Madame Nguyen Thi Binh, Vietcong chief negotiator at the Paris peace talks, herself epitomises the equal status of man and woman in Vietnam when it comes to war.
Madame Nguyen Thi Binh, Vietcong chief negotiator at the Paris peace talks, herself epitomises the equal status of man and woman in Vietnam when it comes to war. In an exclusive interview with Visnews Paris bureau chief Jean Magny on Thursday (5 August) Madame Binh said that the struggle for independence in Vietnam claimed women as well as men. For two and a half years Madame Binh has been negotiating for the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam with the Americans in Paris. She has shown herself to be a tough and stubborn negotiator, yet her femininity has won the admiration of her peers. One of her favourite quotes is: "If people think I am a very tough person they must be mistaken. I am defending the freedom of my country. Do I look tough?"
This production takes a close look at Madame Binh in one of the busiest days of her week. Every Thursday for two and a half years her day begins with a meeting of the Vietcong delegation over breakfast. At 9.50 a.m., a black Citroen takes the delegation to the conference centre for the weekly press conference. Later, Madame Binh takes a few moments off to relax. These rare pictures of the Vietcong Foreign Minister and Chief Negotiator show her watching a game of table tennis, and strolling around her residence on the outskirts of Paris.
SYNOPSIS: In this quiet street on the out-skirts of Paris the Vietcong delegation to the Paris peace talks live together in a detached house. For two and a half years the delegation has been negotiating with the United States to try to find a political solution to the war in Vietnam.
The chief negotiator of the team is a small, calm lady, Madame Nguyen Thi Binh. Madame Binh is also the Foreign Minister of the Provisional Government of South Vietnam. Every Thursday since the negotiations began the delegation has met over breakfast like this to discuss progress in the talks, and prepare a statement for the weekly press conference. The person who delivers the statement is Madame Binh. To the outside world, Madame Binh is the tough, stubborn spokes-woman of the Vietcong.
Although Madame Binh has a reputation for being tough, as a woman she has won the admiration of people of all political beliefs throughout the world. Madame Binh says of herself: "If people think I am a very tough parson they must be mistaken. I am defending the freedom of my country. Do I look tough?"
Madame Binh often points out that the Americans think she is unreasonably tough; they say that she is the aggressor. But Madame Binh says that all she does is reject unreasonable demands. Is that being tough, she asks. She mentions the seven-point proposal for peace in Vietnam she put forward last month. It included a solution to the main stumbling block in the proposals of far - the question of American prisoners-of-war in North Vietnam.
The proposals stated that as soon as the Americans put forward a firm date for the complete withdrawal of their troops from Vietnam, North Vietnam would begin releasing her American prisoners-of-war. But so far America has not set a date. This, Madame Binh says, is proof of America's lack of concern for an early and to the war.
Near their house, the Vietcong delegation relax. PAUSE THREE FEET -FIVE SECONDS. The delegation is waiting for an answer to their peace proposal, which Madame Binh has called reasonable and realistic. But the new American chief negotiator, Mr. William Porter, the former Ambassador to Korea, has not yet arrived in Paris. This delay is seen by the Vietcong delegation as further proof that President Nixon is playing for time. Madame Binh has said that the American President's aim is to delay real political discussion in Paris until American forces in Vietnam have achieved a position of strength on the battle ground; and pushed forward their policy of Vietnamisation of the war This tactical superiority would then be switched to the conference table. All the vietcong delegation can do at the moment is wait for the talks to resume.
Madame Binh is 42 years old. She was born into a middle-class family - but in 1945 she joined the student movement in South Vietnam. When she was 23, she was jailed for three years. Since then, she has devoted herself to what she calls the struggle for liberty. She is married with two children but, like many families in Vietnam, she rarely sees her husband and children, and even more rarely is the family all together. The war demands men and women alike. Madame Binh was asked last Thursday about the way war had established new relations between men and women.