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Binh Xuyen

B nh Xuy n, often linked to its infamous leader, General L V n Vi n (aka "B y Vi n") was an independent military force within the Vietnamese National Army whose leaders once had lived outside the law and had sided with the Vi t Minh. During its heyday, B nh Xuy n funded itself with organized crime activities in Saigon while effectively battling Communist forces.[1]



B nh Xuy n groups first emerged in the early 1920s as a loosely organized coalition of gangs and contract laborers about two hundred to three hundred strong. B nh Xuy n's early history consisted of cycles of kidnapping, piracy, pursuit, and occasionally imprisonment. One of the gang leaders was Ba D ng, a kingpin in the Saigon-Cholon area. His lieutenants included Hu nh V n Tr ng (aka M i Tr ), D ng V n H (aka N m H ), V V n M n (aka B y M n), and L V n Vi n (aka B y Vi n).[2] B nh Xuy n's history is largely that of two separate groups: Ba D ng's troops (the B i B nh Xuy n) and B y Vi n's B nh Xuy n.


From the 1920s to the mid-1930s, Nh B was a haven for hundreds of armed gangs led by several leaders. Some were groups of gangsters picking on the helpless, while others robbed the rich, reportedly, to help the poor. Some of the well-known gangsters at the time included:

  • Tr n V n D i (aka Sau D i) was notorious for his protection services. In 1940, he bribed port officials for sole protection of a lumberyard used by a pro-Japanese shipbuilding company in South Vietnam.
  • Tr n V n Th (aka Sau Th )'s gang concentrated on kidnapping and extortion of rich families.
  • o n V n Ng c (aka Ba Ng c) and his brother, o n V n Gin (aka Ba Gin) operated brothels and provided protection to independent prostitutes in the T n Thu n area.
  • Nguy n V n M nh (aka "T m M nh"), a martial arts teacher, started the first organized crime unit in Saigon. In 1940, after joining the Communist Party, M nh ordered his gang to cease all criminal activities and concentrate on helping the party in an upcoming uprising. He later brought his gang to join Ba D ng's B nh Xuy n troops.[3]

Ba D ng's B nh Xuy n (1940-1946)

D ng V n D ng ("Ba D ng") was born in 1900 to a family of poor peasants from B n Tre. His mother remarried after his father's death and the family moved to Nh B in the late 1920s, where D ng grew up to be a respected martial arts teacher.[4] In 1936, D ng started his criminal activities by providing protection services to the Tay Ninh-Phnom Penh bus station in Saigon. By 1940, he had become a kingpin of South Vietnam. In 1943, D ng joined the Communist party. In 1945, he stole weapons from the Japanese to arm his troops in order to fight the returning French forces. B i Ba D ng was reportedly one of the groups most feared by local French-trained militia. In 1945, the 2,000 armed men under different leaders in the Nh B area elected D ng their commander. Together they chose to name the newly-formed unit, "B nh Xuy n Troops" (the "B i B nh Xuy n").[5]

From Outlaws to Revolutionaries

In late 1929, after the formation of the southern Communist committee, Ng Gia T ordered Ch u V n K to infiltrate the ranks of workers and manual laborers in Nh B . By 1940, K , with Nguy n V n Tr n (aka B y Tr n) enlisted gang leaders and their members, one of the most prominent was Tam Manh. After the botched Southern Uprising (Kh i ngh a Nam K ), the French colonial authorities brutally suppressed all opposition groups.[6]

On 24 September 1945, L V n Kh i (aka "B Nho"), one of Ba D ng's lieutenants allegedly organized the massacre of 150 French and Eurasian civilians, including children, in Saigon without order from its leader.[7]

While this decision would have been of little consequence in Tonkin or central Vietnam, where the Communist-dominated Vi t Minh was strong enough to stand alone, in Cochin China, where the B nh Xuy n support was crucial, Ba Nho's action led to suppression from the returning French troops. The Cochin division of the Indochina Communist party ( ng D ng C ng s n N m B ) was weakened by mass arrests and executions.[8] A decision was made by the southern communist committee to put B Nho on trial. B Nho was tricked by Nguy n Binh into returning to Phuoc An where he was found guilty and sentenced to death. B Nho requested to be allowed to take his own life, which was granted.[9]

In September 1945, Southern Communist party leaders (Tr n V n Gi u, Nguy n V n Tr n, et al.) put Ba D ng in charge of the armed forces attacking southern Saigon, more commonly referred as Front number 4. For two months, B nh Xuy n troops relentlessly attacked and overran several French military facilities and posts. D ng's group eventually lost to the more disciplined and better-trained French Union troops.

On 20 November 1945, to avoid being decimated by French counter-attacks, B nh Xuy n troops withdrew to Rung Sac to regroup for future military operations. In the next few months, B nh Xuy n troops expanded their operations toward the west of South Vietnam (zone 8). During these few months, they successfully took control of G C ng, M Tho and B n Tre, the last province being where they established their new base. D ng, newly promoted by General Nguy n Binh in September to Deputy Commander of Zone 7, died in an air attack on 16 February 1946.[10] Without D ng, his lieutenants began to disagree with each other on who would be the troops' new commander. Nguy n Binh, who had unsuccessfully tried to kill B nh Xuy n's new strongman, L V n Vi n (aka B y Vi n), would later step in to disband the B nh Xuy n in 1948.

First Indochina War (B nh Xuy n divided)

After Ba D ng's death, his lieutenants split into three groups:

  • Supporters of Ba D ng's half-brother, D ng V n H (aka N m H )
  • Backers for L V n Vi n (aka B y Vi n) in his bid to become the new commander.
  • Those who remained neutral in the power struggle.

In April 1946, Military Zone 7 appointed N m H as the B nh Xuy n's new commander. B y Vi n, upset with the decision, formed the B nh Xuy n Interzone with leaders and troops from 7 units. Despite the schism, B nh Xuy n remained united in the fight against the French. As B y Vi n's reputation grew, Nguy n Binh gave the order to kill Vi n and suppressed his supporters. With two trusted companies, Vi n fought his way out of an assassination setup and surrendered to Savani, head of the Deuxieme Bureau/SDECE in Cochinchina. In June 1948, B y Vi n became Colonel in charge of the B nh Xuy n Auxiliary Forces, temporarily reporting to Tr n V n H u, Deputy Premier in the provisional government of Vietnam and Governor of Nam Phan.[11]

French officials in South Vietnam gave Vi n full control of S i G n Ch L n under stipulation that he wipe out the city's Communist infrastructure. B y Vi n's knowledge of the Vi t Minh and his desire to destroy Nguy n Binh's troops in Saigon enabled him to destroy Communist forces in a very short time. The French colonial government rewarded B nh Xuy n's success by allowing B y Vi n to monopolize the trucking industry in South Vietnam and allowing the kingpin to operate as a warlord. B y Vi n was promoted to Major General after the operation to clear Route 15.[12][13]

Partition of Vietnam (from Rise to Power to Demise)

General L V n Vi n and the National Army of Vietnam

In 1949, Emperor B o i became the Head of State of the newly formed State of Vietnam. To solve the problem of having to spread the Vietnamese National Army too thin in the war against the Vi t Minh, he decreed all non-communist military forces in the country as independent armies within the conventional army. B y Vi n was given the rank of Major General of the Vietnamese National Army and his troops became the QDQG B nh Xuy n, which was a self-funded army with revenues from legally-run brothels and casinos; B y Vi n forcibly took control of the casinos from Macanese organized crime groups.[14][15]

General Vi n made arrangements with B o i giving them control of their own affairs in return for their nominal support of the regime, just as he had done so with the French colonial government. At the time of the short war in 1955 between the VNA B nh Xuy n and the regular VNA, Vi n had five regular battalions and 2 battalions of public security shock troops (C ng an xung phong). B nh Xuy n's paramilitary forces were mostly wiped out by the Vietnamese National Army under the command of D ng V n Minh in Operation Rung Sat in 1955. B y Vi n, the leader of the organization, was exiled to Paris after his unsuccessful attempt to take power from Prime Minister Ng nh Di m in May 1955. Major L Paul, B y Vi n's son, was brutally killed after D ng V n Minh (aka "Big Minh") failed to demand a ransom from B y Vi n.[16]

See also

  • ARVN
  • Hoa Hao
  • Cao Dai
  • First Indochina War
  • Republic of Vietnam National Police
  • Vietminh
  • Viet Cong
  • Vietnam War
  • Weapons of the Vietnam War


  • Huynh Kim Khanh, "Background of the Vietnamese August Revolution", The Journal of Asia Studies 25, no. 4 (August 1971)


External links


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