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Will Free 6,000 for Tet New Year, Hanoi Announces

February 12, 1988|United Press International

BANGKOK, Thailand — Vietnam announced Thursday that it will observe the lunar new year by releasing more than 6,000 prisoners, including 1,014 former officials of the defeated U.S.-backed government of South Vietnam.

The official Vietnam News Agency said the government has ordered freedom for 6,406 prisoners and reduced sentences for 2,768.

The report gave no date for their release but said all will be able to join their families for the traditional Tet new year festival Feb. 17.

150 Still Imprisoned

The release of 1,014 former South Vietnamese officials from harsh "re-education camps" would leave only 150 former officials still imprisoned. Vietnam arrested 100,000 South Vietnamese officials after the south fell to the Communist north in 1975.

The order for their release was made to further "the humanitarian and lenient policy of the Vietnamese party and government and on the occasion of the lunar new year festival," the news agency quoted Vice Minister of Information Phan Quang as saying.

"Phan Quang made it clear the number of former Saigon officers and officials set free this time includes quite a number of generals and high-ranking officers and government officials of the Saigon regime such as Cabinet ministers, senators, members of the lower house," the agency said.

The prisoner release would be the second since September, 1987, when 480 former South Vietnam government officials--including three Cabinet ministers and nine generals--were freed.

1968 Tet Offensive

"This is part of Vietnam's efforts to win international acceptance and help for the economy," one Western diplomat said. "The needs of the economy are now paramount."

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