Son La prison was built on the hill Khau Ca, near Nam La stream, Son La province by the French. Initially, the Prison had an area of 500m2, in 1940, the French colonial expanded it to 1.700m2. Within 15 years (1930-1945), Son La Prison detained 1,007 communist prisoners, including many comrades of Party, Parish Committee, Central Committee member, such as Le Duan, Truong Chinh, Nguyen Luong Bang, Tran Huy Hieu, Nguyen Duc Tam, Le Duc Tho, Van Tien Dung, Xuan Thuy, Le Thanh Nghi and many other comrades.
Son La Prison location
Son La Prison is atop the hill of Khau Ca, an elevated area of Son La town center, where obstructs the streets to Hanoi – Lai Chau – Ta Bu. From the top of Khau Ca hill, people can have the panoramic view of Son La town, and especially, this hill is located almost independently and separately from the residential area outside, so it is very convenient for the conspiracy of French colonial to construct a jail to imprison Vietnamese patriots.
Son La prison is about 100 meters from the office of Son La’s People Committee to the east. To the west, the hill overlooks meteorology hill with the National Highway 6 leading straight to Lai Chau. The south of the prison overlooks the center of the town, which is about 400 meters from To Hieu street.
The Hell on the Earth
In the 1930s, Khau Ca hill was very murky, solitary, and had extreme weather. French colonial took advantage this place of ” sacred forest toxic water ” to build a prison and turned Son La Prison into a “hell on earth” to imprison, exile and fight to kill the will of the Vietnamese communists. Overcoming the shackles and the crimes of French colonialism, Vietnamese Communists turned the prison into a revolution school, turned the cold cells into the cozy houses full of comradeship of fellow inmates.
In the winter, the cells are as cold as ice, but in the summer, they are as hot as fire pans, all kinds of diseases, such as edema, typhoid, malaria widespread as a cruel weapon which gradually killed the prisoners.
Stopping at To Hieu peach tree, many tourists can not hold back the tears when listening to the tour guide talking about the steadfast soldier, the secretary of Son La Prison (5/1940 – 10/1940)- To Hieu and the legend of To Hieu peach tree.
Coming to the “hell on earth” today, we can feel that the claim of “4 do 1 don’t” of the “dangerous elements”, who are the comrades: Cuu Dinh Trinh, Tran Van Lan, Do Ngoc Du, Truong Chinh, Le Duan still exist.
This historical monument has become an attraction attracting both domestic and foreign tourists coming to visit and study. Especially, in major holidays, the Lunar New Year, ethnicity, the Monument of Son La Prison welcomed average over 2,000 groups of visitor each day. There are sometimes up to 3,000 groups a day. This demonstrates the sustainability of historical value.
The road to Son La Prison
To visit, study or learn about relics of Son La Prison, you can travel more conveniently by motor vehicles or on foot with 2 gateways leading to the ruins.
– Gateway 1: If you take the Highway 6 (departing from Hanoi) going over the bridge 308, to the intersection of Goc Phuong (the name used locally) which consists of a straight path to Lai Chau, a road to the headquarter of Son La province party on the left, and a road up the hill of about 400m leading to the Son La People‘s Committee headquarter, here, you drive another 100 meters to the Son La prison ruins. This is the main and convenient road that tourists often use.
– Gateway 2: You also depart from Highway 6 in the direction of Lai Chau going to Ta Bu junction (also called water tank junction). The road from this junction to the monument is around 400m long.