INDEPENDENT NEWS

Letter Of Apology To Vietnam

Published: Tue 31 Jul 2001 02:46 PM
Maire Leadbeater
On Saturday 28 July at 1-15 pm the attached letter was be presented to the activists gathered to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Springbok Tour at the Grey Lynn Community Centre, 510 Richmond Rd, Grey Lynn. All those present were invited to sign.
This gathering takes place at the same time as the veterans from the Vietnam War joined a military parade up Queen St.
"The New Zealand Government has never officially apologised to the people of Vietnam for the crimes committed against them thirty years ago. An apology should be the first priority."
" We hope that the Vietnamese Government and people will know that many New Zealanders share in their sorrow for the devastation and death caused by the war. "
"1981 The Tour "
Box 68519,
Auckland.
28 July, 2001.
President Tran Duc Long,
Republic of Vietnam
1 Hoang Hoa Tham St,
Hanoi,
Vietnam.
Dear President Tran Duc Long,
In New Zealand the two strongest and most significant international solidarity movements have been the anti-Vietnam war movement and the movement to oppose the 1981 Springbok tour of New Zealand.
This letter comes to you from a meeting held to mark the twentieth anniversary of the Springbok tour. We are gathering to reflect on that struggle and to consider its contribution to the liberation of the people of South Africa. At the same time, we reflect on the earlier campaign in support of the liberation of the people of Vietnam and against New Zealand's participation in Vietnam War. Between 1964 and 1972 3,890 troops served in Vietnam.
We grieve for the victims and the martyrs of this tragic war and we remember that the conflict claimed the lives of at least 3 million Vietnamese people during the years 1954 to 1975. We are thinking about the cities, towns, villages, hospitals and infrastructure destroyed by the war, and about the people who were herded into 'strategic hamlets' and imprisoned.
We grieve also for the victims of dioxin contamination from the 'agent orange' defoliant which was spayed by air over Vietnam from 1962 to 1971. Thirty years after the spraying ended, we learn that many Vietnamese continue to experience high levels of dioxin and that sufferers include people who were not born at the time of the war. There are many reports here about serious health problems afflicting former soldiers even those who spent only one year in Vietnam, so we fear that the problems must be far greater for people who had no choice but to continue living in a contaminated environment.
As citizens of one of the aggressor nations, a country which contributed combat troops and moral support to the United States led war, we feel not only sorrow but also deep regret and shame.
The New Zealand government has never officially apologised to the people of Vietnam for its responsibility in contributing to an unjust war and the deaths and suffering of innocent people.
We therefore tender to the Vietnamese people through you, a sincere apology from ordinary grassroots people. It is our hope that the New Zealand and Vietnamese people can continue to develop ties of friendship, peace and development co-operation.
Yours sincerely,

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