Twelve people, including two U.S. citizens, were convicted of “subversion” yesterday in a Ho Chi Minh City courthouse for allegedly seeking to undermine the Vietnamese government. The defendants are all allegedly members of a mysterious OC-based group calling itself the Provisional Central Government of Vietnam. Little is known about the group, which as OC Weekly‘s R. Scott Moxley has previously reported, doesn’t seem to exist except for a Little Saigon post office box, but which aims to somehow overthrow Vietnam’s communist regime. According to Reuters, the two Vietnamese-Americans are Angel Phan and James Nguyen, but their hometowns in the U.S. were not named. (A Reuters photo showed a frail, handcuffed and elderly-looking Phan being led up a flight of stairs by two police officers, and a middle-aged Nguyen, wearing glasses and handcuffs, being led out of a police van).
The pair will now serve 14 years in prison for distributing “anti-state” leaflets inside Vietnam and exhorting supporters to do the same, as well as supposedly attempting to commandeer radio stations and organize protests. (The remaining 10 Vietnamese members all received prison terms from five to 11 years. The Vietnamese government considers the Provisional Central Government of Vietnam to be a terrorist organization; in any case, the group is not recognized as legitimate by the U.S. government. 15 alleged members of the group have already been convicted of carrying out an attempted bombing at Tan Son Nhut airport outside Ho Chi Minh City in April 2017. According to the Vietnamese government, both Phan and Nguyen were sent by the group in February of that year to organize an underground resistance within Vietnam.
The convictions would seem to be a serious setback for the Provisional Central Government of Vietnam, but it’s not the first one. As Moxley reported in March 2017, the group lost a $28 billion lawsuit filed against a Taiwanese company accused of dumping toxic chemicals in the South China Sea. “Calling himself the ‘Attorney General’ of the Provisional National Government of Vietnam, Orange County’s Phat Van Bui filed the complaint in November against Formosa Plastics Corporation for dumping “toxic waste” from a steel plant that wrecked the nation’s fishing industry and prompted numerous angry protests,” Moxley reported. “The people living around the affected area started getting extremely sick for eating fish and fish products,” Bui wrote in [his] complaint. “The $7 billion USD per annum fishing industry is destroyed, leaving the fisherman jobless . . . The longterm implications of health risks and concerns include birth defects, liver failure, kidney failure, cancer, brain damage an other diseases.”
Unfortunately, after paying a $400 fee to file the lawsuit, Bui failed to show up in court and a federal judge dismissed the case.
Award-winning investigative journalist Nick Schou is Editor of OC Weekly. He is the author of Kill the Messenger: How the CIA’s Crack Cocaine Controversy Destroyed Journalist Gary Webb (Nation Books 2006), which provided the basis for the 2014 Focus Features release starring Jeremy Renner and the L.A. Times-bestseller Orange Sunshine: The Brotherhood of Eternal Love’s Quest to bring Peace, Love and Acid to the World, (Thomas Dunne 2009). He is also the author of The Weed Runners (2013) and Spooked: How the CIA Manipulates the Media and Hoodwinks Hollywood (2016).