Côn Sơn Island
Côn Sơn, also known as Côn Lôn, is the largest island of the Côn Đảo archipelago, off the coast of southern Vietnam. Marco Polo mentioned the island in the description of his 1292 voyage from China to India under the name Sondur and Condur. In Ptolemy's Geography, they are referred to as the Isles of the Satyrs.
Prison Island Swim
Nguyen lord period
In 1702, the English East India Company founded a settlement on this island (the English called it 'Pulo Condore') off the south coast of southern Vietnam, and in 1705 the garrison and settlement were destroyed.
Tay Son dynasty period
In 1787, through the Treaty of Versailles, Nguyễn Ánh (the future Emperor Gia Long) promised to cede Poulo Condor to the French. In exchange Louis XVI promised to help Nguyễn Ánh to regain the throne, by supplying 1,650 troops (1,200 Kaffir[clarification needed] troops, 200 artillery men and 250 black soldiers) on four frigates.
Nguyen dynasty period
In 1861, the French colonial government established Côn Đảo Prison on the island to house political prisoners. In 1954, it was turned over to the South Vietnamese government, who continued to use it for the same purpose. Notable prisoners held at Côn Sơn in the 1930s included Phạm Văn Đồng and Lê Đức Thọ. Not far from the prison is Hàng Dương Cemetery, where some of the prisoners were buried.
Republic of Vietnam
During the Vietnam War, prisoners who had been held at the prison in the 1960s were abused and tortured. In July 1970, two U.S. Congressional representatives, Augustus Hawkins and William Anderson, visited the prison. They were accompanied by Tom Harkin (then an aide), translator Don Luce, and USAID Office of Public Safety Director Frank Walton. When the delegation arrived at the prison, they departed from the planned tour, guided by a map drawn by a former detainee. The map led to the door of a building, which was opened from the inside by a guard when he heard the people outside the door talking. Inside they found prisoners were being shackled within cramped “tiger cages”. Prisoners began crying out for water when the delegation walked in. They had sores and bruises, and some were mutilated. Harkin took photos of the scene. The photos were published in Life magazine on July 17, 1970.
The prison on Côn Sơn Island was closed in 1975, when North Vietnam (now unified as Vietnam) toppled the South Vietnamese government, in the wake of the withdrawal by the United States and its allies (South Korea, Australia) from the Vietnam War. The facilities were reopened some years later however, to temporarily incarcerate boat people captured by local coast guards until the late 1980s.