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Phu Quoc Prison

Phu Quoc Prison: Reveal the dark mystery on a dream island of Vietnam

24/07/2022 7381 views

Phu Quoc Prison (Coconut Tree Prison) is a must-visit historical relic in Phu Quoc, the largest island in Vietnam. This notorious former prison stands as a poignant reminder of the tragic history on the island, capturing the extreme sufferings of Vietnamese patriots during the colonial occupation and Vietnam War.

These days, Phu Quoc island is a popular tropical retreat famous for stunning beaches, dense jungles, and luxurious resorts. But, a little-known fact is that Phu Quoc had a turbulent past throughout fierce wars in the country. Phu Quoc Prison is the island’s most prominent historic site, attracting thousands of domestic and international tourists annually. Read more on our complete guide to this destination in Phu Quoc below.

1. About Phu Quoc Prison Vietnam

1.1. Where is Phu Quoc Prison?

Phu Quoc Prison, known as Phu Quoc Coconut Tree Prison or Phu Quoc Prison Camp, is located in An Thoi commune, 28 kilometers away from the city center and only 2 kilometers away from splendid Bai Sao and Bai Khem beach.

  • Address: 350 Nguyen Van Cu street, An Thoi ward, Duong Dong town, Phu Quoc island, Kien Giang province
  • Opening hours: 8:30 a.m ~ 11:30 a.m and 13:30 p.m ~ 17:00 p.m (Lunch break: 11:30 a.m ~ 13:30 p.m)
  • Entrance fee: FREE (except extra fees for tour guides)
Phu Quoc Prison

The entrance gate of Phu Quoc Prison Camp for tourists (Photo: Ron Caswell)

Phu Quoc Prison

Heavy barbed-wire fences surrounding Phu Quoc Prison Vietnam (Photo: @dobbi51)

1.2. Phu Quoc Prison History

Phu Quoc Prison was first built by the French colonialists in 1946 to imprison Vietnamese dissidents during the Indochina War. It was considered to be the largest prison in South East Asia at that time.

Until April 1954, Phu Quoc Coconut Prison captured 14,000 political prisoners, most of whom were male. After the Geneva Agreements in 1954, the colonialism in Vietnam ended, and the French returned most of the prisoners to their families.

Phu Quoc Prison

Coconut Tree Prison is an unforgettable part of Phu Quoc history (Photo: Collected)

During the Vietnam War, the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) and American forces reused Phu Quoc Prison as the national prison (1967-1973) to detain communist soldiers. The South government renamed it Coconut Tree Prison, also called Coconut Tree Training Camp or Phu Quoc Communist POWs’ Jail, according to its location in Cay Dua Village (Coconut Tree Village).

Covering an area of 400 hectares, Phu Quoc Coconut Tree Prison Camp was the largest prison in the south holding more than 32,000 political dissenters. At its peak, the number of prisoners was up to 40,000 people, including high-ranking North Vietnamese leaders. In 1967, the prison was reconstructed and expanded to 12 main areas with 500 barracks. Each one could accommodate 3,000 inmates, divided into four subdivisions “A”, “B”, “C”, and “D” for males, females, and the elderly. The whole camp was covered by 10 to 15 layers of barbed wire and guarded by 4 fully equipped military battalions.

Phu Quoc Prison

The POWs sitting in line to be classified at the Phu Quoc Coconut Prison camp (Photo: Collected)

Nowadays, after many restorations, Phu Quoc Coconut Prison has become an educational museum available for local and international visitors. Phu Quoc Prison was officially recognized as a National Historical Monument in 1996 and a Special National Relic in 2014.

Phu Quoc Prison

Phu Quoc Prison Museum was converted into a historical monument (Photo: Vietnam National Administration of Tourism)

2. All you NEED to know before visiting Phu Quoc Prison Vietnam

2.1. How to get to Phu Quoc Prison?

From Phu Quoc city center – Duong Dong town, travelers can get to Coconut Tree Prison by buses, rental motorbikes, or cars. However, a motorcycle or motorbike taxi (xe om) is the most convenient means to reach the site. The way there is surrounded by breathtaking natural scenery that won’t waste your travel.

From Duong Dong town, you just need to follow DT45 street until you reach the t-junction. Then turn left to DT47 street to Ham Ninh roundabout. Here you need to take a left turn to DT 46 Nguyen Van Cu National Highway and head straight for around 16 kilometers, you will find Phu Quoc Prison on your left.

Phu Quoc Prison

It takes a 32-minute drive to Phu Quoc Prison from the city center (Photo: Collected)

2.2. What to see in Phu Quoc Coconut Prison

  • Exhibition House of Relics

The Exhibition House of Relics at Phu Quoc Coconut Prison features a two-storey gallery with 2 separate spaces. A screening room shows a brief introduction to Phu Quoc Island’s history. Another showroom exhibits 43 artifacts, more than 100 documentary illustrations, and records of the camp, including 3 main parts: Phu Quoc Prison torture methods, its foundation and expansion, and resistance fighters’ struggles and their belongings.

Phu Quoc Prison

Documentary artifacts inside Phu Quoc Prison’s Exhibition House of Relics (Photo: Collected)

  • B2 Section

B2 Section is the most remarkable part of the Phu Quoc Prison where re-enacts the gruesome scenes of inhumane punishments inside the old camp. Here, visitors will see life-sized mannequins of guards and prisoners being tortured by deadly instruments. There were more than 40 forms of barbaric torture inflicted upon the detainees in the jail, such as beatings in tie-up positions, electric shock, blinding, waterboarding, burns, crucifixion to foreheads or knees, and breaking their teeth by hammers.

Phu Quoc Prison

Re-enacting war crimes upon political prisoners in Phu Quoc Prison Vietnam

Phu Quoc Prison

Covering prisoners in sacks and dropping them into boiling water – A Phu Quoc Prison torture method (Photo: Scott Edmunds)

Phu Quoc Prison

Choking prisoners with soap water – A torture method at Phu Quoc POW camp (Photo: @vanvivu)

The worst torture method in Phu Quoc Coconut Prison must be the “Casto Tiger cage” made of barbed wire, too low and tiny for a person to either sit up straight or lie out. The victims were left starved out in these outdoor barbed-wire cages and endured the heat during the day and the freeze at night.

Phu Quoc Prison

The notorious Phu Quoc Prison Tiger Cage (Photo: Collected)

The re-enactment area allows visitors to visualize the physical pain of victims through the intense facial expressions of the mannequins. It enables them to understand and feel the extreme agony of former prisoners who tremendously suffered from the cruel torture in Phu Quoc Prison. These disturbing abuses were confirmed by the Red Cross on a visit to the prison in 1969. After the war, there were roughly 4,000 deaths reported, and the rest of the detainees were released with eternal physical and mental disabilities.

Phu Quoc Prison

The sick bay of Phu Quoc Prisoners of War camp in the early 1970s (Photo: JP Laffont/ CORBIS)

Phu Quoc Prison

POWs lasting from the tortures during the Vietnam War (Photo: Carl Mydans)

  • Prisoner Graveyard

The prisoner graveyard at Phu Quoc Coconut Tree prison occupies over 2,000 square meters on a hill, adjacent to the Navy Force Zone 5, and about 1 kilometer away from B2 Section. After 1975, the construction was rebuilt of armored concrete and surrounded by fences. In the center of the graveyard, there is a monument of a fist erected on a rectangular block, embodying the indomitable spirit and sacrifices of predecessors.

Phu Quoc Prison

The prisoner graveyard of Phu Quoc Coconut Prison (Photo: Collected)

  • Kien Van Church

After the war, Kien Van Church in Phu Quoc Prison now is an utter ruin on an area of 4,837 square meters with a few pieces of wall, cement foundations, and corner columns left.

  • Monument to martyrs at Doi Sim

Nestled on a 12,420-square-meter land, the Doi Sim martyrs cemetery is dedicated to communist casualties who suffered from the brutal tortures at Coconut Prison. Its center holds a huge monument carved into the shape of waves and a 2-meter figure of a person, meaning “To people who lost their lives here”.

Phu Quoc Prison

Monument to the martyrs at Phu Quoc Prison (Photo: Collected)

2.3. Tips on visiting Coconut Tree Prison Phu Quoc Island

  • Visitors should dress modestly and keep their voices down when entering the historical relic of Phu Quoc Prison.
  • Do not touch or damage artifacts and display objects in the Phu Quoc Prison museum.
  • Remember to apply sunscreen and bring sunglasses and jackets when visiting outdoor sites in Coconut Prison.
  • Since the heavy rainy season in Phu Quoc starts from August to October, you may need to carry an umbrella with you when visiting Coconut Tree Prison’s outside exhibitions.
  • Phu Quoc Prison is a foreigner-friendly historical landmark offering English descriptions and narrations.
  • As Phu Quoc Coconut Prison contains extreme depictions of violence and torture, as well as grim pictures of prisoners, it is not a proper place to take kids.
Phu Quoc Prison

Be careful around barbed-wire fences at Phu Quoc POW camp (Photo: AK-27)

Besides the astonishing Coconut Tree Prison, Phu Quoc island has no shortage of fantastic tourist attractions, including VinWonders Phu Quoc – the largest theme park in Vietnam.

VinWonders Phu Quoc is called a dreamland of entertainment for all ages with countless exhilarating activities, festivals, and awe-striking performances. This enormous theme park features 6 subdivisions inspired by 12 worldwide civilizations where you can find all sources of recreation only in one spot, such as aquariums, refreshing water slides, thrilling roller coasters, arcade centers, architectural masterpieces, shops, and various dining options. With the abundance of adventure and fascination, VinWonders Phu Quoc guarantees a fun-filled trip for travelers to pearl island.

VinWonders Phu Quoc

Enjoy your incredible vacation at VinWonders Phu Quoc theme park

>>> Book tickets to VinWonders Phu Quoc today!

Phu Quoc Prison has historical significance as a memorial site reminding the dreadful wartime in Vietnam and the resilient struggles of Vietnamese communist soldiers. This old prison uncovers the gruesome mystery and historical facts that will spur emotional charge and overwhelm visitors. Thus, Phu Quoc Coconut Prison is a worth-visiting destination for tourists to learn more about the turbulent past of the island.

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