and by the
mid-1880s they had established a firm grip over the
northern region. From 1885 to 1895, Phan nh
Phng led a rebellion against the colonizing power.
Nationalist sentiments intensified in Vietnam,
especially during and after World War I, but all the
uprisings and tentative efforts failed to obtain any
concessions from the French overseers.
Franco-Siamese war (1893)[edit]
Main article: Franco-Siamese War

Siamese army in the disputed territory of Laos in
Territorial conflict in the Indochinese peninsula for the
expansion of French Indochina led to the Franco-
Siamese War of 1893. In 1893 the French authorities
in Indochina used border disputes, followed by
the Paknam naval incident, to provoke a crisis.
French gunboats appeared at Bangkok, and


demanded the cession of Lao territories east of
the Mekong River.
King Chulalongkorn appealed to the British, but the
British minister told the King to settle on whatever
terms he could get, and he had no choice but to
comply. Britain's only gesture was an agreement with
France guaranteeing the integrity of the rest of Siam.
In exchange, Siam had to give up its claim to the
Thai-speaking Shan region of north-eastern Burma to
the British, and cede Laos to France.
Further encroachments on Siam (19041907)[edit]

Occupation of Trat by French troops in 1904.
The French, however, continued to pressure Siam,
and in 19061907 they manufactured another crisis.
This time Siam had to concede French control of
territory on the west bank of the Mekong
oppositeLuang Prabang and around Champasak in
southern Laos, as well as western Cambodia. France
also occupied the western part of Chantaburi.
In 1904, in order to get back Chantaburi Siam had to
give Trat to French Indochina. Trat became part of
Thailand again on March 23, 1907 in exchange for


many areas east of the Mekong
like Battambang,Siam Nakhon and Sisophon.

French Indochina in 1930.
In the 1930s, Siam engaged France in a series of
talks concerning the repatriation of Siamese
provinces held by the French. In 1938, under
the Front Populaire administration in Paris, France
had agreed to repatriate Angkor Wat, Angkor
Thom, Siem Reap, Siem Pang and the associated
provinces (approximately 13) to Siam. Meanwhile,
Siam took over control of those areas, in anticipation
of the upcoming treaty. Signatories from each country
were dispatched to Tokyo to sign the treaty
repatriating the lost provinces.
Yn Bi mutiny (1930)[edit]
Further information: Yn Bi mutiny
On 10 February 1930, there was an uprising by
Vietnamese soldiers in the French colonial
army's Yn Bi garrison. The Yn Bi mutiny was
sponsored by the Vit Nam Quc Dn
ng (VNQD). The VNQD was the Vietnamese
Nationalist Party. The attack was the largest


disturbance brewed up by theCn Vng monarchist
restoration movement of the late 19th century.
The aim of the revolt was to inspire a wider uprising
among the general populace in an attempt to
overthrow the colonial authority. The VNQDD had
previously attempted to engage in clandestine
activities to undermine French rule, but increasing
French scrutiny of their activities led to their
leadership group taking the risk of staging a large
scale military attack in the Red River Delta in northern
French-Thai War (19401941)[edit]
Main article: Franco-Thai War
During World War II, Thailand took the opportunity of
French weaknesses to reclaim previously lost
territories, resulting in the Franco-Thai Warbetween
October 1940 and 9 May 1941. The Thai forces
generally did well on the ground, but Thai objectives
in the war were limited. In January, Vichy
French naval forces decisively defeated Thai naval
forces in the Battle of Ko Chang. The war ended in
May at the instigation of the Japanese, with the
French forced to concede territorial gains for
The Vietnamese, Lao and Khmer ethnic groups
formed the majority of their respective colony's
populations. Minority groups such as
the Muong,Tay, Chams, and Jarai, were collectively
known as Montagnards and resided principally in the
mountain regions of Indochina. Ethnic Han
Chinese were largely concentrated in major cities,
especially in Southern Vietnam and Cambodia, where
they became heavily involved in trade and commerce.
Around 95% of French Indochina's population was
rural in a 1913 estimate, although urbanization did
slowly grow over the course of French rule.



The principal religion in French Indochina
was Buddhism, with Mahayana Buddhism influenced
by Confucianism more dominant in Vietnam,
while Theravada Buddhism was more widespread in
Laos and Cambodia. In addition,
active Catholic missionaries were widespread
throughout Indochina and roughly 10% of Tonkin's
population identified as Catholic by the end of French
rule. Cao Dai's origins began during this period as

The subdivisions of French Indochina (Kouang-
Tchou-Wan not shown).
Unlike Algeria, French settlement in Indochina did not
occur at a grand scale. By 1940, only about 34,000
French civilians lived in French Indochina, along with
a smaller number of French military personnel and
government workers. The principal reasons why
French settlement didn't grow in a manner similar to
that in French North Africa (which had a population of
over 1 million French civilians) were because French


Indochina was seen as a colonie d'exploitation
conomique(economic colony) rather than a colonie
de peuplement (settlement colony
helping Metropolitan France from being
overpopulated), and because Indochina was distant
from France itself.
During French colonial rule, the French language was
the principal language of education, government,
trade, and media and French was widely introduced
to the general population. French became widespread
among urban and semi-urban populations and
became the principal language of the elite and
educated. This was most notable in the colonies of
Tonkin and Cochinchina (Northern and Southern
Vietnam respectively), where French influence was
most heavy, while Annam, Laos and Cambodia were
less influenced by French education.

Despite the dominance of the French language, local
populations still largely spoke their native languages.
After French rule ended, the French language was
still largely used among the new governments (with
the exception of North Vietnam) but since then
English, increasingly taught in schools across the
country, has massively replaced French as the
second language. Today, less than 0.5% of the
population of Vietnam can speak French.

French Indochina was designated as a colonie
d'exploitation (colony of economic interests) by the
French government. Funding for the colonial
government came by means of taxes on locals and
the French government established a near monopoly
on the trade of opium, salt and rice alcohol. The trade
of those three products formed about 44% of the
colonial government's budget in 1920 but declined to
20% by 1930 as the colony began to economically


The colony's principal bank was the Banque de
l'Indochine, established in 1875 and was responsible
for minting the colony's currency, theIndochinese
piastre. Indochina was the second most invested-in
French colony by 1940 after Algeria, with investments
totaling up to 6.7 millionfrancs.
Beginning in the 1930s, France began to exploit the
region for its natural resources and to economically
diversify the colony. Cochinchina, Annam and Tonkin
(encompassing modern-day Vietnam) became a
source of tea, rice, coffee, pepper, coal, zinc and tin
while Cambodia became a center for rice and pepper
crops. Only Laos was seen initially as an
economically unviable colony, although timber was
harvested at a small scale from there.
At the turn of the 20th century, the growing
automobile industry in France resulted in the growth
of the rubber industry in French indochina, and
plantations were built throughout the colony,
especially in Annam and Cochinchina. France soon
became a leading producer of rubber through its
Indochina colony and Indochinese rubber became
prized in the industrialized world. The success of
rubber plantations in French Indochina resulted in an
increase in investment in the colony by various firms
such as Michelin. With the growing number of
investments in the colony's mines and rubber, tea and
coffee plantations, French Indochina began to
industrialize as factories opened in the colony. These
new factories produced textiles, cigarettes, beer and
cement which were then exported throughout the
French Empire.


Paul Doumer Bridge, now Long Bien Bridge

Muse Louis Finot in Hanoi, built by Ernest
Hbrard in 1932, now National Museum of
Vietnamese History
When French Indochina was viewed as an
economically important colony for France, the French
government set a goal to improve the transport and
communications networks in the
colony. Saigonbecame a principal port in Southeast
Asia and rivaled the British port of Singapore as the
region's busiest commercial center. By 1937 Saigon
was the sixth busiest port in the entire French Empire.
In 1936, the Trans-Indochinois railway linking Hanoi
and Saigon opened. Further improvements in the
colony's transport infrastructures led to easier travel
between France and Indochina. By 1939, it took no
more than a month by ship to travel from Marseille to
Saigon and around five days by airplane from Paris to
Saigon. Underwater telegraph cables were installed in
French settlers further added their influence on the
colony by constructing buildings in the form ofBeaux-
Arts and added French-influenced landmarks such as


the Hanoi Opera House and Saigon Notre-Dame
Basilica. The French colonists also built a number of
cities and towns in Indochina which served various
purposes from trading outposts to resort towns. The
most notable examples include Da Lat in southern
Vietnam and Pakse in Laos.
World War II[edit]
Main article: French Indochina in World War II
In September 1940, during World War II, the newly
created regime of Vichy France granted Japan's
demands for military access to Tonkin following
the Japanese occupation of French Indochina, which
lasted until the end of the Pacific War. This allowed
Japan better access to China in the Second Sino-
Japanese War against the forces of Chiang Kai-shek,
but it was also part of Japan's strategy for dominion
over the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.
Thailand took this opportunity of weakness to reclaim
previously lost territories, resulting in the French-Thai
War between October 1940 and 9 May 1941.
On 9 March 1945, with France liberated, Germany in
retreat, and the United States ascendant in the
Pacific, Japan decided to take complete control of
Indochina. On 8 April, the Japanese pressured Lao
Crown Prince Savang Vatthana to declare the
independence of Laos, then launched the Second
French Indochina Campaign. The Japanese kept
power in Indochina until the news of their
government's surrender came through in August.
First Indochina War[edit]
Main article: First Indochina War
After the war, France petitioned for the nullification of
the 1938 Franco-Siamese Treaty and attempted to
reassert itself in the region, but came into conflict with
the Viet Minh, a coalition of Communist and
Vietnamese nationalists under French-educated


dissident Ho Chi Minh. During World War II, the
United States had supported the Viet Minh in
resistance against the Japanese; the group had been
in control of the countryside since the French gave
way in March 1945.
American President Roosevelt and General Stilwell
privately made it adamantly clear that the French
were not to reacquire French Indochina (modern day
Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos) after the war was over.
He told Secretary of State Cordell Hull the
Indochinese were worse off under the French rule of
nearly one hundred years than they were at the
beginning. Roosevelt asked Chiang Kai-shek if he
wanted Indochina, to which Chiang Kai-shek replied:
"Under no circumstances!".

A Japanese officer surrenders inSaigon to an
officer of the British Royal Navy
After the war, 200,000 Chinese troops under
General Lu Han sent by Chiang Kai-shek invaded
northern Indochina north of the 16th parallel to accept
the surrender of Japanese occupying forces, and
remained there until 1946.
The Chinese used
the VNQDD, the Vietnamese branch of the
Chinese Kuomintang, to increase their influence in
Indochina and put pressure on their opponents.

Chiang Kai-shek threatened the French with war in
response to manoeuvering by the French and Ho Chi


Minh against each other, forcing them to come to a
peace agreement, and in February 1946 he also
forced the French to surrender all of their concessions
in China and renounce their extraterritorial privileges
in exchange for withdrawing from northern Indochina
and allowing French troops to reoccupy the region
starting in March 1946.

After persuading Emperor Bo i to abdicate in his
favour, on September 2, 1945 President Ho Chi
Minh declared independence for the Democratic
Republic of Vietnam. But before September's end, a
force of British and French soldiers, along with
captured Japanese troops, restored French control.
Bitter fighting ensued in the First Indochina War. In
1950 Ho again declared an independent Democratic
Republic of Vietnam, which was recognized by the
fellow Communist governments of China and the
Soviet Union. Fighting lasted until May 1954, when
the Viet Minh won the decisive victory against French
forces at the gruelling Battle of Dien Bien Phu.


Indochina in 1954.
Geneva Agreements[edit]
On 27 April 1954, the Geneva Conference produced
the Geneva Agreements between North Vietnam and
France. Provisions included supporting the territorial
integrity and sovereignty of Indochina, granting it
independence from France, declaring the cessation of
hostilities and foreign involvement in internal
Indochina affairs, delineating northern and southern
zones into which opposing troops were to withdraw,
they mandated unification on the basis of
internationally supervised free elections to be held in
July 1956.

It was at this conference that France relinquished any
claim to territory in the Indochinese peninsula. The
United States and South Vietnam rejected the
Geneva Accords and never signed. South


Vietnamese leader Diem rejected the idea of
nationwide election as proposed in the agreement,
saying that a free election was impossible in the
communist North and that his government was not
bound by the Geneva Accords. France did withdraw,
turning the north over to the Communists while
the Bo i regime, with American support, kept
control of the South.
The events of 1954 marked the beginnings of serious
United States involvement in Vietnam and the
ensuing Vietnam War. Laos and Cambodia also
became independent in 1954, but were both drawn
into the Vietnam War.
See also[edit]
East Indies
French colonial administration of Laos
List of colonial heads of French Indochina
Political administration of French Indochina
List of French possessions and colonies
1. ^ Jump up to:

Kahin, George McTurnin;
Lewis, John W. (1967). The United States in
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Tucker, Spencer C.
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p. 195.ISBN 0-313-29622-7.


4. Jump up^ Le Vietnam compte lui seul
cinquante quatre ethnies, prsentes au Muse
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5. Jump up^ Approximately 100,000
6. Jump up^ Approximately 100,000
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(1985). The march of folly: from Troy to
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345-30823-9. Retrieved 2010-11-28.
8. Jump up^ Larry H. Addington
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narrative history. Indiana University Press.
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10. Jump up^ Van Nguyen Duong (2008). The
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12. Jump up^ Elizabeth Jane Errington
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Brocheux, Pierre, and Daniel Hemery. Indochina:
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Perkins, Mandaley (2006). Hanoi, Adieu: A
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(English) (French) The Colonization of
Indochina from around 1892
(English) (French) "Indochina" is a tourism book
published in 1910
French Indochina
French overseas empire
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