24 OCTOBER 1952, Page 1

Ups and Downs in Indo-China

A rigid censorship makes it difficult to assess the gravity of the reverses suffered by French Union forces in the Thai territory to the northwest of Hanoi. The post of Nghia-lo, held by roughly half a battalion of Thai tribesmen under French officers, has been quickly captured by Viet-minh forces. and various smaller outposts in the adjacent mountains have been abandoned because of a consequent threat to their com- munications. These operations represent a clear success for the rebels; whether it is one which they will be able to exploit seems doubtful, for they can count on little or no support from the Thais and there is no reason to doubt the strength of the main French defences covering the Delta. Although, in the bitter, costly and seemingly endless campaigns in Indo-China, disturbing incidents recur from time to time, it should not be overlooked that the French and their Viet-namese allies have latterly made continuous and encouraging progress. In Tonking, Annam and Cochin China important military gains have been consolidated; the flow of arms and equipment from America is now well under weigh; and more than a quarter of a million men of the various Associated States, many of them under officers of their own race, are fighting alongside the units which can be so ill spared from Metropolitan France. ' In the last four years the number of French officials in the whole territory has been reduced by about eighty per cent., their places being taken by indigenes; luid rehabilitation teams, following in the wake of the armies, are having a marked effect• on civilian morale and well-being. Viet-minh stock is credibly Said to be falling in the rural areas, where the inhabi- tants are getting very little in return for the taxes which their liberators exact from them. There may—there almost certainly will—be more bad news from Indo-China; but the background to that news is less ominous than it was a couple of years ago.