Rubber plantation village commemorates French colonial oppression

By Phuoc Tuan   January 29, 2020 | 05:18 pm PT
The cruelty inflicted on villagers in rubber plantations established by French firm Michelin has been commemorated in a village recreated in Binh Duong Province.
A village where Vietnamese workers lived was recreated inside the 5-hectare rubber plantation historical monument under the French colonial power at Tran Van Luu farm, Dinh Hiep commune, Dau Tieng district, Binh Duong.  The place is verdant, albeit knife cuts can still be seen on many tree trunks.  The plantation was built by the French company Michelin. They built 22 villages like such where workers lived.

The village was recreated inside a five-hectare plantation in Dinh Hiep Commune in the southern province’s Dau Tieng District in 2010.

Knife cuts can still be seen on many tree trunks here. The plantation belonged to French company Michelin, which built 22 villages for its workers.

Life was difficult for people in Dau Tieng district working at the colonial French-plantation, but they didn’t forget to pay respect to their ancestors and gods every Lunar New Year or Tet.  Many workers hired by the plantation owners were from the northern and central provinces. Whenever it was time for Tet, they still practice the rituals passed on to them by their ancestors, said Tran Van Hung, 68. A resident of Dinh Hiep commune, he was a nephew of a woman who used to work at the plantation.

The workers would pray to their ancestors and gods every year on Lunar New Year’s Day (Tet).

"Many workers hired by the plantation owners were from northern and central provinces," said Tran Van Hung, 68, whose aunt used to work at the plantation, says.

"During Tet they would practice the rituals passed down to them by their ancestors."

A recreation of a woman collecting woods for fire.

A barefoot woman collects firewood to cook banh chung, the square sticky rice cake with a mung bean and pork filling that is an indispensable Tet (Lunar New Year) dish.

Banh chung (square sticky rice cake), a signature Tet food, was also made by the workers in the woods.

The banh chung in the pot cooked outdoors on a makeshift firewood stove.

Operated in 1925, thousands of workers were brought in to work at the plantation. At some point, the number of the workers were hundreds of thousands. Their main jobs include clearing the forest land, extracting the rubber plant’s latex and doing different jobs at a tire-making factory.

Almost 100 years ago, hundreds of thousands of workers were brought to work at the plantation. Their main tasks were to clear forests for plantations, tap and collect latex from rubber trees and doing various other jobs in a tire factory.

Many workers stood up to the wretched conditions and cruel treatment at the plantation. In 1936, thousands of villagers stood up to the rulers, but not all were successful. Nevertheless, the resistance marked the growth of the worker movement in Dau Tieng.

The people were forced to work in wretched conditions and the plantation management committed large scale human rights abuses including tying up and flogging workers.

In 1936, thousands stood up to the plantation owners and managers, marking the increasing strength of the labor movement in Dau Tieng.

A stone house about 10 meters long and 4 meters wide was a reminder of the homes workers lived in between 1925 – 1935 that were built by the plantation owners. A house like this was poorly equipped and usually occupied by two families.

A stone house measuring 10 meters by four meters built by the plantation owners for workers between 1925 and 1935. The houses were basic constructions and each was usually occupied by two families.

It was common for a traditional home to have a bamboo cot and a dog.

Furnishings were bare inside the huts built for workers in rubber plantations during the French colonial period. 

Modest kitchenware was also placed in the house.

Inside their rustic dwellings, the workers had to make do with the most basic kitchenware.

Machinery needed for the production of the rubber latex remains intact.

Some of the machines used for the production of latex have been preserved in the recreated village, which is a museum depicting life under colonial rule.

An old rubber root planted in 1920. The rubber plantation was recognized as a provincial level historical monument by the Peoples Committee of Binh Duong province in 2009.

The stump of a rubber tree planted in 1920.

This rubber plantation has been recognized as a historical monument by Binh Duong Province.

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