Coconut Tree Prison

Phu Quoc Prison is a gloomy place that depicts the horrendous cruelty inflicted on prisoners of past times.

Guarded PerimeterGuarded Perimeter | photo: Frank Fox (cc-by-sa)

Phu Quoc Prison is also known as Coconut Tree Prison, an ironic twist on the horrible things that have been inflicted on "rebellious subjects" and prisoners of war alike. Depending on your tour itinerary for the island, you may want to drop by and take a look. If you are in a hurry however, you can check out a small niche at the Phu Quoc Museum or the Saigon War Museum, where you get the same information, if less into detail.

Phu Quoc Prison is open from
7:30 to 11:00
and from
13:30 to 17:00

The entrance is free of charge.

Coconut Tree PrisonCoconut Tree Prison | photo: (cc-by-sa) Frank Fox

The whole complex is a depressing prison camp, built by the French between 1949 and 1950 and kept running during the Vietnam War. Approximately 40.000 people were imprisoned in Phu Quoc Prison during the war alone.

A monument for the around four thousand people who perished in this prison has been erected at the opposite street side.

MonumentMonument | photo: (cc-by-sa) Frank Fox

The area is a tourist attraction for people interested in the dark side of humanity and Vietnamese history. Near the entrance gate you see a small museum with relics and information plates, depicting and explaining various objects of murder and cruelty. Prisoners of war and everybody else who was perceived a danger to the government was kept there and subjected to several terribly creative methods of torture.

Depiction of an American soldierDepiction of an American soldier | photo: (cc-by-sa) Frank Fox

Many life-sized figures depict scenes of the daily prison life, violence and torture. One of the most shown torture devices are the tiger cages, small cells of woven barbed wire that could hold two prisoners at a time. The victims were unable to stand up or move more than a little wiggling and most were kept there for days, if not weeks to break their spirits.

Tiger CagesTiger Cages | photo: (cc-by-sa) Frank Fox

Other scenes show beating and boiling of inmates. The intentions of these quite graphic depictions are clear: To show the cruelty of the French and Americans during the times of occupation and war. Well, I guess you can find this kind of "attraction" in most places around the world, even if Western countries refrain from depicting too much violence.

Entrance of Phu Quoc PrisonEntrance of Phu Quoc Prison | photo: (cc-by-sa) Frank Fox

If you understand Vietnamese, you can watch movies with explanations and real footage about Phu Quoc Prison, including the usual propaganda. On the walls of the small museum you see drawings by prominent inmates and the documentation of the recent discovery of a mass grave nearby.

One scene shows prisoners digging a tunnel to escape the vile place and their success in jailbreaking. The only scene by he way that lightens up the mood of that gloomy landmark.

Prison BreakPrison Break | photo: (cc-by-sa) Frank Fox

If you walk through there, then similar to the War Museum in Saigon, you start to realise that there is no glory in war, only the atrocious stench of the darkest side of humanity.

Barbed WireBarbed Wire | photo: (cc-by-sa) Frank Fox

The site is not suitable for children at all, even if many Vietnamese bring their kids here in the usual lack of awareness.

On the opposite side of the main street you can find Phung Hung fish sauce factory. If you happen to arrive while the prison is closed or you want to get your fix of interesting souvenirs or Phu Quoc fish sauce, that's the place to look around and shop.

WatchtowerWatchtower | photo: (cc-by-sa) Frank Fox

A short way to the south, you find the town An Thoi, where you can go fishing and snorkelling at the southern archipelago.

An Thoi ArchipelagoAn Thoi Archipelago | photo: (cc-by-sa) Frank Fox

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