Two Americans are among a group of twelve people convicted of subversion in Vietnam yesterday. A court in Ho Chi Minh City said the Americans were sent to Vietnam by a group in California that’s still loyal to the South Vietnamese government that collapsed in 1975.
The Provisional National Government of Vietnam was founded in 1990 by former South Vietnamese soldiers and refugees. Based in Orange County, California, the government in exile pledges to “liberate Vietnam from communism.”
According to Agence France Presse, many of its members wear the yellow and red-striped flag of South Vietnam which was hauled down in April, 1975 when North Vietnamese forces rolled into Saigon.
Last January, the government in Hanoi designated the PNGV as a terrorist group, and the two Americans convicted yesterday were described as the masterminds of a plot to overthrow the state. Han James Nguyen and Angel Phan arrived in Vietnam in February 2017 and recruited Vietnamese citizens. Their alleged activities include an attempt, last April, to set off bombs at the old American Air Base at Tan Son Nhat – now the country’s largest airport. Two small devices did go off at a Ho Chi Minh City police station, which injured three people. Specific charges involved distribution of anti-state leaflets, efforts to organize protests and insults to the image of Ho Chi Minh.
Phan and Nguyen received 14 year sentences and will be deported once they’ve served their time. Their accomplices received terms of 5 to 11 years.
The case comes amid one of Vietnam’s periodic crackdowns on dissent. According to Amnesty International, 97 people are serving time for violation of national security laws; Human Rights Watch puts that number at 119.