PUNJI TRAP: The Spy Who Didn’t Love Us

Pham Xuan An was a Communist agent whose espionage adventures – under the cover story of a celebrated war correspondent in the Western media — were as brilliant for Hanoi as they were shattering for Washington during the tumultuous days of the Vietnam War. He has been dubbed “the perfect spy” and affectionately referred to by some as “the spy who loved us”. Not quite. Journalist and Southeast Asian specialist Luke Hunt prises this story open. He knew and interviewed An for many years, along with the many friends and colleagues in journalism who knew him best in war, on the journalistic beat and amid the collapse of South Vietnam.The Punji Trap has been distributed across Asia and in the United Kingdom by Talisman Publishing Pte Ltd. It is available in Australia through Imprimatur Books,  Dick Smith Books and at Fishpond in New Zealand. It can be purchased in paperback and  on Kindle  through Amazon, Select Books in Singapore, Asia Books in Thailand, Bokus in Scandinavia and at Kinokuniya Books in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Cambodia. First editions are also available through Pay Pal and in specialty book shops, including the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Hong Kong, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Thailand and the Writer’s Club in Chiang Mai. In Cambodia, it can be found at Monument Books across the country, and at the Back Street Bar and Wang Dang Doodle in Phnom Penh, and at Villa Vedici in Kampot. 

“Hunt divulges in his book the very person who was instrumental in setting the stage for the greatest hijacking of a victory ever seen. Hunt makes it clear as to how the American people and leadership were taken for a ride that cost many more lives and the loss of South Vietnam,” Ronnie Monroe, Vietnam Veterans News.

Berlin, Germany

Luke Hunt, author of the Punji Trap, appears in Fraternal Brother at a preview in Berlin. Schedule for release in April 2025 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War. Fraternal Brother is produced by Nico Mesterharm and details the lives of those who remained behind after the Khmer Rouge seized control of Phnom Penh. Photo by David Brown.

A “Cracking Good” Read

A fascinating portrait of Vietnamese journalist Pham Xuan An, who reported on the American war for the US media — for Time magazine — while working as a spy. A cracking good read, Luke Hunt! I’m so glad I could pick up a copy in Phnom Penh.

Manjushree Thapa, Katmandu Nepal.

Tim Page Wake

Journalist Luke Hunt and film maker Nico Mesterharm remember veteran Vietnam War photographer Tim Page during a wake held at Meta House in Phnom Penh shortly after his death in August 2022.

Ashes from Annam

Thierry de Roland Peel launched his first book “Ashes from Annam” at Raffles in Phnom Penh on Feb. 10, 2022. This is a terrific read and explores a part of history which is central to the Punji Trap.

In the dying days of World War II Saigon was convulsed. British and French forces landed and seized control from the Japanese who surrendered leaving a chasm open for a small cadre loyal to Ho chi Minh to appear and demanding independence.

This is a story of one family’s attempt to survive the horrors of Japanese occupation, the mayhem that followed, and how their lives depended upon their intrepid dog Mephisto.

Central to the story is the family dog, Mephisto, a lively Groenendael, who delivered secret messages to the outside world as the frontlines surrounding their home changed constantly with the Japanese, French, British, and Vietnamese communists vying for control and influence.

De Roland Peel also serves-up a delightful history lesson about a time and place that deserves greater attention, in particular how Japan kickstarted the first Indochina war, drawing the United States into Vietnam and a conflict that would last for another two decades.

Buy it on Amazon.

Siem Reap Writers Festival

Author Luke Hunt with Jec Rivera at the Writers and Readers Festival held in Siem Reap over the weekend of December 9 to 12 where Cambodia is attempting to reopen after a successful rollout of its vaccination program and a sharp fall in Covid-19 cases.

Book Clubs

From Read Club Cambodia: This week, we received 40 books from the author Mr. Luke Hunt, entitled PUNJI TRAP – Pham Xuan An: THE SPY WHO DIDN’T LOVE US. We would like to express our heartfelt gratitude for your generous donation, which will help all of our reading club members improve their reading skills. Every Wednesday and Thursday, our members are welcome to come to the office and pick up the book.