- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 11, 2003

RICHMOND A bill to make the South Vietnamese flag part of state and public school functions that display flags of foreign nations, though South Vietnam was defeated by communist Vietnam 28 years ago, is making its way through the Virginia legislature.
"My job is to represent the views of my constituency," said Delegate Robert D. Hull, Fairfax County Democrat, who introduced the bill. "But I am sure that is something [communist Vietnam] does not understand since this is all about democracy."
This weekend, Vietnamese officials responded by saying their government and people were "indignant" about the bill.
A state-run television station quoted a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman on Friday as saying, "As everybody knows, the so-called Republic of Vietnam regime was ousted by the Vietnamese people on April 30, 1975."
Mr. Hull has also upset U.S. officials, who have recently re-established ties with the communist regime in the county, which they fought in the Vietnam War.
Furthermore, State Department spokesman Lou Fintor said the United States recognizes only the Vietnamese flag and an attempt to change that is a violation of the Constitution.
Mr. Fintor cited Article 2 of the U.S. Constitution that states it is the power of the president alone to conduct foreign relations.
"I guess the State Department is doing their job," Mr. Hull said yesterday. "But I don't work for them."
Virginia Chamber of Commerce officials also have concerns about the bill.
They say that if the bill passes, state businesses could be denied their long-awaited foray into Vietnamese markets. The officials also fear Vietnamese trade would be diverted from Virginia ports.
"I would not put it past our friends in Baltimore and Charleston to make sure the Vietnamese government knew of this resolution," said Steve Haner, the chamber's vice president of public policy.
The bill passed the House of Delegates on Jan. 31, the 35th anniversary of the Tet Offensive, started by communist guerrillas against U.S. and South Vietnamese troops in 1968. The attack shocked Washington in its ferocity and was one of the turning points of the war.
The bill was scheduled to be heard by the Senate Rules Committee yesterday but was delayed for procedural reasons.
The State Department and the Chamber of Commerce are expected to lobby hard against the proposal in the coming days.
The latest census figures show that about 34,000 people of Vietnamese descent live in Virginia. Most of them live in Northern Virginia and come from what was once South Vietnam, Mr. Hull said.
He also said, "99.999 percent of those people came from communities that were in South Vietnam, [and] 1,309 Virginians died defending that flag. Now it causes them a great deal of pain to see the communist flag at events when it is not their heritage."
The flag would be displayed at multicultural events and in classrooms during cultural history lessons.
Said Mr. Hull: "The children of these immigrants, who are American, go to school functions and are confused about their heritage because they see a different flag than what their families tell them represents their culture."
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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