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Le dictionnaire

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CRIME

War always opens up opportunities for those involved in illegal activities. The Indochina conflict was no exception. Armed violence generated a breakdown in law and order as colonial and nationalist groups moved to take or retake power. In southern Vietnam during the interwar period, “social banditry” developed in the context of the economic depression. The emergence of the Binh Xuyen and men such as Le Van Vien and especially Duong Van Duong is a case in point. In the 1930s, the latter became known as something of a local “Robin Hood” (vo hiep giang ho) for sharing the spoils of his illicit trade with the poor. Duong Van Duong’s notoriety brought him to the attention of communists as well as the leaders of the emerging Binh Xuyen movement. He commanded the respect of communists he met in prison while serving time there on two occasions in 1941. In August 1945, following the overthrow of the French and the defeat of the Japanese a few months later, Duong Van Duong served in the Binh Xuyen forces that helped to take power in Saigon and he supported the Viet Minh, as did the leader of the Binh Xuyen, Le Van Vien, a former convict. However, such relationships had their limits as the Democratic Republic of Vietnam learned when Le Van Vien crossed over to the French in mid-1948. See also CAO DAI; CIVIL WAR; COLLABORATION; CROSSOVERS; HOA HAO.