The man who for many years was the face of the South Vietnamese government passed away in a place outside both his birth and adopted countries.
General Nguyen Cao Ky, 81, former Premier and Vice-President of the Republic of Vietnam, died around 1am Saturday in Malaysia, of pulmonary complications, according to several sources close to his children.
One source is a pop star who lives in the house of Ky’s daughter Nguyen Cao Ky Duyen and works with her. She relayed Ky Duyen’s statements, and said Ky Duyen, currently in Vietnam, will fly to Malaysia and bring her father’s body to Vietnam for burial.
General Ky earned his two stars by participating in the 1963 coup that brought down President Diem’s rule.
He then got himself made Premier and head of state by participating in another coup in 1965 that took down South Vietnam’s last civilian government. He had the coup anniversay made into a national holiday, and numerous Vietnamese-American groups still celebrate the day.
Just two years later, however, Ky was outmaneuvered by Nguyen Van Thieu and was relegated to the role of a figurehead when the military supported Thieu for president and Ky for vice-president.
In 1975, as communist forces closed in, Ky went on the air, extolled South Vietnamese to fight to the death and make another Stalingrad out of Saigon. Then he snuck on a helicopter and flew out to the awaiting U.S. 7th Fleet.
Ky settled in Orange County where he once owned a liquor store.
In 2004, Ky became the highest-ranking former South Vietnamese official to return to the country. He announced his decision to live in Vietnam permanently and began a new career as a broker bringing investors to the impoverished country. This caused many to call Ky a communist sympathizer, or a turn-coat, or some combination thereof.
His youngest daugher Nguyen Cao Ky Duyen is the host of a very popular Vietnamese variety show whose DVDs are best sellers.