23 SEPTEMBER

BRITISH KILL HUNDREDS OF VIETNAMESE AND BURN LARGE AREAS OF SAIGON.

23 September 1945 – The British army in Vietnam backed a French coup in Saigon.  General Douglas Gracey with a force of British troops had arrived two weeks earlier on 6 September.  He immediately introduced martial law, disarming the Viet Minh nationalists and arming released French prisoners of war.

When the French seized key buildings, including the city hall, in Saigon, they were given full support from the British army.  In the subsequent days, as a general strike and unrest spread through the city, British troops crushed all opposition with artillery, mortars and heavy machine guns, killing hundreds of Vietnamese, including many non-combatants.

Frustrated by the strength and resilience of local opposition to French rule, the British burned down large residential areas of Saigon which they considered the population to be dangerously sympathetic to the insurgency.  Edmund Taylor, an OSS officer, was shocked to find that

“the British had deliberately burned down great sections of the native quarter in Saigon….” and that the overall situation might be comparable to “that of a town newly occupied by Franco’s forces in the Spanish Civil War.”(1)

 

LONDON GIVES SENIOR KENYAN POLICE OFFICERS POWER TO ATTEST TO A PRISONER’S CONFESSION

23 September 1952 – With a huge back log of hundreds of cases against suspect Mau Mau anti-colonial insurgents, officials in London instruct Kenya’s colonial government to pass an ordinance giving senior police officers the power to attest to a prisoner’s confession.  This deprived defendants of the ability to effectively challenge the validity of their confessions in court against the word of a senior police officer, and thereby allowed the trials of hundreds of Mau Mau suspects to proceed more quickly.  By December 1954 there were 71,000 Kenyans in prison for crimes related to the insurgency,  and by the end of the decade 1090 had been hung, more than double the number of executions by the French in Algeria. (2)

 

FOOTNOTES

  1. E. Taylor (1947), “Richer By Asia,” Boston p386.
  2. David Anderson (2005) “Histories of the Hanged,” Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London p7, p53 and p356.

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