Ly Chanh Trung
Ly Chanh Trung is a professor of philosophy and a Catholic intellectual. Trung was from a rich Saigonese family, Catholics in a predominantly Buddhist country. When he was 18 he wrote an article in French praising Ho Chi Minh. “I compared Ho Chi Minh with Moses, the one who liberated the Jewish people. I was a Catholic young man and I did not fight for freedom yet, but I still respected Ho that much.”
Trung was working on his doctoral degree in France when the Geneva Agreement temporarily divided Viet Nam into two parts: North and South. He was part of a small group of students in France who wrote a letter against the American-backed regime of Ngo Dinh Diem, who himself was a Catholic. Trung said the Vietnamese students threw their support to the Viet Minh because they were seen as the only ones fighting for independence.
Trung returned to Sai Gon in 1955 and with others formed a group called the Roman Catholic Intellectuals. They wanted to help make sure the peace agreements were carried out. Trung worked quietly with the resistance, teaching French in several schools. He was so successful at hiding his involvement with the Viet Minh that he was invited to work in the Ministry of Education. Diem was overthrown in 1963 and two years later Trung began openly writing articles against the government. His writings attracted international attention, especially from Americans. “Noam Chomsky invited me to write a book with him about the war. But, in self-defense, I didn’t want to have many contacts with Americans. Because if I did, the Southern government would consider me politically more powerful and might give me trouble.”
Trung’s articles were banned, but he managed to stay out of jail with a combination of shrewdness, backing from Catholic organizations and just enough attention from abroad.