October 7, 1999: Hostage taking in Vietnam

A 1999 hostage taking by a Burmese terrorist group demanding the release of political prisoners ended peacefully when all 38 hostages were freed.

I am not sure whether statistics are available but thankfully some terrorist incidents end without loss of life.

BANGKOK, THAILAND – Have you ever heard of Dave Barry? He is an American humourist I think is one of the funniest men alive. I used to read his columns – in the Washington Post if I remember correctly, although I think he is syndicated – every week. His off the wall sense of the bizarre is definitely worth taking in (here is his website).

One of my favourite parts of his work was whenever he would be writing about something absolutely ridiculous and then blurt out: “This would be a good name for a rock band”. Here are some examples

  • The Flaming Booty Moths
  • Excessive Deer Doots
  • Jimmy Music and the Stomach Contents
  • The Eerie Groin Legumes

Trust me, there are a LOT more! Sometimes we come across a militant or terrorist group that elects to call itself something that comes across as, well, odd. Maybe this is due to a bad translation but the result makes you go ‘Huh?’

Do you want to see what I mean? Try the Vigorous Burmese Student Warriors. I had several questions when I came across this unknown – unknown at least to me – organisation in Myanmar (the alternative name for Burma):

  • why are they vigorous?
  • isn’t the juxtaposition of ‘student’ and ‘warrior’ a bit odd?
  • what are they ‘warriorising’ against? OK, I made up that word.

Well, it turns out that the VBSW is a small band of Myanmar anti-government students, led by a man known as ‘Johnny’. I am NOT making that part up. They are thought to be linked to the Maneely refugee resettlement site in western Thailand.

On this day in 1999

On October 7, 1999 VBSW members, armed with AK-47 assault rifles and grenades, stormed the Myanmar’s Bangkok embassy and seized 38 hostages. In what was the first act of violence by Burmese exiles in Thailand, the gunmen demanded that Myanmar military government free all political prisoners and enter talks with the pro-democracy National League for Democracy.

The siege ended peacefully, unlike so many other similar incidents, but the VBSW were allowed to flee to the Thai-Myanmar border by helicopter in a deal with the Thai government.

Before I get hate mail, NO, I am not making light of hostage taking. It is a serious crime and terrifying beyond belief, or so I would imagine. But being held by a group calling itself ‘vigourous’ and led by a guy called ‘Johnny’?

C’mon, you have to find that at least a little amusing, no?

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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