Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Vietnam Veterans, Refugees Unite against Recognition

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Vietnam Veterans, Refugees Unite against Recognition

Article excerpt

Veterans, their families and some Vietnamese refugees in the St. Louis area voiced opposition Tuesday to President Bill Clinton's decision to grant diplomatic recognition to Vietnam.

After Clinton's decision was announced, U.S. veterans and Vietnamese refugees here agreed on their belief that the move was based on economic considerations.

But members of the two groups had different reasons for opposing recognition of the Communist regime in Vietnam.

Most veterans want the Vietnamese government to first account for all Americans listed as missing in action before the U.S. government establishes close ties with Hanoi and builds an embassy there.

Vietnamese refugees say they're opposed to formal recognition of the Vietnamese government because it is guilty of violating human rights.

They want the Communist regime ousted.

"I left Vietnam only a year ago, and I can tell you there are no human rights there, no freedom of speech, religious freedom - or freedom from fear," said Hap Dinh, 61, a caseworker at the International Institute.

Once a battalion commander in the South Vietnamese army, Dinh spent nine years in 13 different prisons after the war. "I spent another nine years under surveillance of the Vietnam police before I came here," said the native of Saigon.

Joseph J. Frank of Sappington, a combat engineer in Vietnam, summed up the views of many veterans of the bitter war in which 58,000 Americans died.

"There are more than 2,000 prisoners of war still unaccounted for, so why should we recognize the government of Vietnam?" asked Frank, a candidate for national commander of the American Legion.

"I came back from Vietnam in a wheelchair, but I was able to become productive again," said Frank, 47. "I feel very badly for all the the families of those missing in action when they hear about the president's decision," he said. …

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