Long before arriving in Cambodia, I was reading whatever I could find from the journalist Luke Hunt, the Southeast Asian Correspondent and author who has covered so many of the challenging issues and events in the area. Hailing from Australia, Hunt has been frequently living in Cambodia since 2000. He began his Khmer encounters in the early 1990s as a reporter in Saigon following the Khmer Rouge’s kidnapping and murder of three Western backpackers.
On Hong Kong Heritage this weekend… As a student, longtime Hongkonger and Australian veteran journalist Luke Hunt first learned about Pham Xuan An, a South Vietnamese who spied for the Communist north during the Vietnam War. An worked as a journalist for Time and Reuters and through propaganda this spy for north Vietnam helped convince the Americans that it was time for their troops to go home. After the Vietnam War ended in 1975, Pham Xuan An became disenchanted with the Communist government but continued to live in Vietnam until his death in 2006. He told Luke that he could write a book about his life, once he was dead. On Hong Kong Heritage this weekend, Luke tells me about his book Punji Trap, Pham Xuan An: The Spy Who Didn’t Love Us. Listen here.
Reader Howard Hughes flies first class with the Punji Trap. He writes: “I thought to take Luke Hunt’s book out for a spin. On page 30 so far, excellent read.”
From Angkor John: “I’ve read this magnificent book (got it at Monument think its available elsewhere in PP as well) , the Punji Trap by the Australian journalist Luke Hunt.
“A great read backed with a solid historical narrative as to how the Vietnam war came to be alongside a great true story. I can highly recommend for those interested in the genre.”
Little did they know that their self-deprecating colleague was a top espionage agent for the Communist regime in North Vietnam. An was first recruited as a spy in 1952. Five years later, his intelligence unit sent him to study journalism in California, believing that masquerading as a reporter would be the perfect cover. During his two years in America, he worked for his campus paper at Orange Coast College and interned at The Sacramento Bee. With journalism as his cover, he was ordered to return to Vietnam in 1960 on a mission to infiltrate the American press.
Read more from Mat Nashed at Ozy magazine:
Photo from James Burke in Bangkok. Meanwhile, Shirley Shackleton in Melbourne writes: “It’s fascinating especially since I’m addicted to the Great War and 2nd World War.”
The Punji Trap is now on sale at the Est Bar on Street 214 in Phnom Penh as part of a fund raiser for charity.
Brilliant to see Punji Trap on sale at the recent International genocide conference in Phnom Penh.
“… it is the story of a man who, his book suggests, could qualify as the most significant figure of the Vietnam War that you have never heard of. And not just any man, for An was a figure around which many of the pivotal events and personalities of the conflict osculated. And what a story it is: taking in An’s childhood in the lower Mekong, including his years as a teenage guerrilla fighting the French, college years in California, his experiences in Saigon during the Vietnam War and, later, through the years that followed unification, Hunt unpacks a life lived on the edge but at the centre of history.”
Wayne McCallum – Howl