A lush green forest of three-needle pines was the site were the Sedang ethnic minority community put up unremitting resistance against the French and the Americans. Tran Quang revisits the deeds of a war hero.
On a return visit to the Xa Nu Forest, or three-needle pines, I admired the green colour of the tree with its enduring vitality and straight tree trunk.
While the traces of the resistance war have not remained on the leaves of the trees, heroic tales about the village patriarch - the leader, who guided the Sedang ethnic minorities to resist the enemy during two resistance wars in the country - are still discussed among the local residents and villages, and echo among the trees and mountains in the forest.
Under the oppression and exploitation by French colonialists, ethnic minorities in the Central Highlands province of Kon Tum rose up repeatedly against the enemy.
In 1943, village patriarch A Met, whose real name was Dinh Mon, from Xop Dui Village, led 100 strong men to a high mountain to set up a resistance village. It soon became a movement that spread across the area.
|Decorated war veteran: Elder A Met, a war veteran who led the resistance against the French and the Americans, was a member of the Communist Party.
By 1949, Viet Minh officials came to Xop Commune to lead local residents during the resistance war against the French.
Being a patriot, A Met came up with revolutionary ideas and became a member of the Party.
In 1954, following the Geneva Peace Agreement, A Met, together with his wife and children, went to the North. But not feeling secure when his hometown was still stricken with blood, tears and the pain of war, he returned to his hometown four years later to lead the resistance war against the Sai Gon troops.
At that time, Xop Commune had nine villages, of which Xop Nghet and Xop Dui villages were the gateway for entering the commune and had a terrain that was full of obstacles.
The enemies must go through the villages while entering the commune, so the villages saw a number of violent skirmishes between the local residents and the enemy. Xop Dui Village's guerrilla unit terrified any invader.
During the war against the American troops, the forces of guerrilla and militiamen included 200 people. The former died, and the latter took over. All of them were united, were strongly attached to each other and believed in President Ho Chi Minh's leadership. This belief lent strength to the local residents, who bore the enemies' repression, to eat ash instead of salt and to use bamboo spikes, crossbows, lances and scimitars to fight against planes, tanks and big guns.
Being harrased by the enemies, local residents had to move to different places, but the enemies were never able to set foot on the commune's land.
A Met was then elected to the position of Chief of Dak Glei District and commanded many battles, achieving brilliant feats of arms until the day Kon Tum Province was liberated in the spring of 1975.
After national reunification, A Met held the position of Chairman of the Dak Glei District People's Committee and Chairman of the district's Motherland Front. Even though he was awarded with many noble distinctions by the State, he lived the simple life of a village patriarch in Xop Dui Village.
A Met's wife, Y Muoi, 80, said he was always busy with public service and was rarely at home, but whenever he returned home, he encouraged local residents to reclaim more land. Thanks to his encouragement, residents were able to reduce poverty and left considerable land to their descendants.
A Met had three wives and seven children, two daughters and five sons. He died in 2000 at the age of 83 and was buried in the Dak Glei District cemetery.
In the beginning of 2012, he was posthumously awarded the title of the Hero of the People's Armed Forces.
At present, his third wife Y Muoi and five children still live in the humble Xop village.
In spite of being a wife of a hero, Y Muoi lives a hard life like many other villagers. Their most valuable properties, which they take loving care of, are memorabilia from A Met. These included lances, scimitars and a long glittering sword.
A Met's first son, Dinh Nhu Ruon, was a doctor and the director of the Dak Glei medical station. He is now retired and lives in Dak Pet Commune.
Ruon said that when he moved to the North in 1954 with his parents, he was only three years old.
"My mother died two years later. I entered the Ethnic Minority School in Me Tri Commune, Tu Liem District in Ha Noi. My father visited me once in 1959 and then he went away. Some people told me that he went to the South. After the liberation, I met him again," said Ruon.
|Pine canopy: The xa nu trees.
After dozens of years of living on the mountain, residents of Xop Commune have returned to their old villages. New houses, schools and medical stations were built. Crops and trees were grown near the former military posts, and sites of bomb craters and minefields.
The former guerrillas of the commune have dwindled to only about 10 people, the oldest being over 80 years old and the youngest is 60. They often meet each other to review their glorious period of fighting against French and American troops.
A Luong, chairman of the commune Veteran Association, said, "We pioneered in planting rice and coffee to encourage local residents to develop agriculture and to help children study well." — VNS