Voices from the South: New Testimonies from the Last Leaders of South Vietnam

June 11-12, 2012
Kahin Center for Advanced Research in Southeast Asian Studies
640 Stewart Ave, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York

This Symposium was sponsored by the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies and the Department of Asian Studies at Cornell University with support from the Department of History and Department of Government, the Southeast Asia Program, the Society for Freedom & Free Societies, and the Reppy Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies.

Organizing Committee: Sean Fear (History, Cornell University), John Phan (Asian Studies, Cornell University), and Nu-Anh Tran (History, UC Berkeley)

In this symposium, we brought together former leaders of the Republic of Vietnam (RVN, or South Vietnam) with scholars of the Vietnam War, providing researchers with an opportunity to collect data directly from RVN military and civilian leaders. This event broke new ground by focusing on South Vietnamese history after 1963. Most scholarship thus far examines American or North Vietnamese experiences, while studies on South Vietnam have for the most part been limited to the First Republic (1954-1963). There is still no full-length study of the RVN after the fall of Ngô Định Diệm in 1963, a gap that critically limits our understanding of the Vietnam War.

Several key developments occurred after 1963 including the introduction and withdrawal of American troops, the rise of the South Vietnamese military in domestic politics, electoral politics, agrarian reform, and transformations in international diplomacy. South Vietnamese were at the center of these developments, rewriting the country’s constitution, introducing electoral government, establishing legislative and judicial protocols, directing military campaigns, leading popular protest movements, participating in international diplomacy, and resisting or cooperating with the United States. Documenting the experiences of these Vietnamese is essential to understanding the Vietnam War. Our project represented one of the first efforts to link the academic community with former South Vietnamese officials, whose experiences have largely been overlooked in Vietnam War scholarship.

“Symposiums brings Scholars together with former Administrators from South Vietnam” written by John Phan (Asian Studies ’12)



Voices from the Second Republic of South Vietnam (1967–1975), ed. Keith W. Taylor. SEAP Publications, 2014.


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Monday, June 11, 2012

Welcome: Professor Fredrik Logevall, Director of the Einaudi Center for International Studies at Cornell University

Panel 1: Foreign Affairs (Moderator: Lien-Hang Thi Nguyen, University of Kentucky)
  • Ambassador Bùi Diễm: Former RVN Ambassador to the United States
  • Minister Hoàng Đức Nhã: Secretary & Press Secretary, Cabinet Minister of Mass Mobilization & Open Arms
  • Phan Công Tâm: served 13 years in the Central Intelligence Organization
Panel 2: Military & Security (Moderator: Alex-Thai Vo, Cornell University)
  • Admiral Hồ Văn Kỳ Thoại: RVN Rear Admiral and commanding officer in the 1974 battle of the Paracel Islands against the Chinese Navy
  • General Lữ Lan: ARVN Lt. General: with 25 years of combat experience
  • Police General Trang Sĩ Tấn: Head of Saigon Police, Brigadier General
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Panel 3: Government & Civil Society (Moderator: Tuong Vu, University of Oregon)
  • Trần Văn Sơn: Lower House Representative, elected in 1971, a member of the People’s Socialist Bloc (PSB) led by Tran Van Tuyen
  • Phan Quang Tuệ: Staff Judge of the Supreme Court
  • Minister Hoàng Đức Nhã: Secretary & Press Secretary; Cabinet Minister of Mass Mobilization and Open Arms
Panel 4: Struggle for the Countryside (Moderator: Nu-Anh Tran, UC Berkeley)
  • Nguyễn Ngọc Bích: returned to Vietnam in 1971 after serving in the RVN embassy in the US
  • Trần Quang Minh: served as Deputy Minister of Agriculture
  • Nguyen Duc Cuong: Minister of Trade and Industry

Closing Remarks: Professor Keith W. Taylor, Chair of the Department of Asian Studies at Cornell University