WASHINGTON—Ex-South Vietnamese vice president Nguyen Cao Ky says he plans to retire with his wife to the country he fled in the closing days of the Vietnam War—and to publish a Vietnamese edition of his new memoir there.
"I'm 75 already—I have to think of retirement," Ky told RFA’s Vietnamese service. “I guess I'll come back to Vietnam. My wife is likely to go with me, but the children will do as they want.”
Ky also said he would use a portion of the profits from sales in Vietnam of his new memoir to fund secondary school scholarships. But he cautioned that book sales in Vietnam aren't lucrative.
"As you know, books sales in Vietnam don't make big money," he said, referring to the planned publication in Vietnam of his new memoir Buddha’s Child . "I would just take a certain amount and give it as scholarships to some high schools [in Vietnam]."
"Those may be the Chu Van An High School in Hanoi where I used to be a student, and the Quoc-Hoc High School in Hue, then one high school in Saigon [Ho Chi Minh City]," he said. "I'll make it scholarships to the children, because being back here I see that the fondness for learning [of all Vietnamese people] here is tremendous."
Buddha's Child has already been published in the United States. Nguyen is now translating it into Vietnamese for publication in Vietnam by the Phuong Nam Publishing Center and Cultural Copyright Co. in Ho Chi Minh City.
I'm 75 already—I have to think of retirement. I guess I'll come back to Vietnam. My wife is likely to go with me but the children will do as they want.
"Whenever I meet with [Vietnamese] officials or people, they never say a word about politics but talk only about economic development, about this project then that project," he said. "So I really feel happy."
Nguyen Quoc Thai, editor in chief of Phuong Nam Publishing Center and Cultural Copyright Co., said in an interview he hoped to obtain rights to publish the book in English as well—and he didn’t expect any trouble getting permission to publish it.
"There’s not a lot of politics in the book," Nguyen Quoc Thai said. "And it didn’t reflect a lot on the political situation during the time Mr. Nguyen Cao Ky was prime minister and then vice president in the South. I think… we will be able to obtain a license to publish the book in Vietnam."
"Mr. Nguyen Cao Ky told us that he will translate from the English copy to Vietnamese and he will correct some parts, because after a few trips to Vietnam, he thought it was not correct in that book. And he also will write a few more chapters about his thoughts, his observations about the country after his visits to the homeland," he said.
Nguyen Quoc Thai projected an initial print run of about 4,000 copies.
There’s not a lot of politics in the book. And it didn’t reflect a lot on the political situation during the time Mr. Nguyen Cao Ky was prime minister and then vice president in the South. I think… we will be able to obtain a license to publish the book in Vietnam.
"In the book market in Vietnam, if the publisher is certain the book will popular, [he] prints about 3,000 to 4,000 copies. If we see that the books are selling well, we can reprint. But we think in the first edition we will not print more than 4,000 copies."
A former fighter pilot who sported sunglasses and purple scarves, Ky became prime minister on the back of a military coup in 1965 and served as vice president from 1967-71. He now lives in southern California.
Ky returned to Vietnam on Jan. 14, 2004, for the first time in 29 years, saying he wanted to put the past behind him. He escaped his native country in the closing days of the Vietnam War, which killed three million Vietnamese and more than 50,000 Americans.
His trip was widely slammed by dissidents and overseas Vietnamese as a sell-out to the Communist regime in Hanoi. But Ky told RFA at the time that he received a warm welcome in Vietnam itself.
"The old and the young, the people who met me, told me that they recognized me. They were happy to see me and welcomed me," Ky said last year. "Everybody told me that their lives are better than before and I think everyone seemed very happy and they didn't seem discontented."
Ky, whose swashbuckling image once earned him the nickname "Cowboy" among his own people, hit out angrily at reports that his invitation by Hanoi was a public relations exercise intended to show a more humanitarian side to the Communist regime.
"With my return, I only hope to bring peace and unity for the great nation. Whosoever agrees or does not agree, that's his problem, but please don't distort the reason for my trip."