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Man May Be Sent Back to Vietnam

Re-education camp enforcer who now lives in O.C. is a human-rights violator, judge rules.

March 06, 2004|David Haldane | Times Staff Writer

An Orange County man accused of brutalizing fellow prisoners at a Communist re-education camp in Vietnam nearly three decades ago was declared subject to removal from the United States by an immigration judge Friday.

Thi Dinh Bui, 62, is a human rights abuser who can be sent back to Vietnam, Judge D.D. Sitgraves ruled.

"He's a persecutor of others and the laws of the United States do not permit the country to be a safe haven for people who commit atrocities such as this," said Bill Odencrantz, director of field legal services for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Custom Enforcement division, which prosecuted the case.

"Basically what this is, is elemental justice -- part of our job is to protect the fabric of American society."

Neither Bui, who has been in custody at a government facility on Terminal Island since August, nor his lawyer, could be reached for comment.

A hearing has been set for April 27, at which time the former Garden Grove resident will be able to present evidence as to why he should not be deported.

Bui, a former captain in the South Vietnamese Army who entered the United States as a refugee in 1994, is accused of starving, beating and torturing prisoners -- including at least two who died -- at the Thanh Cam detention camp near Hanoi after the fall of Saigon in April 1975.

Though a prisoner himself, he served as a camp trustee, or enforcer, for the camp guards. He was arrested by immigration agents at his home in August after being identified by other former prisoners.

"What you have here is someone who was in a position of authority in what basically was a concentration camp," Odencrantz said at the conclusion of the five-month hearing in Los Angeles, during which more than 17 witnesses testified.

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