HOF157: LA Hoan Vo
Major La Hoan Vo had spent 13 years in the South Vietnamese military and achieved the position of battalion commander, hopeful that the end of the war would bring peace and the rebuilding of a unified country. When he was sent to a re-education camp in the northernmost part of the country, he saw hatred in the faces of his captors who regarded and treated him and fellow inmates with contempt. During the nine years that he was detained, he was expected to level forests, break limestone rocks and build dams. His wife, no longer allowed to teach in the city because of her husband’s reputation, moved to the countryside with their two young children. There, she was continually harassed by local authorities. Unable to bear the constant surveillance, she and the children fled the country on a boat and reached a refugee camp in Songkhla, Thailand, where they applied to resettle in Canada.
After La was released, he encountered the same relentless scrutiny from the authorities. He decided to leave the country but found himself falling for scams in five successive attempts. In time, he settled in a refugee camp in Malaysia. Several years later, he was later reunited with his family in Montreal, Québec. Once the initial happiness of the family’s reunion subsided, he realized that 13 years on the frontlines and nine years in detention had changed him, making him ill-suited for family life. He tried for 10 years but was unable to reconnect with this wife and two children. He decided to move to Calgary, Alberta, where his seven siblings and their father had settled. It was only then that La, working as a labourer, could start to make peace with his circumstances.