Sinister Goings-on by the River – The CIO Building


The colonial villa at 3 Tôn Đức Thắng.

The white villa at 3 Tôn Đức Thắng in Hồ Chí Minh City’s District 1  has a rather sinister past.

From 1961 until 1975 this nondescript building was the headquarters of the notorious South Vietnamese Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), the state espionage agency formed with American assistance to co-ordinate South Vietnamese foreign and domestic intelligence operations.

It has been claimed that the CIA, which was directly involved in setting up the organisation, also maintained its own interrogation facility within the building.

In his book Saigon 1975, Italian journalist Tiziano Terzani describes how when South Vietnamese authorities surrendered on 30 April 1975, four employees of this organisation whom no-one had suspected to be revolutionary activists suddenly took out guns, forced other employees to leave and barricaded themselves inside the building until North Vietnamese troops arrived.

In this way, they managed to save all the secret dossiers compiled over the years by South Vietnamese secret police in collaboration with the CIA.

Tim Doling is the author of the walking tour guidebook Exploring Hồ Chí Minh City (Nhà Xuất Bản Thế Giới, Hà Nội, 2014) and also conducts Saigon and Chợ Lớn Heritage Tours.

A full index of all Tim’s blog articles since November 2013 is now available here.

Join the Facebook group pages Saigon-Chợ Lớn Then & Now to see historic photographs juxtaposed with new ones taken in the same locations, and Đài Quan sát Di sản Sài Gòn – Saigon Heritage Observatory for up-to-date information on conservation issues in Saigon and Chợ Lớn.

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