Vietnam Human Rights Journal

From Ape to Man

From ape to man, the process took millions of years
From man to ape, how many years?
World, please come and visit
The concentration camps in the heart of the far-off jungles!
Naked prisoners, taking baths together in herds
Living in ill-smelling darkness with lice and mosquitoes.
Fighting with each other for a piece of manioc or sweet potato
Chained, shot, dragged, slit up at the will of their captors
Thrown away for the rats to bite without anyone's notice!
This kind of ape is not fast but very slow in action indeed
Quite different from that of the remote prehistory
They are hungry, they are thin as toothpicks
And yet they produce the nation's wealth all year long
World, please come and visit!

Poem of Nguyen Chi Thien written in 1967. Translated by Nguyen Huu Hieu. A long time prisoner of conscience in northern Vietnam, Thien was allowed to emigrate from Vietnam a few years ago for health reasons and is now living in the United States).