- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 25, 2003

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — The sight of the red Vietnamese flag with the yellow star stirs bad memories for Binh Vo: He recalls fleeing his family home in the wake of a Viet Cong and North Vietnamese surprise attack in 1968.

Mr. Vo’s enmity toward the Communist regime that took over his homeland seven years later is still so strong that he and other activists are lobbying U.S. cities and states to recognize the old South Vietnamese flag as the official symbol of the Vietnamese-American community.

The banner with three horizontal red stripes on a yellow field, “tells people where we came from and how we got here,” said Mr. Vo, 41, national president of the Vietnamese-American Public Affairs Committee, and “also, we don’t forget about those we left behind.”

So far, the effort has met with success in a handful of places, such as San Jose, Westminster, Garden Grove and Milpitas in California and Falls Church, Va.

But similar campaigns in the California, Washington and Virginia state legislatures have faltered amid protests by the Vietnamese government and the State Department, concerned they could damage international relations.

In practice, the measures are mostly symbolic, allowing the three stripes flag to be flown at Vietnamese-American events held on city property, and at a Falls Church shopping center.

But they also demonstrate how those who emigrated from South Vietnam to the United States still harbor anger about the war, and remain convinced that someday the Communist regime back home will fall.

“The war may have ended for the United States, but for many Vietnamese refugees, the war still continues at another level, at a political level,” said Garden Grove Mayor Pro Tem Van Tran, a Vietnamese-American who supported his city’s resolution.

Two years ago, an outcry persuaded the U.S. Postal Service to remove brochures showing the communist flag. The latest effort is further evidence of Vietnamese-Americans’ growing numbers and political sophistication, said Binh Nguyen, vice president of the public affairs committee chapter in Houston.

“They’re starting to get to know more about how the system works, and they have people in the system,” Mr. Nguyen said.

The three-stripes flag campaign also has been denounced by the Vietnamese government.

“The war is long over and the people, I think both in America and in Vietnam, are looking to the future,” said Bach Ngoc Chien, press attache at Vietnam’s Embassy in Washington. Activists are “just trying to raise the old issues the people want to forget.”

Many families own a “heritage and freedom flag,” as activists have dubbed it, and fly it on Vietnamese holidays or special occasions.

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