OP-ED: Maintaining 40 Years of Peace in Vietnam

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By Anh Le

On July 7, President Barack Obama met with Nguyen Trong Phu, Vietnam’s Communist Party Secretary at the White House.

 

April 15 was the commemoration of the 40-year anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War.

 

<p>My father served as a diplomat in West Germany. Before that, he worked at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Saigon with Vu Van Mau, the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

 

During the War in Vietnam, Vu Van Mau called for a peaceful settlement to the war. Vu Van Mau later resigned from the government to protest the Ngo Dinh

 

Diem government’s brutal treatment of Buddhist monks, who were setting themselves on fire as protest against the regime.

 

My parents had themselves experienced the tragic consequences that befall a nation caught in the human condition called war. During the French-Indochina War, my father was imprisoned and tortured by the French.

 

He was tortured daily for two years by his captors, beaten, and given electric shocks to his genitals and body.

 

In the eyes of the French captors, my father’s sin was that he was born a Vietnamese human being, and was a well educated one.

 

My mother had been raped during the French-Indochina War period.

 

My father, who later became a professor in the U.S., yearned and prayed for peace in his homeland during the Vietnam War. My mother, who had not seen her parents and siblings for decades, prayed for peace, hoping that the raining of bombs from B-52s would cease.

 

Since 1975, we have witnessed the spirit of reconciliation between Vietnam and the U.S.

 

A few years ago, immigrants within the Vietnamese-American community argued vehemently over the loss of their country — “mat nuoc” (“loss of country”) — even while the term “giai phong” (liberation) and “ngay thong nhat” (day of reunification) were commonly used to mark the war’s end.

 

The end of the war meant for the Vietnamese people “bon muoi nam mien Bac va Nam thong thuong” (“40 years of the Vietnamese people in the North and South regions traveling freely as a people of a reunified country”).

 

A major challenge to Vietnam’s security has been the territorial conflicts over the Spratly Islands between Vietnam and China, as well as China and her other neighbors, reminding us of the threat of war looming over this oil- and gas-rich region.

 

Vietnam called for international negotiations and adherence to the Convention on the Law of the Sea, which China rejected.

 

China has expanded its military presence in the region, with land reclamation and the building of military installations.

 

Vietnam has purchased submarines from Russia to beef up its defense.

 

The U.S. military has flown reconnaissance flights over the Spratly Islands, and China warning the U.S. pilots to steer away.

 

Vietnam and the U.S. increasingly strengthen their alliance, in partnership with other Asian nations, to counteract China’s threat.

 

It is ironic that Vietnam, once viewed as the enemy by the U.S., is now so strongly courted by the U.S. government.

 

This is the paradox of the relationship between both nations.

 

Geopolitically, Vietnam is once again in a unique place on the world’s stage.

 

I believe that we must call on the U.N., along with the World Court in The Hague, to address the issues in the Spratly Islands region, to prevent a war with catastrophic and tragic consequences for all sides.

 

Let us not forget the Vietnam War but strive to learn the lessons from it. Let us work for a peaceful world, for ourselves, our children and all future generations.

 

My hope for Vietnam, my native country and the land of my parents and ancestors, is that she will enjoy peace for generations to come.

 

Chuc Nuoc Vietnam Hoa Binh Mai Mai. May Vietnam Enjoy Lasting Peace.

 

Anh Le has worked with the Vietnamese American community in San Francisco and the Bay Area for many years.

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