Terror in Little Saigon

On November 3rd, PBS will be airing “Terror in Little Saigon”, an investigative report on the unresolved events that inspired several stories in The Sympathizer.

terror in little saigon

One of the stories in The Sympathizer deals with the Front, an organization of South Vietnamese veterans trying to take back their homeland. Another deals with a murdered Vietnamese American journalist. Both stories are connected, and drew from real life incidents in Vietnamese American history. Now PBS is going to run an investigative report into the actual Front and the murders of several Vietnamese American journalists in the 1970s and 1980s. Tony Nguyen is a consulting producer, and his documentary Enforcing the Silence, about a left-wing Vietnamese American activist who was murdered, was one of the sources I looked at.

FRONTLINE and ProPublica released an announcement about their investigation:

For more than a decade, an organization headed by former South Vietnamese military men ran a death squad on American soil — killing journalists, torching businesses, intimidating those who challenged its dream of re-starting the Vietnam War. The FBI spent years trying to build a case, but to this day no one has ever been arrested in what the authorities classified as a multi-state case of domestic terrorism.

ProPublica and Frontline re-opened the investigation, talked to victims and suspects, examined once classified files, uncovered government missteps and won startling admissions. Five members of the organization, known as the Front, conceded the group had run an assassination squad. It even had a nickname: “K-9.”

You can watch the trailer below:

Viet Thanh Nguyen is a Los Angeles-based professor, teacher, critic and fiction writer, author of Race and Resistance: Literature and Politics in Asian America and numerous short stories in Best New American Voices, TriQuarterly, Narrative and other magazines. He is the editor of diaCRITICS. More info here.

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  1. Here is a reply from Bằng Phong, Đặng văn Âu to a certain Mr. Hùng claiming that the PBS showing will “damage’ the community. I’ve translatated it to English:
    In the 80’s, a number of Vietnam journalists were killed for writing articles criticizing and denouncing The National United Front for the Liberation of Vietnam (also called The Front/Mặt Trận) as a concocted Resistance, scamming the community for money (1). The FBI did not discovered who the culprits were, and the climate of fear was so stifling at the time. Many people suspected that terrorism was at the hands of the Front, but no one dares to speak out.

    Members of the Front blamed the savage and brutal assassinations on the Vietnamese Communists who they claimed were taking cover in the highly charged anti-communist atmosphere of the time, (fanned by the Front) to redirect the suspicion and lay their blame at the doorstep of the Front. It is an argument smack of childish imagination and distortion.

    In my opinion, in the face of the murder of five journalists whose articles denounced them, the Front should have publicly and resolutely condemned the barbaric behavior of the murderers and should have announced some large cash rewards for those who could help bring the perpetrator(s) to justice, proving the Front was not the culprit. On the contrary, the Front had kept their silence, which served to sow doubts on people’s mind. Who else could have carried out such dastardly acts?!

    On the other hand, the other silent journalists – if they honor their profession – should have expressed their solidarity with their murdered members by condemning the killers and petitioned the U.S. authorities to find the perpetrators. But these refugee journalists were silent because they were afraid of the risk of becoming tangled in the web of murders itself.

    I abhor their smallness, because by choosing to remain silent they had been complicit with evil acts, showing no professional conscience.

    Regarding the PBS Television airing of the investigation into the terrorist attack in Little Saigon by two American journalists, Bùi Minh Hùng wrote, “(I think) this is another revenge attack by those who dislike the nationalist Vietnamese community…” I don’t believe this statement is correct. The conscience of the journalists is to seek the truth in order to bring the murderers to light; it is not a vengeful attack targeting the Vietnamese community. I know Bui Minh Hung is not a Việt Tân (Vietnam Reform Party) member, but he fell in line with the Vietnam Reform Party’s defensive propaganda line. He should remember that the Front of Vice Admiral Hoang Co Minh does not represent the Vietnamese nationalist community. The Front is a phony Resistance organization aiming to make money illicitly. Because after Vice Admiral Minh died on the Thai-Laos border and the image of Vice-Admiral Minh lies dead in a pool of blood was published in Bangkok newspapers, the Front was continually trying to deceive people for years. Bear in mind that Hoang Co Minh’s return to Vietnam was a celebrated public affair and surely the Vietnam Communist would be privy to. He led an army of about several dozens people to fight the communists who has under their disposal army of divisions strong. There were no military strongholds in the country, no safe rearguard areas where Hoàng Cơ Minh and his band of rag-tag army could intrude and hideout to make inroad into Vietnam to operate. Unable to eat his crow, the Eastward movement led by Hoàng Cơ Minh became but a suicidal mission, aiming to whitewash his crimes of false pretense; it is not to be treated as an heroic act such that of Jing Ke’s who tried to assassinate the Qin emperor. Yet the Front for years had still tried to conceal information about Hoang Co Minh’s death.

    The Front continued to publish open letters, purportedly from president-cum-commander Hoang Co Minh, printed on the Front’s Resistance Newsletter, presumably sent to America from some secret outpost in the Thai-Lao-Vietnam border during the Lunar New Years or during the children Trung Thu/Mid-Autumn festivals for many years. They also printed news of the Front’s victories, destroying many Public Security strongholds, from the sum of many accumulated Communist police stations defeated by the Front, it would seem ‘our side’ would soon enter Saigon! Tin cans pasted with the Three Stripe Yellow Flag were placed in many VN markets and restaurants nationwide. The innocent “teen” youngsters dressed in brown shirt and khakis pant uniforms selling the Front’s Resistance newspapers would garner support from many Vietnamese who know about the Resistance’s bluff and dissimulation, yet they’d buy to avoid harassment!

    Only when the Communist Vietnam opened its door, and the movement of Vietnamese in and out of Vietnam began, did the Front terminated their lies to deceive the people. Many times, I’d demand the Front (forerunner of the Vietnam Reform Party) to come clean with who was the person impersonating Vice-Admiral Hoang Co Minh to write letters greeting the people, they’d remain silent. So, no matter how great Viet Tan is with many of its deceits and trickeries, many people would not trust them because Viet Tan did never dare to reveal the truth!

    After the blatant fraud has been revealed, Viet Tan should have had the decency to pack up and got out of sight. The good-will people who have donated to the fake Resistance have accepted and cut their losses to the “ghost factory.” Perhaps those who have enthusiastically participated deep in the anti-communist Front are certainly hurt, because they have mistakenly slept with the enemy.

    The genius of the Front is its shameless effrontery, they even gave birth to Viet-Tan (The Vietnam Reform Party), that is why the community’s political situation is deteriorating and troublesome. The Front even dares to say people who expose its shady affairs is aiding and abetting the communist! In truth, the communists – more than anyone else – are completely aware of the Front’s deceits and lies, because they have their intelligence and spies. Their Embassies and Consulate monitored the overseas Vietnamese very closely. The Vietnamese Communists got the Vietnam Reform’s scams by the balls so the Vietnam Reform Party can only carry out the Communist biddings! Saying this is a bit vulgar, but the loud vociferous anti-Communist Viet-Tan is just like the saying of the old folks: “The prostitutes is preaching morality!” or “the pot calling the kettle black!”
    I dare Viet Tan to divulge the identity of the person who impersonated Vice-Admiral Minh to write letters and sent them overseas after his death. Who gave false information about the Resistance army demolishing police stations and killing communists on TV, radio, and in the newspapers. Is he not strategist Nguyen Xuan Nghia?

    What is so low and distasteful about the overseas anti-Communist press is that they all learned that Vice-Admiral Hoang Co Minh had died through the Thailand press, yet remained silent in the face of lies and false pretention of the Front. I regard this as the abject low-down of the Vietnamese refugee Press in a free nation. They have acquiesced to the bluff, and become complicit in the Front’s deception. So famous journalists and commentators, some with their Ph.D’s, even if they could write millions anticommunist articles their enemy would not lose a wink of sleep or an ounce of worry, theirs is nothing worth reading. I have written many articles expressing my scorn on the communist because they do not know shame. So anti-communist people must learn to feel shame in order to garner respect from their enemies. If people from both sides compete to emulate each other’s shamelessness then Nationalists and Communists fighting each other just to compete for some material gain and recognition, but nothing about the cause of liberty, democracy! No matter who hate and despise me for speaking the TRUTH, no one can look down on me, Mr. Hung, sir!

    I welcome and appreciate the American journalists who seek the truth to return justice to those journalists who’d denounced the fraud that got them killed. Vietnam journalists should be involved in investigative journalism to clarify the justness why we’ve come to this country. Is it because the desire for freedom or the desire to line one’s coat pocket? Please answer me, Vietnamese media!

    Viet Tan writing letter to object the two reporters searching for TRUTH is actually an expression of their nervousness, their fear of having their dishonest acts exposed to light. If Viet Tan was an upright tree, then they wouldn’t fear of dying standing up straight?
    I am struggling against the communists tirelessly until my last breath because of the dictate of my conscience, of human dignity and with love for my people. I stand resolutely against the bluff, deception, fraud, dishonesty of anyone, for that only would give my anti-Communism new meaning, whether I myself get murdered. The reason Vietnam was dominated by communist until today, because the people of Vietnam are not being keenly aware enough, being brave enough to fight against injustice.

    I am writing to advise you Mr. Bui Minh Hung not to equate the Vietnam Reform Party (The Front) with the Vietnamese communities seeking freedom from communist Vietnam. If you equate the Vietnam overseas community lock-stock-and-barrel with the Front then it would seem that the Vietnam political refugees, their community are escaping en masse to search for some monetary reward. Why would we let a Party reincarnated from the Front continue to defraud us?
    Human beings must be courageous, must be aware of what is right, what is wrong, they deserve to have their life on earth Mr. Hung! JUSTICE must trump, do not let personal feelings overwhelm reason!
    Good bye,
    Bang Phong Dang van Au

    PS: If the five murdered journalists were red-blood Caucasian Americans (i.e. not just Americans seeking refuge and security in America like us) then surely the FBI would have poured more money into the investigation, trying everything in their formidable arsenal to rat out the culprits long time ago.
    The killing of each other in the crowded Vietnamese Ghetto is not worthy for them to care. If I were a billionaire like Hoang Kieu, I will spend money to hire private detectives then certainly the perpetrators will be brought to justice already.
    (1) This was the time where many newly-arrived refugees from Vietnam were still harbored their hatred for the Communist takeover of the South, causing many to brave the high seas in unseaworthy boats in their escapes from their homes in Vietnam. Believing in the inane and fatuous scheme or retaking their homeland, many had joined and contributed money to the Front.


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