In early 1946, a series of meetings and discussions, which were aimed at finding common ground among the nationalist groups, took place. Notably, on February 4, a Resistance Coalition Committee, or Ủy Ban Liên Hiệp Kháng Chiến, was launched in the Ba Quẹo military region, Hóc Môn.
It should be pointed out that in February 1946, Hồ Chí Minh assigned Nguyễn Bình, also known as Nguyễn Phương Thảo, to head the Việt Minh forces in the south. The move followed the failure of Trần Văn Giàus and Dương Bạch Mais repressive policies as both fled Vietnam.
The former Quốc Dân Đảng member, Nguyễn Bình attempted a reconciliation with the nationalist movements. He became a commander of the 7th Military Zone, or Chiến khu 7, which included the eastern provinces. Although the Bình Xuyên forces closely collaborated with the 7th Military Zone, yet relations between the allies remained somewhat uneasy and Bình Xuyên leaders Lê Văn Viễn and Huỳnh Văn Trí mistrusted Nguyễn Bìnhs pledges of cooperation. Nonetheless, some Hòa Hảo and Cao Đài military units operated in the 7th Military Zone. Moreover, Huỳnh Phú Sổ also visited this area. In short, many nationalist groups were prepared to form an anti-French coalition.
On April 20, 1946, Vũ Tam Anh organized a congress of anti-French forces. He aimed at bringing together a wide spectrum of nationalist movements. Huỳnh Phú Sổ became the most eminent leader to attend the congress. Other religious representatives who attended the gathering included: Lê Văn Tỵ (Cao Đài Tây Ninh), Huỳnh Thơ Hương (Caodaist Hậu Giang sect), Lâm Văn Hậu of the Buddhist Tịnh Độ group and Catholic priest Nguyễn Bá Sang. Nguyễn Bảo Toàn and Nguyễn Văn Sâm represented the Social-Democratic Party, Mai Thọ Trân stood for the Việt Minh boss Hà Huy Giáp, Phạm Thiều was sent in by the political department of the 7th Military Zone, Trần Văn Lâm represented the Quốc Dân Đảng, Phạm Hữu Đức and Nguyễn Văn Nhân represented the Huỳnh Long group.
Most delegates to the congress came from military organizations and units. Vũ Tam Anh was the commander of the 2nd Division of Dân Quân, which consisted of Caodaist troops. Phan Định Công stood for Nguyễn Bình, Huỳnh Văn Trí represented the Bình Xuyên forces and Bà Quẹo military zone, Lai Hữu Tài represented the urban resistance of the Saigon area, while Châu Tỷ came from guerrilla units of the Saigon-Cholon area. Also present were the 5th regiment commander Phạm Hữu Đức, the 7th regiment commander Nguyễn Văn Đội, Nguyễn Văn Mười, commander of the 8th regiment, which included Tây Ninh Caodaist troops, the 12th regiment commander Từ Văn Ri, and the 25th regiment commander Lâm Văn Đức.
After three days of debate, the congress decided to form a National Coalition Front, or Mặt Trận Quốc Gia Liên Hiệp, in order to mobilize all religious, political and military forces to combat French attempts to reconquer Vietnam. Huỳnh Phú Sổ was elected to chair the Front yet the Hòa Hảo leader opted to use an alias, Hoàng Anh, in order to work in this capacity. Vũ Tam Anh was elected the Fronts deputy vice-chairman, while the Việt Minhs Mai Thọ Trân became the Fronts secretary. In short, the Fronts leadership was dominated by the nationalist politicians while the Communists remained a minority.
Prophet Huynh Phu So, French Resistant Period, Saigon 1946The delegates decided to have the Coalition Fronts headquarters based in Vĩnh Lạc village, Bà Quẹo area. The Front also launched a newspaper called “Freedom,” or Tự Do, and sent liaison missions to Central and Northern Vietnam.
Subsequently, the French changed their tactics and instead of concentrating their efforts on fighting the Communists in the south, the Expeditionary Corps launched an assault against the Front, including the Quéo Ba, Thổ Địa, Bình Hòa bases near the Cambodian border. The French police detained nearly 150 activists of the Coalition Front, including Nguyễn Trung Chánh and Nguyễn Thanh Tân.
On the other hand, the Communists launched the so called Vietnams National Coalition, or Hội Liên Hiệp Quốc Dân Việt Nam. The new organization, also known as Liên Việt, was designed to confuse the people of the south as its name sounded similar to the National Coalition Fronts name. Nguyễn Bình and Phạm Thiều eventually left the Front and renewed violence against the nationalist forces.
It should be pointed out that though the Hòa Hảo Buddhist and the Cao Đài communities both gained a wide support, under the concrete circumstances of the 1945-1946 period the mass following was rather a military liability rather than a political asset. The Hòa Hảo Buddhist and the Cao Đài paramilitary units were unable to provide adequate security for large masses of adepts therefore, the unarmed followers of both religions became easy targets of the French raids and/or Việt Minh terrorist attacks. Moreover, apart from direct armed assaults, the Việt Minh secretly informed the French military about the Hòa Hảo and Cao Đài hideouts in order to provoke more French air raids.
Facing a twofold threat from both the French and the Communists, the Coalition Front endeavored a daring action to transfer its headquarters to the French-controlled Saigon-Cholon area. The idea was to secure better communication with patriotic urban intelligentsia, and simultaneously avoid the Việt Minh terrorist attacks. The Fronts leader Huỳnh Phú Sổ and propaganda chief Lê Trung Nghĩa were briefly based in Saigon-Cholon zone. More than one hundred clandestine Fronts cells were formed throughout the urban area. However, due to continued action by the French secret police, the impact of the Coalition Fronts activities remained limited.
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