Vietnamese National Hero Buried In Tahiti

Rod Page

Jan 7, 2010
Those who follow this site know that I rate adventuring in Vietnam amongst the best motor-biking in the world. Most also know the I now live in Bora Bora (life’s hard!).

Early this week the 67m, three-masted training vessel “Le Quy Don” (named after a celebrated Vietnamese poet & philosopher from the 18<sup>th</sup> century) arrived in Tahiti on her maiden voyage which will ultimately take her to Vietnam where she will be based in Nha Trang.

On arrival in Tahiti the young mariners aboard would learn, as I did, that one of their country’s national heroes was buried in Papeete (Tahiti).

Nguyen Van Cam, also known as Ky Dong, was born in 1875 at Ngoc, Thai Binh. Issue of a prominent Vietnamese family & a brilliant student, in 1888 at the age of only 13 he led a revolt against the French colonial authority & was arrested. In an attempt to gain his allegiance the French sent him to study in Algeria where he succeeded brilliantly in obtaining his baccalaureat before returning to Vietnam. He would immediately rejoin the resistance movement – the French authorities, alarmed at the crowds that would gather where he supposedly worked as a farmer, arrested him one night in 1898 & arranged for his exiled for life for defending his political ideas.

Saved from ending up on Devil’s Island in Guiana by the ex-Governor Gustave Gallet who met & was greatly impressed by Nguyen when the boat carrying him to Guiana stopped over in Papeete. In French Polynesia he would work as a medical paramedic in the Marquises Islands where in time he would become great friends with Paul Gauguin who gave Nguyen his last painting “Self-Portrait with Glasses” (1903).

In 1899 Nguyen married Punu Teriitaumihau & they had a son & he reportedly ‘one other child’. After a long life in exile Nguyen Van Cam died in 1929 & was buried at the Uranie cemetery.

A national hero in Vietnam where schools & streets bear his name, his descendants carry neither his name “Nguyen” or his ‘aka’, “Ky Dong” but are known by his christian name “Van Cam”.

French Polynesia’s French Senator Richard Tuheiava, at the request of Nguye’s grand-son, Supa Van Cam, has made representations to the French Minister of Foreign Affairs to have his remains re-expatriated to Vietnam.

(I have the photos to accompany the report but as it's been a while since I last posted & the first time I have so done on the new format, I'm, well, lost).


Dec 9, 2008
Hi Rod,

Thank you for the story. I have my photos online and on the drop down menu here use Insert / Insert/edit image.

You then put the direct code in the box and your photo should come up.



Staff member
Jan 16, 2003
Chiang Khong
Wow. Awesome little report Rod.

Who would have ever thought one of Vietnam's national hero's would be  buried in Tahiti.

Thanks for this gem of Viet info from far flung Tahiti.