Many of the area residents were Chinese or part Chinese. This was one of several neighborhoods where Chinese immigrants were largely confined. During that time the government conscripted older Chinese youths from the city for forced labor, sending many to Cambodia. They were called “teenage volunteers” and had their pictures taken with shovels to show in propaganda. They served in the countryside to clear bombs and mines and other hard, dirty, menial and dangerous work. They succumbed to starvation and disease. The neighbors said that only one in ten survived to return home. Fortunately many of the Chinese youths in rural areas were not bothered.
Hung’s brothers, Tam Xuan Luu and Huu Thanh Lam, were dismissed from military service. They had worn their People’s Army uniforms so proudly when Saigon had finally fallen. They felt shamed, but because of their years of military service they were still able to get government jobs, though they had lower pay and status.
Our family was glad to get out of Ho Chi Minh City, with the constant stories of people sent away for re-education or work-details, and new restrictions for those who remained. Everyone had to give detailed information about every detail of their lives. Fortunately while they lived in the city, Long was not considered old enough to join the “teenage volunteers,” officially the Vanguard Youth Corps, which continued to be sent out to do jobs that no one else would take, such as clearing mine fields.
In the countryside travel was inconvenient. Even though her papers included the family connections with Go Dau and Tay Ninh, Hue found it hard to get permission to go back and forth. She and Thin had to present papers to get through checkpoints every few miles along Route 1 and every other road, and the soldiers at the checkpoints did not always respond in an understanding way. This presented many problems for Hue’s trucking business. Her mid-sized pick-up truck carried about a half ton of goods found in the country for sale in the city. Often goods were confiscated at checkpoints. She had to apply in the center of the city for a permit to allow people to travel out of the city on board the truck. At every checkpoint officials would count and check paperwork to make sure that names and numbers matched. Many checkers would take advantage of this opportunity to extort bribes for themselves, and if they were not satisfied they would detain the driver and everyone or everything on board. Trying to make a living, even to survive, became harder day by day.