Veterans links need gentle hand

The RSL is seeking a memorandum of understanding with Vietnamese veterans of the Vietnam War, angering some Australian veterans and their associations.
At issue is whether a memorandum will recognise the current Vietnamese communist state. Some veterans point out that the government of Vietnam continues to persecute former South Vietnamese soldiers who previously fought alongside troops from the US and Australia, among other allies.
In their opposition to the memorandum, Australian veterans are joined by many in the Australian Vietnamese community who fled the horrors of communism during the 1970s. They, too, are concerned about any impression of legitimacy that might be accorded the present Vietnamese regime.
The dispute is made more complex by the fact that Vietnam has become a popular tourist destination for many Australians and an increasingly valuable trading partner.
Indeed, many Vietnam veterans have since returned to their former battlefields and built strong friendships there.
Australians are well aware that a people cannot be defined by their government, particularly a government so undemocratic as Vietnam's.
Australians would not want Vietnamese people to lose opportunities due to their rulers. At the same time, Australians are against totalitarianism. A final call on this is some way distant.
Delicate steps are required.


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