‘I’m not trying to buy a gun to kill someone over my little soup business’

Thai restaurant and international market in Riverside damaged by attempted fire, graffiti

The owner of Xuan Vietnamese-Thai Cuisine said he and wife fear for their lives after vandals damaged their restaurant, started a fire in their range hood and spray painted racial slurs on a building and truck.

Owners of the Riverside Thai restaurant at 4770 Airway Road and an international market next door came to work on Tuesday morning to find racist graffiti about the coronavirus on the property and the smell of gasoline.

The properties were damaged sometime between Monday night and Tuesday morning, according to a Riverside Police report. The report also says a maintenance person discovered a fire in the range hood of the restaurant that damaged the hood.

The police report says the owner of International Foods, Ban Van Mai, showed police video of two men climbing a ladder on the side of the building at around 2 a.m. to get closer to a security camera and cover it with black spray paint.

His daughter, Thu Mai, said her family was targeted because they are Asian-American. She said her family has complete faith in the police to do their jobs and that the people who vandalized the building would be brought to justice. She called the incident “domestic terrorism,” because the people who committed the crime were trying to cause bodily harm.

She said her family had been in that location for at least 25 years and felt they were part of the community. Her family will not be intimidated, she said.

“What they’re doing is complete cowardice,” she said of the people who vandalized her family’s store. “Their intention is trying to scare us and that’s not happening.”

Noppadol Mangmeesub, who owns the Thai restaurant next door with his wife, Kanokwan Mangmeesub, said he no longer feels safe in the restaurant.

“Even though I’m in fear, I have to be here, to try to make it work at some point,” Mangmeesub said. “Even now, I don’t want to walk into the back of the restaurant.”

He and his wife are Thai immigrants, and he said he has no association with China. He said he didn’t know if the business was targeted because they are immigrants.

Mangmeesub said he worries about the cost of fixing the hood, especially since business has gone down since the start of the pandemic.

“Since the COVID we don’t make any money at all,” he said. “I try to pay the rent, pay all expenses, I just try not to owe anybody money.”

He said he didn’t want to buy a gun for the shop either.

“I’m not trying to buy a gun to kill someone over my little soup business because I don’t think it’s worth it,” he said.

He also said he and his wife are the only two employees.

“People spread the news about us, people came to support us, and I really appreciate it, but right now we can’t handle a lot of customers,” he said.

Mangmeesub said he was considering moving locations, because he worries about the vandals coming back but he signed a two-year lease. He said he planned to reach out to Riverside city council.

“I’m fearful for my life and my wife that maybe something is going to happen again because I don’t know how many of them they have,” Mangmeesub said. “Are they going to come back again, are they going to beat me when I take the trash out in the night? I don’t know.”

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