A History of Violence

Between 1987 and 1990, five Vietnamese-American journalists were murdered in the United States by a right-wing death squad that authorities suspected was tied to former officials of the South Vietnamese government and based in Orange County's Little Saigon. Although the FBI opened an investigation of the murders in April 1992, the agency never solved the killings (see "Invisible Enemies," March 4, 1999). Citing U.S. national security, the FBI refused to turn over most of the paperwork on the murders in response to a 1996 Weekly Freedom of Information Act request. What follows—much of it culled from the pages of a 1994 report by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists—provides a brief history of anti-communist attacks in Little Saigon and other Vietnamese-American enclaves throughout the United States.

January 1980: Someone firebombs the office of Nguyen Thanh Hoang, publisher of Van Nghe Tien Phong, a Vietnamese magazine in Arlington, Va. Hoang and his 7-year-old daughter survive the attack.

July 21, 1981: Lam Trang Duong, a left-wing publisher and Vietnam War critic, is shot dead while walking down the street in San Francisco. A group called the Vietnamese Organization to Exterminate Communists and Restore the Nation (VOECRN) claims responsibility.

Jan. 5, 1982: Bach Huu Bong, publisher of a small Vietnamese weekly in Los Angeles, is repeatedly shot at while leaving a restaurant in Chinatown. He'd just published an exposé of an Orange County gang known as the "Frogmen," a group of former South Vietnamese navy personnel.

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Aug. 24, 1982: Nguyen Dam Phong is fatally shot in his own driveway in Houston. The publisher of the weekly newspaper Tu Do (Freedom) had received death threats for printing articles questioning the fundraising activities of right-wing exile groups. VOECRN leaves a hit list at the scene of the crime.

Aug. 7, 1987: Someone leaves a dead German shepherd in the driveway of Thinh Nguyen, editor of Houston's Dan Viet, along with a written death threat.

Aug. 7, 1987: VOECRN takes credit for the murder of Tap Van Pham, the first Vietnamese-American journalist to be executed in Orange County. Pham, the editor of the weekly entertainment magazine Mai, was asleep in his office when someone set fire to the building. He died of smoke inhalation. Pham had run advertisements in Mai for Canadian companies promoting cash transfers and travel services to Vietnam.

April 30, 1988: As novelist and former Vietnamese political prisoner Long Vu tours Orange County, he is severely beaten by a crowd in Little Saigon who suspect he collaborated with his captors.

Aug. 3, 1988: In a hit list stapled to telephone poles in Little Saigon, Tu A Nguyen, publisher of Westminster-based Viet Press, and two others are sentenced to death for traveling to Vietnam.

Nov. 22, 1989: Nhan Trong Do, a layout designer for the national magazine Van Nghe Tien Phong, is found fatally shot in his car in Fairfax County, Virginia. Police identify no suspects.

Sept. 22, 1990: Someone fatally shoots Triet Le, a columnist for Van Nghe Tien Phong, and his wife as they park their car in front of their house in Bailey Crossroads, Virginia. His name had been on the VOECRN hit list found at Phong's home eight years earlier.

January 1999: Tens of thousands of protesters surround Little Saigon's Hi-Tek video store after owner Truong Van Tran refuses to take down a poster of Ho Chi Minh that hangs above his counter. Police have to escort Tran from the store for his own protection. He is later charged with video piracy and now lives in Vietnam.

July 21 2007: Hundreds of protesters target Viet Weekly's office in Garden Grove. According to publisher Le Vu, several employees receive threatening telephone calls, and an anonymous e-mail threatens to burn down the newspaper's office.


For more on this story, see our slideshow here

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