LGT: Nino is a crime reporter at The Age. Đây là bài viết hồi January 2016. The Age có trụ sở chính ở Melbourne, Úc Châu. Tôi copy nguyên bản tiếng Anh. Hoàng Ngọc An
The day Vietnamese anti-communist violence came to Australia
It was a most unpleasant day for a picnic. And it was about to get even less pleasant for the South Vietnamese refugees gathered at Black Mountain Peninsula, on the north bank of Lake Burley Griffin, on September 10, 1983.
On that early-spring day that felt more like mid-winter, with a temperature that hit 12 degrees and would go no higher, an anti-communist group was about to unleash the only confirmed attack on South Vietnamese refugees in Australia.
Hoang Co Minh, former leader of the National United Front for the Liberation of Vietnam.
Federal Bureau of Investigations documents reveal that the National United Front for the Liberation of Vietnam was responsible for violence on refugees in Australia, and that the attack in Canberra was not an isolated incident.
But an investigation by Fairfax Media has found that it is unlikely the Front was responsible for murders or serious beatings in Australia, as they have been linked to in the US.
Hoang Co Minh speaking in Southern California.
The Front was led by former South Vietnamese Navy officer Hoang Co Minh, who wanted to reclaim Vietnam from communist forces by galvanising refugees scattered across the globe after the fall of Saigon in 1975.
The FBI documents contain an excerpt from a Vietnamese newspaper of an article that describes the attack on the picnic.
In November, US website ProPublica and current affairs program Frontline revealed that five Vietnamese refugees working as journalists in the US had been murdered during the 1980s after criticising the Front.
The offences were investigated by the FBI as a case of domestic terrorism, according to the reports.
Hoang Co Minh was a former navy officer.
While it is unlikely the violence was as pronounced outside the US, there were deep tensions among Australian Vietnamese in the 1980s.
It is possible people within the Front lashed out at those who slighted them without the expressed consent of the movement, according to law enforcement sources and community members.
The FBI documents provided to Fairfax Media by ProPublica include an excerpt from the Chuong Saigonnewspaper, which was sympathetic to the anti-communist movement.
The excerpt claims the Canberra meeting was ambushed as it was "comprising a number of pro-communist henchmen".
The meeting was called to revive a group known as the Union of Vietnamese, the article claimed, which had been "paralysed and dislocated by the growth and strength of the Vietnamese refugee community throughout Australia".
"A group of our refugee compatriots in Canberra immediately arrived and smashed the … plot," it said.
"The … company fled in panic and disorder. One of them was captured and had to plead and beg for his life!
"This ambush enabled the refugee compatriots in Canberra to identify a number of those who ‘eat nationalist rice but worship the communist ghost’."
Another article contained in the FBI documents states that the excerpt may be a "colourful" account of the ambush, and that the actual disruption could have been less violent.
Vietnamese community members across Australia recall intimidation and stand-over tactics being deployed by the Front in order to raise funds and support among refugees after the fall of Saigon in 1975.
This tension was particularly pronounced in large Vietnamese communities in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide.
Vietnamese Community in Australia president Phong Nguyen said most refugees were sceptical of the Front’s claims that they had thousands of soldiers ready for deployment. Other refugees, while anti-communist, wanted to start afresh and leave their previous lives behind.
Mr Phong remembered a fiery confrontation with a Front leader who was trying to convince refugees around Footscray about the merits of their movement.
"I said, ‘Why should we replace the communist pile of shit with another pile of shit?’
"Unless you behave properly and with honour, why should you replace them?"
But Mr Phong said that while there were rumours of bashings, and some refugees felt intimidated, he did not know of any confirmed incident of violence involving the Front.
Similar sentiments were raised by community leaders in Sydney, which was awash with gang-related Vietnamese violence in the 1980s, but appears to have escaped political clashes.
It was harder to confirm the situation in South Australia, which a source said was a stronghold of the Front.
The source said Adelaide also remained a stronghold of the Viet Tan, the modern incarnation of the Front, which has denounced violence and describes itself as pro-democracy, rather than anti-communist.
There was one violent incident involving an Adelaide businessman that bore some similarities to attacks by the Front in the US.
Vo Van Ngo was in Melbourne looking for a site for a factory for his dressmaking and sewing business when he went missing in December 1985. He was last seen boarding a tram in Richmond.
His body was found in a car on the Hume Highway about 10 kilometres north of Wangaratta. He had been stabbed and bashed.
At the time, police said the killing did not appear gang related.
A Victoria Police spokeswoman was unable to confirm whether the Front had been investigated as part of the investigation into Mr Vo’s murder, and Fairfax Media was unable to contact his family.
There are several similarities between Mr Vo and victims of the Front in the US: he was middle-aged and prosperous, and therefore likely to have wielded influence in the burgeoning refugee community.
Emeritus professor Carl Thayer, of the University of New South Wales, has written extensively about anti-communist Vietnamese groups.
He was living in Canberra about the time of the picnic attack, but did not know of the incident.
He said there were two other violent acts involving the Vietnamese population in Canberra in the 1980s that could also be linked to the Front: shots fired at the Vietnamese embassy in O’Malley, and the bashing of Vietnamese students who were staying at the Canberra College of Advanced Education.
"You can’t say there weren’t elements in the Front that were responsible for violence."
Hoang, the Front leader, was killed while trying to cross into Vietnam from Laos with other guerillas in 1987.
While that was effectively the end of the push to take back the country, the Viet Tan continued to lobby for a democratic Vietnam, and retain a strong presence in Australia.
Phong Do Thanh Nguyen, a Viet Tan spokesman, denounced the US reporting of the Front as inaccurate, but welcomed any investigation into the Front, either in Australia or the US, that would give the group a chance to clear its name.
He was confident refugees in Australia had not been assaulted or intimidated during the 1980s.
"There are a lot of accusations but no clear evidence about anything," Dr Phong said.
"The Front was certainly very active at that time … but linking them to murders? If the FBI or anybody else wants to reopen an investigation, do it.
"We can’t just go on hearsay, because it’s causing a lot of angst and upset."