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Sunday, May 01, 2005, 12:00 a.m. Pacific Permission to reprint or copy this article/photo must be obtained from The Seattle Times. Call 206-464-3113 or e-mail with your request. Vietnamese groups divided over how to remember past By Tan Vinh Seattle Times staff reporter The crowd of 300 gathered on the grand, black-and-white mosaic floor of Union Station yesterday morning, telling stories of where they were 30 years ago when South Vietnam fell to the North Vietnamese communist regime. Then Vietnamese and Vietnamese Americans headed outside to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the fall of Saigon. What happened next underscored the generation gap and the emotional complexities of the region's Vietnamese community. At one corner of the street, a group of mostly young Vietnamese Americans marched to City Hall in a symbolic gesture to thank the state for accepting them in their new homeland. Across the street, a group of mostly Vietnamese retirees in their old military uniforms marched toward "Little Saigon" in the Chinatown International District, chanting in Vietnamese, "Down with communism!" and "Freedom for Vietnam!" "We wanted to have a unified event," said Thao Tran, 29, a member of the Unity of Vietnamese Americans Committee, a group of mostly young business and community leaders. "Unfortunately, we could not settle our program differences." Trong Tang helped organize the Little Saigon march with former military men. "We encourage the young generation to get involved in the community, but they should have checked with the older generation," he said. "They should show respect to the elders." The issue has been a source of tension and an embarrassment to some Vietnamese who didn't want controversy to overshadow the anniversary. Vietnamese community and business leaders said representatives from both events met as early as February to settle their differences. But the older group, made up of many former prisoners of war, was adamant about setting the tone and taking the lead, according to community leaders who attended the meetings. The group, called the Republic of South Vietnam Armed Forces Veterans' Confederation of Washington State, believed the anniversary should be a day to mourn and to condemn communism for human-rights abuses. Sanh Pham, 69, a retired Vietnamese army colonel, found the focus of the younger generation ? thanking the U.S. government and acknowledging the accomplishments of refugees ? too upbeat for what he considers the darkest day in South Vietnam history. Yesterday, both sides downplayed the controversy. "We have an incredibly diverse community. I'm surprised there are only two separate events," said Chris Brownlee, 30, of Seattle, who helped organize the march toward City Hall. At yesterday morning's Union Station gathering, Vietnamese and Vietnamese Americans spoke of their plight in the war-torn country and of adjusting in the United States. Then came the marches. A group of at least 150 headed toward City Hall to hear Mayor Greg Nickels, U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Seattle, and other dignitaries speak about the contribution Vietnamese have made to the area in the past 30 years. Nickels said he was aware of the two conflicting views but said that comes with having a diversity of 40,000 Vietnamese and Vietnamese Americans in the Seattle area, one of the largest concentrations in the country. This should be a day of healing, said the mayor, "a day we can look forward with hope." In the Chinatown International District, the group of veterans lined up with their families standing in one corner dressed in black. The former soldiers took turns condemning the communist regime for human-rights abuse and restricting free speech. They then marched around Vietnamese storefronts, waving the flag of the former Republic of Vietnam. Casey Bui, 32, who helped organize the City Hall march, said he was not offended that the veterans held a separate march. He attended a candlelight vigil the former military men held the night before. "We are all part of one Vietnamese community," he said. Tan Vinh: 206-515-5656 or Copyright
Vietnamese Groups Divided Over How to Remember Past
Vinh, Tan
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