Lê Văn Viễn

Major General Lê Văn Viễn (Vietnamese: [le vaŋ vǐəŋˀ]; 1904 - 1972), also known as Bảy Viễn ("Viễn the Seventh"), was the leader of the Bình Xuyên, a powerful Vietnamese criminal enterprise decreed by the Head of State, Bảo Đại, as an independent army within the Vietnamese National Army (Quân đội Quốc gia Việt Nam). Viễn's career trajectory was quite unique in coming from a criminal background to become a (non-Communist) leader of the Việt Minh's Zone 7, then later named a General, in charge of an auxiliary military force within the French Union, and, finally, named a General in the VNA. From 1951-55, he made arrangements with Bảo Đại, by which the Bình Xuyên was given control of their own affairs in return for their financial support of the government. In 1955, Viễn flew to Paris with the help of Savani and the Deuxième Bureau/SDECE after his unsuccessful attempt to oust the American-backed Premier, Ngô Đình Diệm.

Lê Văn Viễn
BornSaigon, Vietnam
DiedParis, France
AllegianceSouth Vietnam State of Vietnam
Service/branchInfantry, Vietnamese National Army
Years of service1948-55
RankArmy-FRA-OF-06.svg Major-général
(Thiếu Tướng)
Battles/warsFirst Indochina War
AwardsNational Order of Vietnam


Early life

Lê Văn Viễn was born in Cholon in 1904 to a Chinese (Chaozhou) father and a Vietnamese mother. His father, Lê Văn Dậu, joined the Vietnamese branch of the Tiandihui when he migrated to Vietnam.[1] Viễn was head of the Bình Xuyên and was hunted by the French in the 1930s and 1940s until he and a number of his cohorts were eventually captured and sentenced to confinement in the penal colony on Côn Sơn Island. Ba Dương, meanwhile, had become a labor broker for the Japanese and entered into a relationship with the Japanese secret service's southern Vietnamese agent, Matsushita Mitsuhiro, a pivotal clandestine operator who was undercover as the director of Dainan Koosi, and was controlled by the Japanese Consul General in Hanoi, Yoshio Minoda.

Matsushita arranged for the kempeitai to free disparate Bình Xuyên personalities and component gangs from Côn Sơn in 1941. Thereafter, under Japanese patronage, the Bình Xuyên grew rapidly, both in organization and influence. Bảy Viễn escaped Côn Sơn in early 1945 and returned to Saigon, where he engaged in insurgent politics in collusion with Ba Dương and the Japanese. On 9 March 1945, the Japanese staged a coup d'état against the Vichy French administration, jailing all French police. The Bình Xuyên were given amnesty and Bảy Viễn was installed as a police official by the newly established government.

From brigand to revolutionary

In August 1945, the Việt Minh chief of Cochinchina, Trần Văn Giàu, formed an alliance with Bảy Viễn and Ba Dương against the French. When the Việt Minh called a mass demonstration on 25 August 1945: "... fifteen well armed, bare chested bandits carrying a large banner declaring 'Bình Xuyên Assassination Committee' joined the tens of thousands of demonstrators who marched jubilantly through downtown Saigon for over nine hours."

Following the British-supported French counter-coup in September 1945, the Việt Minh withdrew from Saigon, leaving Bảy Viễn as military commander of Cholon with a force of 100 men. Viễn promptly formed an alliance with Lai Van Sang's two-thousand-man student group, the Avant-Garde Youth. Together with a number of Japanese deserters, they engaged the French. By the end of October, they were pushed back to the Rung Sat in a waterborne retrograde action which displayed as a key element the deployment of some 250 stay-behind agents. The Bình Xuyên stay-behind agents promptly engaged in a ruthless campaign of terror and extortion. A constant influx of men, money and materiel quickly established the Bình Xuyên as a well-armed, disciplined force of approximately 10,000 men. A dispute arose between Ba Dương and the Việt Minh in January 1946. In February 1946, Ba Dương was killed in a strafing raid by French aircraft.

Revolutionary turned collaborator

Sensing a shift in the political tide, Bảy Viễn seized the opportunity to consolidate his hold on the Bình Xuyên and achieve dominance. In the wake of Ba Dương's death, Viễn began secret negotiations with the French Deuxième Bureau for exclusive rights to territory in Saigon, ultimately leading to a March 1948, agreement with Savani which was formalized on 16 June 1948. The French government announced that it "… had decided to confide the police and maintenance of order to the Bình Xuyên troops in a zone where they are used to operating."[2][3]

Thereafter, the French turned over Saigon, block-by-block, and by April 1954, Lai Van Sang was director-general of police and the Bình Xuyên controlled not only the Saigon-Cholon capital region but a sixty-mile strip between Saigon and Vũng Tàu, exercising full political and economic control. United States observers of the process laconically refer to the Binh Xuyên in this era as a: "... political and racketeering organization which had agreed to carry out police functions [for the Government of Viet-Nam] in return for a monopoly on gambling, opium traffic and prostitution in the metropolitan areas."

General Viễn and the defeat of the Bình Xuyên

The United States backed Premier Ngô Đình Diệm in his fight to control South Vietnam. In the Battle of Saigon from 28 April to 3 May 1955, Bảy Viễn and his loyal troops were forced back to the Rung Sat jungle where they were defeated by the regular army. Viễn fled to exile in France and the organization fragmented, later resuming its clandestine form.


  • "Give me the arms and I will take care of the Communists."


  1. ^ Nguyen Hung (2005), pp. 11, 12
  2. ^ Nguyen Công Luan Nationalist in the Viet Nam Wars 2012 "The regiment was sponsored by General Lê Văn Viễn, leader of the Bình Xuyên forces, once a powerful gang that had joined the Resistance before returning to Sài Gòn to collaborate with the French. "
  3. ^ Naissance d'un Etat-parti: le Viêt Nam depuis 1945 Christopher E. Goscha, Benoît de Tréglodé, Université de Paris. Institut d'études politiques 2004 Page 345 Lê Văn Viễn balked . But the latter certainly had his share of troubles with the DRV's strongman. In July 1947, Lê Văn Viễn explained to a fellow nationalist under fire from Bình: "Be careful not to take things lightly, because the Nguyễn Bình ..."

External links


  • AFRVN Military History Section, J-5, Strategic Planning and Policy (1966). Quân Sử 4: Quân lực Việt Nam Cộng Hòa trong giai-đoạn hình-thành: 1946-1955 (reprinted from the 1972 edition in Taiwan, DaiNam Publishing, 1977) [Military History Volume 4:AFRVN, the formation period, 1946-1955] (in Vietnamese). pp. 408–428.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  • Ho Son Dai (2008). Bo Doi Binh Xuyen [Binh Xuyen Force] (in Vietnamese). HCM City.
  • Lucien Bodard (1977). La guerre d'Indochine [The Indochina War] (in French). Hachette. ISBN 978-2-246-55291-8.
  • Pierre Darcourt (1997). Bay Vien, le maitre de Cholon [Bay Vien, Cholon's Master] (in French). Grasset. ISBN 978-2-01-003449-7.
  • Alfred W. McCoy (2003-05-01). The Politics of Heroin. Lawrence Hill Books. ISBN 978-1-55652-483-7.
  • Nguyên Hùng (2005). Bảy Viễn Thủ Lĩnh Bình Xuyên [Bay Vien, Binh Xuyen's Leader] (in Vietnamese). Cong An Nhan Dan Viet Nam - Vietnamese People's Public Security.
Bình Xuyên

Binh Xuyen Force (Vietnamese: Bộ đội Bình Xuyên, IPA: [ɓɨ̂n swiəŋ]), often linked to its infamous leader, General Lê Văn Viễn (a.k.a. "Bảy Viễn") was an independent military force within the Vietnamese National Army whose leaders once had lived outside the law and had sided with the Việt Minh. During its heyday, Bình Xuyên funded itself with organized crime activities in Saigon while effectively battling Communist forces.

History of Organized Crime in Saigon

Over the course of its long history, Saigon, Vietnam has had many eras of dominant organized crime groups that at one point or another controlled the illicit trade and activities within the city. The long list of the organized crime history in Saigon covers the early Bình Xuyên pirates of the 1920s, to the Four Great Kings period of the 60s and lastly to Năm Cam's criminal reign during the 90s.

List of Teochew people

This is a list of notable Teochews.

Ngo Dinh Diem

Ngô Đình Diệm (; Vietnamese: [ŋō ɗìn jîəmˀ] (listen); 3 January 1901 – 2 November 1963) was a Vietnamese politician. He was the final prime minister of the State of Vietnam (1954–55), and then served as President of South Vietnam from 1955 until he was deposed and killed during the 1963 military coup.

Diệm was born into a prominent Catholic family, the son of a high-ranking civil servant, Ngô Đình Khả. He was educated at French-speaking schools and considered following his brother Ngô Đình Thục into the priesthood, but eventually chose to pursue a civil-service career. He progressed rapidly in the court of Emperor Bảo Đại, becoming governor of Bình Thuận Province in 1929 and interior minister in 1933. However, he resigned the latter position after three months and publicly denounced the emperor as a tool of the French. Diệm came to support Vietnamese nationalism, promoting an anti-communist and anti-colonialist "third way" opposed to both Bảo Đại and communist leader Hồ Chí Minh. He established the Can Lao Party to support his political doctrine of Person Dignity Theory.

After several years in exile, Diệm returned home in July 1954 and was appointed prime minister by Bảo Đại, the head of the Western-backed State of Vietnam. The Geneva Accords were signed soon after he took office, formally partitioning Vietnam along the 17th parallel. Diệm soon consolidated power in South Vietnam, aided by his brother Ngô Đình Nhu. After a rigged referendum in 1955, he proclaimed the creation of the Republic of Vietnam, with himself as president. His government was supported by other anti-communist countries, most notably the United States. Diệm pursued a series of nation-building schemes, emphasising industrial and rural development. From 1957, he was faced with a communist insurgency backed by North Vietnam, eventually formally organized under the banner of the Việt Cộng. He was subject to a number of assassination and coup attempts, and in 1962 established the Strategic Hamlet Program as the cornerstone of his counterinsurgency effort.

Diệm's favoritism towards Catholics and persecution of South Vietnam's Buddhist majority led to the "Buddhist crisis" of 1963. The violence damaged relations with the United States and other previously sympathetic countries, and his regime lost favour with the leadership of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. On 1 November 1963, the country's leading generals launched a coup d'état with assistance from the CIA. He and his younger brother Nhu initially escaped, but were recaptured the following day and murdered on the orders of Dương Văn Minh, who succeeded him as president. Diệm has been a controversial historical figure in historiography on the Vietnam War. Some historians have portrayed him as a tool of the United States, while others considered him an avatar of Vietnamese tradition. Some recent studies have portrayed Diệm from a more Vietnamese-centred perspective as a competent leader focused on nation building and the modernisation of South Vietnam.

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