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TRỊNH MINH THẾ (THOÁI VǍN TRƯƠNG, 1920–1955)

Born in Tay Ninh province in southern Vietnam, Trinh Minh The was a military leader in the Cao Dai politico-religious movement during the Indochina War. During World War II, he was a member of the Japanese-backed anti-colonialist movement, the Association for the Restoration of Vietnam (Viet Nam Phuc Quoc Hoi). He worked as a non-commissioned officer in the Japanese police force during this time. He was a staunch supporter of Vietnamese independence, but was distrustful of and hostile to the aims of Vietnamese communists. He collaborated briefly with the forces of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam; however, when relations broke down violently, he crossed over to the French side in November 1946 and became a major in the French army (though he would entertain secret contacts with the Viet Minh into 1948). Although the French named him colonel in 1949, Trinh Minh The defected on 6–7 June 1951 with 2,000 men and assumed the rank of “brigadier general”. He called for the creation of the Union of Nationalist Forces of Vietnam, a third force of sorts, opposed both to French colonialism and to Vietnamese communism. After the Indochina War, he came into contact with Edward Lansdale, who helped finance his troops in support of Ngo Dinh Diem. Tran Minh The was shot dead in 1955 by a sniper, while helping Ngo Dinh Diem neutralize the Binh Xuyen as a politico-military force. The exact circumstances of his death and those responsible for it remain unclear. Although never stated as such, Trinh Minh The and his “third force” figure prominently in Graham Greene’s classic, The Quiet American. See also ANTOINE SAVANI; ATTENTISME; CIVIL WAR; HOA HAO; LE VAN VIEN; MARCEL BAZIN; NGUYEN BINH; NOVELS.