Phu Quoc Prison: Experience Vietnam’s Tragic History

Phu Quoc Prison was a detention center used by the U.S. and South Vietnamese forces to hold North Vietnamese prisoners and political detainees during the Vietnam War.

The origins of this prison date back to the French colonial period before the Vietnam War, when the French established several detention centers on islands near Ho Chi Minh City to imprison Vietnamese captives.

Among these, Phu Quoc Prison and the prison on Con Dao Island are the most well-known. Phu Quoc Prison was the largest detention center in southern Vietnam, holding over 40,000 prisoners.

What is Phu Quoc Prison?

When you visit the prison, you’ll see a sign at the entrance that describes the place in both English and Vietnamese.

I believe the sign captures the essence of what Phu Quoc Prison represents better than anything else.

Phu Quoc Prison is a place that records the barbaric actions and crimes of the American puppet government.

This site recreated various methods of torturing and killing prisoners.

Besides beatings and shootings, many brutal methods were used that would terrify even civilians just by hearing about them.

However, our indomitable revolutionary armed forces never surrendered despite the extremely cruel torture, thanks to their great patriotism for the Party, the people, and their beloved country.

  • Imprisoning detainees in tiger cages
  • Pulling out or breaking prisoners’ teeth
  • Driving nails into prisoners’ bodies
  • Ripping out prisoners’ fingernails and toenails
  • Forcing soapy water into prisoners’ mouths
  • And more…
Photo of Phu Quoc Prison

How to Tour Phu Quoc Prison

Phu Quoc Prison is divided into 12 sections, each designated for different purposes.

Each building served a different function (e.g., dining hall), and signs are placed to guide visitors through the numbered sections.

Inside and outside the buildings, there are signs in English and Vietnamese explaining the building’s purpose and the events that took place there.

Mannequins are used to visually recreate these events.

Tiger Cages

The most famous and eye-catching feature of this prison is the Tiger Cage near the entrance. The Tiger Cage is also displayed at the War Crimes Museum in Ho Chi Minh City.

Despite its name, it wasn’t used to confine actual tigers. Instead, political prisoners and detainees were metaphorically referred to as tigers, hence the name.

Photo of the Tiger Cage
Photo of the Tiger Cage

In front of the Tiger Cage, there’s an English description that reads:

  • All cages were set up outdoors, and prisoners inside were not allowed to wear any clothing except shorts.
  • Prisoners had to endure mosquito and gnat bites day and night, as well as harsh weather conditions like scorching sun, rain, and fog.
  • Meals consisted of rice and salt (sometimes without salt), and a few cups of water. They had to relieve themselves inside the cage.
  • On cold nights, the guards (referred to as zookeepers) would pour water into the cage, claiming it was to “quench the tiger’s thirst” or “clean the cage.”
  • On hot days, they would either burn bird feathers to create a liquid and spray it on the prisoners or light fires next to the cage, claiming it was to “increase the prisoners’ weight.”

If you’ve visited Phu Quoc during the dry season, you know how unbearably hot it can get, with temperatures reaching up to 40 degrees Celsius. Imagine how much hotter it must have been with fires lit nearby.

What is the Phu Quoc Coconut Prison?

Another name for Phu Quoc Prison is the Coconut Prison. This name comes from the latter part of the prison, where prisoners used coconut shells to dig tunnels and escape.

Reviews of Phu Quoc Prison

Survivors of this prison have described their survival as nothing short of a miracle.

Over 4,000 Vietnamese people died here for various reasons, and tens of thousands were injured. When you visit, you can’t help but wonder how so many people could be confined in such a small space.

Despite its historical significance, the prison is filled with old, worn-out mannequins, and there are few other visual or video materials available.

Aware of these issues, the Vietnam Tourism Authority announced in 2023 that they would undertake major renovations of the prison. Hopefully, it will become a more fitting historical site in the future.

Phu Quoc Prison Operating Hours and Visiting Information

When using Google Maps, entering the official address might lead you to a different location. Instead, show or input the place name directly when using a taxi or Grab.

Place Name (English)Phu Quoc Prison
Place Name (Vietnamese)Nhà tù Phú Quốc
Address350 Đ. Nguyễn Văn Cừ, An Thới, Phú Quốc, Kiên Giang, Vietnam
Operating HoursDaily 07:00 – 17:00
Phone Number+84 2973 980 884
+84 2973 702 705
Admission FeeNone
Closed DaysNone

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