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Early Life

According to the blog Một Thời Sài Gòn, Tap was born in Bac Lieu in 1942, Vietnam. At an early age, he began writing poetry and worked his way up as a freelance writer until he wrote his first novel called " Mớ tóc gái Phù Sa". Over the next several years, he worked for a number of newspaper outlets in Vietnam. In 1966, along with several associates, Tap formed a publishing house called Sông Hậu. In 1975, he attended Van Khoa University in Saigon and was making ends meet as a vendor at Nguyen Hue street market. In 1980, he escaped Vietnam by boat to Pulau Bidong island and arrived to America in June 1981. By 1982, Tap formed Mai, an entertainment magazine that ran advertisements to generate revenue. Some of those ads were from three Canadian companies - Vinamedic Inc, Laser Express, and QTK Express, whom his enemies claimed to have business connection with Communists in Vietnam.

Photo Credits: Viên Linh/ # 191, September, 2012
Credits: hoaidiephaphuong

Death By Suffocation

His wife, Trần Thị Mai, who was living in Vietnam when he died, recalled Tap as a tireless businessman. He ran Mai all by himself and worked 14-15 hours a day, 7 days a week and lived in his office to save money with the hope of bringing his wife and three children to America. According to a close friend named Kieu Loan Nguyen, Tap told her he was a victim of harassment and extortion. Someone stole his mails and demanded ransom to return them. Tap took precaution by installing a slot in the door and left a note for the mail carrier to slip the mails into the slot.

On August 9, 1987, at around 2 A.M., someone poured flammable liquid down the mail slot or through windows that they'd broken. They lid the office on fire. The flame spread so fast blocking the only exit in the front of the building. By morning, fire fighters found Tap body. He had suffocated to death due to smoke inhalation. Several days later, VOERCN sent a communiqué to two Vietnamese language newspapers, Nguoi Viet and Tay Phai, taking credit for the killing. They claimed Tap was guilty of running ads for the businesses laundering money from North America to Hanoi. According to investigators who talked to associates of Mai, prior to the arson, Tap had received a letter telling him to stop doing business with the Canadian companies. Moreover, couple years back, one of the Canadian companies was set on fire by the same terrorist group, VOECRN. The statement claiming responsibility for Tap's death was mailed out of San Jose admitting they wanted to punish him of being greedy and collaborating with businesses who were associated with the communists.

Before Tap was killed, there were other cases of murders and various attacks against Vietnamese who were perceived as pro-communists. However, investigations were ineffective due to lack of resource. Authority couldn't pin down the motive for the murders. They postulated around extortion, personal vendetta, and political killing. Leads were forgotten, trails were lost, evidences misplaced.  After Tap's murder, the FBI  began looking into political motive for the killing more seriously. However, not until around 1990 was a full investigation opened. Headed by then FBI director Louis Freeh. There was a team of FBI agents assigned to the case. After 15 years, the FBI ended their investigation due to lack of evidence. The case has remained cold ever since.

Till this day, the Vietnamese diaspora is still living with remnants of the horror of the Vietnam war. People are still angry at the communist who they see as invaders. The apprehension is active under the daily life of people in the community. Mostly for fear of their freedom and liberty being once again encroached by the communists. People are terrified at being labeled as pro-communists and blacklisted from their community. On the other hand, they are cautious of communist spies that many believed had embedded into the refugee enclaves. This tension, fear, and paranoia create a strict conformity of political believes that is multi-layered and sometimes contradictory. Those who stray from these values pay a heavy price.

In 1999. a Vietnamese business owner had to answer to the raging community for insensitively displaying pictures of Ho Chi Minh in his storefront. Notice the mocking tone of the ridiculous American reporter.

Vietnamese sandwich giant faces backlash for meeting with top officials from Hanoi.

Poetry by Hoa Diep Tu

Basic Information

  • Name: Phạm Văn Tập
  • Occupation: writer, poet
  • Age: 45
  • Pen Name: Hoài Điệp Tử, Điệp Yên Hà, Lê Thăng, Kép Độc, Kiều Linh Khanh
  • Publisher: Mai
  • Publisher Column:
  • Cause of Death: Arson. Smoke Inhalation
  • Date of Death: 9 August 1987, 2 a.m Sunday.
  • Location: Garden Grove, California. 10708 Westminster Ave.
  • Kin: Spouse Trần Thị Mai,
  • Top Suspects: VOERCN (Diệt Cộng Hưng Quốc Đảng)

***If you know of any information that can help bring justice to the families, you can take action. Your identity will be kept private.

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