Almost 70 years ago, the first diplomatic document or the Franco-Vietnam Agreement of March 6th, 1946 was signed in Hanoi by the Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the Government of the French Republic.
The agreement was signed in a circumstance that Vietnam had to face many difficulties. The North was being invaded by Chiang Kai-shek (China) and the South still had to fight back the French colonists.
In order to overcome such situation, by the end of January of 1946, President Ho Chi Minh had tried to meet Jean Sainteny, a representative of French Government in Hanoi. The meetings were carried out in confidential and always after 8pm in a building located at 38 Ly Thai To Street, Hanoi.
Assistant for President Ho Chi Minh at the meetings was Prof. Hoang Minh Giam, while Pignon for Jean Sainteny.
Prof. Hoang Minh Giam was a patriotic intellectual and very good at French. Since 1933, he had been a rector of a school and later became a senior politician (as Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Culture...). Meanwhile, Jean Sainteny was a senior officer of the French Intelligence Agency based in China. He was sent to Vietnam to work in 1946-1947. Later, he was a member of the French Delegation at the Geneva Conference in 1954 and the first consul general of France in Hanoi after 1954.
By the end of February 1946, France and Chiang signed an agreement to let France replace China's troop in Vietnam.
Aiming to expel the Chiang's army and to avoid a war with the French colonists when we were not ready, the Executive Board of Central Party of Vietnam decided to negotiate with France (in a meeting on 5-3-1946).
Thus, by 16h30' dated March 6th 1946, an agreement was signed between the Government of Vietnam (represented by President Ho Chi Minh and Vu Hong Khanh) and the French Government (represented by Sainteny). The signing ceremony was witnessed by representatives of the consulates of the USA, UK, China and the French Social Party.
The Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Hoang Minh Giam read out the agreement before it was signed by the representatives of Vietnam and France, 6-3-1946.
The main content of the Agreement could be briefed as follows:
- The French Government recognizes the Vietnamese Republic as a Free State having its own Government, its own Parliament, its own Army and its own Finances, forming part of the Indochinese Federation and of the French Union.
- The Vietnamese Government agrees to allow 15 000 French soldiers to replace the Chinese Troops. The French army has to base in the regulated areas and has to withdraw from Vietnam within next 5 years, by 1/5 per year. The two country's army has to stop shooting and stay inside their bases. The official negotiation conference will be held in Ha Noi, Sai Gon or Paris to deal with the diplomatic relationship of Vietnam with foreign states, and the law of Indochina and the French interests of economy and culture in Vietnam.
Representatives of Vietnam, France, UK, USA and China stood together after the signing ceremony (at 38 Ly Thai To, Hanoi, 6-3-1946)
The VNMH Museum has preserved two photographs took on the signing ceremony. One was taken when Prof. Hoang Minh Giam was reading out the Agreement in French language before it was signed by the two parties. Another was taken for the representatives standing together in front of the building at 38 Ly Thai To, Ha Noi. Those photographs are very valuable as they had recorded an important moment of the Vietnamese revolution.
Ms. Hoang Vinh Hanh
(Daughter of Prof. Hoang Minh Giam, a staff of the VNMH Museum)
EN: Tran Trang