Vietnam War's Sting Lingers
Image Credit: Australian War Memorial Collection

Vietnam War's Sting Lingers


Australia’s relations with Vietnam have been solid for many years. Canberra was among the first to open a Western mission in Hanoi after the Vietnam War ended in 1975. This was despite Australia’s absolute support for the United States and its Cold War battlegrounds in Indochina.

These days, two-way trade is worth in excess of $5 billion, and regional political power plays are helping both countries to forge strategic relations. But the sting in the tail of the Vietnam War remains.

Recently, senior figures in the Returned & Services League of Australia (RSL) attempted to formalize a relationship with their one time adversaries – the Viet Cong who fought in the former South Vietnam and North Vietnam’s military.

About 60,000 Australians served in the conflict from 1962 till 1972, 500 died and another 3,000 were wounded. The numbers pale when compared with Vietnamese or even US casualties, but were significant given Australia’s mission and its much smaller population base.  

No sooner had moves been made to establish a memorandum of understanding and foster a greater understanding between the two former enemies than RSL National President Rear Adm. Ken Doolan issued a one line press release saying the MoU had been scrapped.

Why? No reason was given, although Doolan had previously argued a form of rapprochement was needed because ‘we owe it to the future to do all we can to bring former enemies together.’

However, Ron Coxon from the Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia said the RSL – which looks after the interests of veterans and their families of all wars – hadn’t consulted members. Hardline vets had apparently accused the RSL of gross betrayal. Coxon added the vast majority of Vietnam vets had opposed the agreement and their opinions were influenced by Australians who came as refugees from South Vietnam.

Most had fled the incoming Communists in 1975 or were forced out of their homeland four years later because they were ethnic Chinese and consequently bullied and expelled after Beijing attacked Vietnam’s northern border in retaliation for Hanoi’s invasion of Cambodia.

Phong Nguyen, president of the Vietnamese Community in Australia, said it was a great relief to learn the MoU wouldn’t be signed, adding that while his community did not hate anyone, it was difficult to shake hands with a regime that doesn’t respect human rights.

The Vietnamese did the world a favour by invading Cambodia and ousting Beijing-backed Pol Pot, but their treatment of fellow Vietnamese who opted to remain after the collapse of the South Vietnamese government simply because of their Chinese ethnicity was reprehensible.

Hanoi owes them an apology. Financial compensation wouldn’t be out of order, either.

Robin Martinez
November 28, 2011 at 20:08


No need to look any further… DNA is the answer to your question of whether Vietnamese and Chinese are related. Here is a study done by the Medical college of Hanoi:
Titre du document / Document title

HLA-DR and -DQB1 DNA polymorphisms in a Vietnamese Kinh population from Hanoi

Auteur(s) / Author(s)
Affiliation(s) du ou des auteurs / Author(s) Affiliation(s)
(1) Department of Immunology and Physiopathology, Medical College of Hanoi, VIET NAM
(2) LNH, Department of Immunology, Saint-Louis Hospital, University Paris VII, FRANCE
(3) Laboratory of Genetics and Biometry, University of Geneva, SUISSE

Résumé / Abstract
We report here the DNA polymerase chain reaction sequence-specific oligonucleotide (PCR-SSO) typing of the HLA-DR B1, B3, B4, B5 and DQB1 loci for a sample of 103 Vietnamese Kinh from Hanoi, and compare their allele and haplotype frequencies to other East Asiatic and Oceanian populations studied during the 11th and 12th International HLA Workshops. The Kinh exhibit some very high-frequency alleles both at DRB1 (1202, which has been confirmed by DNA sequencing, and 0901) and DQB1 (0301, 03032, 0501) loci, which make them one of the most homogeneous population tested so far for HLA class II in East Asia. Three haplotypes account for almost 50% of the total haplotype frequencies in the Vietnamese. The most frequent haplotype is HLA-DRB1*1202-DRB3*0301-DQB1*0301 (28%), which is also predominant in Southern Chinese, Micronesians and Javanese. On the other hand, DRB1*1201 (frequent in the Pacific) is virtually absent in the Vietnamese. The second most frequent haplotype is DRB1*0901-DRB4*01011-DQB1*03032 (14%), which is also commonly observed in Chinese populations from different origins, but with a different accessory chain (DRB4*0301) in most ethnic groups. Genetic distances computed for a set of Asiatic and Oceanian populations tested for DRB1 and DQB1 and their significance indicate that the Vietnamese are close to the Thai, and to the Chinese from different locations. These results, which are in agreement with archaeological and linguistic evidence, contribute to a better understanding of the origin of the Vietnamese population, which has until now not been clear.
Revue / Journal Title
European journal of immunogenetics ISSN 0960-7420
Source / Source
1997, vol. 24, no5, pp. 345-356 (1 p.1/4)
Langue / Language

Editeur / Publisher
Blackwell, Oxford, ROYAUME-UNI (1991-2004) (Revue)

Mots-clés anglais / English Keywords

Don’t kill yourself, Louie. Life is short!

November 2, 2011 at 09:51

@cam: It’s OK. We need people like him :)

November 2, 2011 at 09:49

There would not be any problem if countries intend resolve the issues through the UN, based on international laws with credible facts and evidences for their claims, instead of using bullist, pirate-like tactics.

November 1, 2011 at 21:29

@ Artis,and I can argue that those lands belonged to China before Vietnamese,before be rightfully reclaimed,however I rather not since these debates usually end in flame wars…

November 1, 2011 at 13:28

I’m answering you in place of the canadian: what chinese have stolen from vietnamese:

In the late 20th century:

- Vietnamese lives during the short invasion in 1979.
- The Paracel islands, islets in the Spratleys archipelago, and territories next to the northern border ( the Tam quan bordergate area, the Ban Gioc waterfall area…

What else ?!

November 1, 2011 at 10:35

Being “heroic communist” like john chan, you would surely become a rich man. Imagine an very old man sitting almost all day in a CCP propaganda room spitting on a screen, throwing insults and lies to all over the world in a luxury room surrounded by the “pleasure squad”. Would you like to trade?

November 1, 2011 at 10:24

You are the most Chinese racist I’ve ever seen on this site.

November 1, 2011 at 04:23

So these ‘arbitrary’ time limits are wrong because they minimize potential for idiotic conflicts based on events over a thousand years ago? Funny, my opinion would put the U.S at a disadvantage* and help other groups while yours would only benefit China. Perhaps we should switch countries so you can be the horrible imperialist while I can be the heroic communist.

*Specifically the First Nation tribes who were in the Americas first.

East Indian Gentleman-Frank's Great Master
October 31, 2011 at 16:43

hey Frank,
Again, don’t talk garbage in this forum! Back to debate, please!Don’t waste our golden time!

October 31, 2011 at 11:51

Because he is an East Indian.

October 31, 2011 at 11:49

East Indians are trying to be their masters again.

I only heard English Gentleman and East Indian servant.

October 31, 2011 at 01:49

@cam: Be gentle on John Chan. We need hime here to entertain us.

October 31, 2011 at 01:47

” ‘Marriage’ between Chinese man and Vietnam woman is the happy answer.”
I feel sorry for you. Your mindset is still from previous cnturies.

A Louie Louie
October 30, 2011 at 22:29

Professor, if Vietnamese are Han Chinese, as you say, why is their language not in the Sino-Tibetan family?

The origins of the Vietnamese language are very far back and very mysterious. I’ve studied it. And it gets more mysterious the deeper you go.

This much is clear. It does not come from China. Although being colonized by China probably prevented it from being Indianized like its cousin languages Khmer & Lao.

And sorry. You claimed Vietnamese were originally Han Chinese who migrated southward during the period of warring states.

You wrote:

“…because the Vietnamese are themselves Chinese who have always wanted to disown their brothers in order to secede from China. This pattern of behaviour is very common among Chinese warring factions throughout her history. ”

So when was period when Han Chinese moved south, became Vietnamese and started speaking a language that is from an entirely different family?

Enlighten us with some dates Professor. Thanks for the invite to take grad-tests. I’ve got my sheep-skins. I certainly would have a good time in your class though. You are the kind of professor I enjoyed the most.

Thung Lũng Tình Yêu
October 30, 2011 at 21:00

@A Louie Louie

“…Professor, if your thesis claims that Vietnamese were Han Chinese who migrated south in 400-500 BCE…”

Do you read English? If you do, even if you are a native speaker, you have a reading comprehension problem. Go take a GRE and/or GMAT test to see for yourself your level of reading comprehension skills.

“…I suggest you start consulting Wiki…”

When it comes to history, Wiki is the place that I avoid like a plague. By the way, I’ll automatically give an F grade to any history essay that quotes Wiki as a reference.

“…and stop reading whoever it is you’re reading…”

Are you telling all, I mean all, serious and accomplished Vietnamese historians to stop reading professor Đào Duy Anh’s research and start consulting Wiki? Today is not April 2nd, you know.

“… Concerning whether Chu Nom is comprehensible to Chinese, I only rely on anecdote…”

Thanks for your honesty.

“…I asked a Chinese woman to read something in Chu Nom one time. She told me it made no sense to her. She could pronounce it though…”

You have proven my point. She could pronounce it and that means she can recognize the words as simply Chinese or modified Chinese, but the order of the words in the context of a Chinese sentence makes no sense to her. On top of that, it makes no sense to her whatsoever unless she reads and understands classical Chinese even if she’s Chinese and can pronounce every word.

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