But repression roils rather than dampens the hatred of the Vietnamese people against Thieu and his American protector. A “just and fair” settlement which would allow all segments of Vietnamese society to participate in a future government would spell a quick end to the Thieu regime, and along with it any American interest in that part of the world. This is the reason why the Saigon regime has opposed the Council of National Reconciliation and Concord, since the Council would be made up of delegations from the NLF, neutralist and pro-Thieu elements. Thieu has particularly insisted on the elimination of the neutralists from the Council. On January 18, 1973, the New York Times reported that in a radio interview broadcast over Radio Luxembourg on January 17, “Foreign Minister Tran Van Lam of South Vietnam said his government would refuse to sign an agreement mentioning the Vietcong’s Provisional Revolutionary Government.” He is quoted as saying that the Saigon regime considered the National Liberation Front “an opposition group which has neither an army nor territory.” The same issue of the Times also quotes a well- informed Saigon source on Thieu’s objection to the protocols in the current agreement regarding prisoners.
Thus while there is hardly any mention of the prisoners held by Thieu and the Americans, either military or political, the Thieu regime wants both the DRV and the PRG to account for all prisoners even those in the hands of the Laotians and the Cambodians!
Politically, it is difficult to understand how a settlement could be reached while the Thieu regime makes the above demands. Even if a ceasefire agreement were signed, Thieu’s refusal to release all political prisoners would force the PRG to retaliate by holding on to any American POWs it might have in its hands. This is precisely the excuse that the Americans want to have for sabotaging any future ceasefire situation. Already, according to Newsweek (Jan. 15, 1973) after a ceasefire agreement is signed the United States will send about 900 Green Berets (Special Forces) to Vietnam to roam around the countryside in search for American POWs and MIAs. The rationale is that the communication between the National Liberation and the DRV is so poor that the American prisoners have to be informed of the cessation of hostilities!
The military situation in South Vietnam is also hardly likely to induce Thieu to agree to a “just and fair” agreement. Although his air force has been built up by the Nixon administration to rank as the second largest in the world, his navy the fifth largest, and his army numbers over one million men, the soldiers are not willing to die for Thieu. According to the January 16, 1973 issue of the Washington Post since the end of October, when the draft agreement was announced, the “net desertion rate” reached almost 27,000 per month. The article reports that “some South Vietnamese officials fear that once a ceasefire is signed the army could be so decimated by desertions it would have difficulties helping the Saigon government maintain control of the countryside.” This may account for the present difference, as reported by the Washington Post, January 17, 1973, between the American insistence on “zones of emplacement” and the DRV’s demand that these areas be called “zones of control.” The United States and the Saigon regime want to limit the influence of the PRG by having its forces regrouped in certain areas in Vietnam. If worse comes to worse and Thieu has to accept an agreement, his police force which has been beefed up to 300,000 men may help him hold on to his zones as his army melts away.
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