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Gala protest: Vietnam War in Canberra

By Kerces 1 November 2005 56

Last night at the Canberra Theatre, the Embassy of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam held a “Charming Vietnam Gala” concert for politicians, dignitaries, media and members of the Vietnamese community.

Last night outside the Canberra Theatre, about thousand very loud and very angry people turned up to protest and "expose the atrocities of the regime and voice their demand for a free and democratic Vietnam".

South Vietnamese protest

Two weeks ago members of the Press Gallery received invitations to a Charming Vietnam Gala celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. In 1945 the North Vietnamese declared independance from their French colonial masters, which was formally recognised by the French a decade later following the Battle of Dien Bien Phu. To put things very simply, the South Vietnamese weren’t happy with the new communist rulers, which led to the separation into two countries and eventually what is generally known as the Vietnam War which we and the Americans were involved in. The Socialist Republic of Vietnam, as it is today, was formed in 1976 when the two halves of Vietnam were rejoined (if you want to know more about the history, this and this are a reasonable start).

Knowing nothing of this history or the continuing tensions I happily agreed to accompany Johnboy to the Gala, blisfully unaware that on arrival I would be confronted by angry mobs. It was quite an experience (JB says he’s used to being shouted at by angry mobs, but this was my first time).

Most of the protestors were carrying flags or balloons in the yellow with red stripes of South Vietnam. Interestingly there were also quite a few Australian flags being carried as well, probably in an attempt to say "look at us, we’re on your side".

South Vietnamese and Australian flags

All over the place people were being urged to boycott the show. Since the invitiation specified lounge suit or national dress as the dress code, it was fairly easy to identify those attending the show and they had to run the gauntlet of protestors, most of whome were held back behind a police line but there was one area where there were no barriers. There was also lots of propaganda being handed out, listing reasons why the show should be boycotted. JB and I came away with three slightly different versions of this flyer:

 Flyer urging boycott of Charming Vietnam Gala

And the back of it (note the use of "Viet Cong" — this term only came about with the American intervention in the Vietnam War):

More reasons to boycott the Gala

I heard two or three impassioned speakers, including this woman, who all whipped the crowd into a frenzy, accompanied by drums beating out time for chants. There must have been quite a few speakers lined up because they were still going when we left the show about two hours later.

Rabble rousing at the protest

The protestors were well planned and had covered both approaches to the theatre so none of the invitees could escape their message. This mob near the members’ entrance of the Legislative Assembly obviously weren’t as loud as the much, much larger crowd on the other side but their anger was possibly even more palpitable (I got shouted at when taking this photo, but whether in anger or encouragement I wasn’t quite sure).

Crowd near members' entrance

Eventually we decided it was time to head up to the theatre, the invitation having said 7pm for 7.30 and it was nearing the latter hour. At the doors of the theatre (which feels very strange not having its proper entrance) we flourished the invitation (below) and received tickets. By this time we could hear the bells ringing to get everyone into the theatre but, just as we tried to go in, some large, suited security guards came and shut the doors with a particularly definite air. It sure looked like an end to our more-exciting-than-planned night out, but I used my developing elbow skills and got us through the crowd to the door where JB showed the tickets and we were somewhat reluctantly allowed in.

Charming Vietnam Gala invitation

The first thing we were treated to was a tourist brochure in video format projected on the stage curtains and sponsored by Vietnam Airlines, who, along with the Thanh Nien newspaper, were major sponsors of the whole Gala. There was much confusion with the seating; although the tickets were allocated people seemed to be being allowed in without tickets and just sat in any empty seats they could find (I also noticed a huge number of people moved around during the show — quite a novel concept to me, having been brought up to sit down, be still and shut up in theatres and cinemas).

Then came three-quarters of an hour of speeches, in which the MC and the Vice Minister of Foreign Relations of Vietnam kept calling Peter Slipper (who is president of the parliamentary committee for Vietnam-Australian relations or somesuch) "the honourable Peeter Sleeter". For me, the most exciting part of the show was probably during the Vice Minister’s speech when a man clad in a South Vietnam flag ran into the theatre shouting, "Human rights for Vietnam!" and was tackled by be-suited security guards and manhandled out of the theatre (I was impressed by the guards; they were just like secret service agents in American movies, complete with invisible ear wires). A few minutes later another man jumped up from the audience and shouted similar slogans. He too was promptly removed.

And then the show began. I strongly suspect I would have gotten a whole lot more out of the show if I was a Vietnamese speaker or had any idea who any of the performers were. First up was a girl singing a song we were told set out the theme for the whole performance: Far and Near. She was accomapnied by dancers, some of whom had fairly impressive angel costumes. Afterwards our hosts for the night came out and back-announced the song. The man spoke Vietnamese and the woman translated for him (and wore a series of spectacular dresses).

Gala hosts

Next up was a fashion parade by a designer who I’m reasonably sure I read in the CT set out to modernise traditional Vietnamese fashions. I quite liked some of the costumes which were generally brightly coloured and all sparkled (and which aren’t really done justice by JB’s in the dark photography). The models all walked with that loose-limbed gait of the supermodel but I felt they weren’t really sure what they should do once arriving at the front of the catwalk (or stage in this case).

Fashion parade

After this were a series of singers, most of whom we decided were lip-synching — waving the microphone around everywhere except near your face is a dead giveaway really. The songs were all inoffensive to me in a pop kind of way and I had the distinct impression afterwards of having watched Australian Idol except in another language. My favourite performer was an ageing but apparently very popular (judging by the crowd’s reaction) rocker dressed in tight black leather pants, white t-shirt and leather jacket who proceeded to dance lustily with the microphone stand all across the stage while singing soemthing suitable rock’n’roll. There was also a girl in impossibly high shoes who had a troupe of boy-band dancers so she didn’t have to dance in them, a woman singing an operatic power-ballad, a man in a white suit who was then joined by a man in a black suit with a very ruffly shirt. This second man then performed solo, at which point I started to fall asleep and missed a large chink of the special effects in which the dancer in the background passed things back and forth to a girl projected on the round screen that made part of the set. I don’t know what else there was since we departed shortly after my concert-sleepiness kicked in.

As we left the protestors outside were still going strong with their chants and drumming, although the police appeared to have departed and buses that were in the carpark before had left.

What’s Your opinion?


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56 Responses to
Gala protest: Vietnam War in Canberra
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Mr Evil 11:34 am 14 Nov 06

Sorry JB – I hate spammers too, and I hadn’t had enough coffee this morning.

Will remember for next time.

Mr_Shab 11:31 am 14 Nov 06

By stepping away from your computer you’re not giving us value for money, JB 😉

Thumper 10:42 am 14 Nov 06

No probs JB, it just made Mr Evil’s comment look rather odd and out of context.

However, I think you should never leave your computer.

Cheers

johnboy 10:38 am 14 Nov 06

WE DELETE SPAM

SOMETIMES WE GO TO THE TOILET OR SLEEP OR EVEN RARELY SPEND TIME WITH LOVED ONES SO YOU MIGHT HAVE TO WAIT A MINUTE.

Danman 10:35 am 14 Nov 06

what the ?

johnboy 10:18 am 14 Nov 06

Here’s a thought, why not send me an email rather than drawing attention to the problem

excuse me for bloody sleeping.

Mr Evil 10:09 am 14 Nov 06

Yeah, bloody spam of some sort, that’s why I was being so ‘nice’ to “Radar”.

Something about poker.

Thumper 9:50 am 14 Nov 06

Hey, something has been removed from this thread.

There was a post before Mr Evils….

Mr Evil 9:40 am 14 Nov 06

FUCK OFF!

stevo 12:54 am 19 Nov 05

Someone sent me this article:

TRUTH ABOUT RAISING FUNDS FOR HURRICANE VICTIMS
Dr. Nguyen van Canh
Director, Center for Vietnam Studies. San Jose, California
Nov. 15, 05

On next Tuesday, November 22, 05 a cultural show organized by a pro-communist group will take place at the Amphitheater of the Ronald Reagan Building & Trade Center on Pennsylvania Ave, Washington D.C.

Around 100 talented artists selected from the rank and file of the communist party of Vietnam (CPV) are sent to the USA to do the performance. The artists come from different branches: folklores, classical & modern songs and music etc. They are members of the CPV Propaganda Department. The group is camouflaged under the name of a private commercial company entitled M&M Entertainment Company whose headquarters is at the Ho chi Minh City. They planned to stay in the USA for 3 months and will do shows throughout the USA.

The first show will be done in Washington D.C. The declared purpose of the performance is to raise funds to support victims of Hurricane Katrina in the USA and Storm #7 that wept throughout 3 provinces in North Vietnam few weeks ago.

What is behind the scheme?
Is doing charities work a real purpose? Financially, it is not justifiable. Expenses for each artist would include a Saigon- Washington round trip air ticket $1,000. Foods and shelters in the USA for three months would be $80/day for 90 days= $7,200; travel expenses in the USA would be $2,000 etc… An estimated cost for each of them is $10,200. Expenses for the whole team would be: $ 1,020,000. This does not include costs of organizing of local shows: publicity, rent of sites for performances, labor to do related odd jobs, salaries to be paid to local organizers, etc.

What is an expected income that the shows would bring in?
None. Why? The “company” issues tickets of which the face values would be $ 30.00 or so per ticket. The CPV cells in the USA will distribute them free to those who have done businesses in Vietnam, those who have some types of connections with the CPV and their fellow-travelers or those who would be targets of recruitment to work for the CPV. This was a case the CPV did it in Australia in Oct. 05, when 92 communist artists came and did performances under the name of “Charm of Vietnam Show” in Camberra, Sydney, Bankstown and Melbourne. The tickets ‘sold’ in Australia were not transferable to prevent strangers from coming in.

Why do the CPV pay such a high price for the project and what is their real scheme?

Before analyzing the case, we need to mention one of many programs prescribed by the CPV’s PolitBuro Resolution # 36, issued on March 26, 2004 entitled ‘Dealing With Vietnamese Overseas.’ The resolution directs major ministries of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (SRV) such as Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Information and Cultures, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Public Security etc. and Cities where a large number of Vietnamese expatriates have frequented to conduct cultural activities abroad to convince them to support SRV in building the country i.e. socialism.

The resolution covers an over-all effort as to how to deal with Vietnamese overseas who strongly oppose the CPV’s monopoly of powers, who demand democracy to be implemented for the Vietnamese people, who lobby for freedom of religion and for respect for human rights, including putting a stop on trafficking in virgin teen-aged girls and women: selling them to South East Asian countries.

First of all, the price paid by the CPV is not a matter. This is not a profit- making project as Americans think of. It is merely carried out for its political purposes. Money used for this kind of projects comes for taxes paid by the Vietnamese people. And at least, some of the assistance by Western countries would be funneled to this project.

The CPV is not required to account for it to any one. No one dare to challenge it. Second, doing charities work is a good deed or a good cause. Working against it is an inhuman act. Because of this, the CPV somehow is successful in dividing Vietnamese expatriates in the USA. If some one knows their scheme, and opposes or denounces it, communist agents would publicly accuse him/her of being an extremist doing an inhuman act. A strong wave of propaganda on it will be launched in order to isolate him/her. This is one way to divide Vietnamese communities overseas and recruit sympathizers for the CPV, then use them against others. Briefly, the CPV uses even charities work as a means to achieve its political goals. Americans have never been aware of it.

Third, raising funds among Vietnamese communities in the USA by the CPV to support victims of Katrina is a not a good reason. It is not appropriate for them to do so at this point in time, because the event occurred over two months and a half ago. The situation in the states where heavy damages were caused by Katrina has been stabilized. Bear in mind that the SVR donated to the US government on this matter only $100,000 while Vietnamese refugees living in the USA have raised some $4,000,000 for them. All the money raised has been sent through the American Red Cross.

As for raising funds to support Storm # 7 victims in Vietnam, we don’t know why the CPV leaders have not given them even a cent. Though being proletarians when joining the so-called proletarian revolution, they have become billionaires (in US dollars). Do Muoi, a former secretary general of the CPV few years ago gave 1 million US dollars to an education fund. They are required to support the unfortunate victims from their own money, instead of trying to collect money from refugees in the USA, if they have a real intention to do charities work. Moreover, in this case, the victims are used as a means for CPV to achieve their undisclosed goals. It is immoral!

In summary, the CPV’s ultimate goal is to control Vietnamese communities in the USA through members of a cell posed as diplomats in diplomatic missions to conduct these activities against Vietnamese abroad as prescribed by Res. 36. As a consequence, Vietnamese Americans should oppose to this immoral scheme.

Thumper 8:01 am 09 Nov 05

Vietgirl,

I think we all agree with you on this issue.

vietgirl 9:21 pm 08 Nov 05

re Nguyen Hoang Thanh Tam….he is a young guy in his mid 20s. He works endlessly for human right and he was the President of the Vietnamese Student Association ( VSA-Australia).

vietgirl 9:13 pm 08 Nov 05

It’s interesting to read all your comments. I have lost my relatives from the war and sea while on their way seeking for freedom. How can i forget why i am here?

We are so lucky to live in this country where our rights are protect and our voice can be heard.

The VC gov spent million of dollars for such a propaganda. why dont they use that money to help their poor people? why did they stir us up? when my parents heard of the news that VC was going to celebrate 60 yrs of dictatorship in this freedom/peaceful country. Their blood pressure have gone up and I can see pain in their eyes. I can never forgive VC for all the killings they have done after the war has ended.

I am sure we are not angry or suggest that you, ( other australian,…(white)) feel bad about attending this show, but we would like you to look beyond the gloss to see the real Vietnam.

As an Australian citizen, I would like to request the Foreign Affairs and Finance Ministers to

*Order an independent audit to find out how much Australian taxpayers’ money the Vietnamese regime has stolen from our aid and
* Review to determine whether and how Vietnam still needs the $77 million dollards that Australia has given every year in the past decade or so.

stevo 4:53 pm 08 Nov 05

They (the Vietnamese Govt.) spent millions of dollars of our foreign aid to bring this crap here instead of using that money to help their own people. This propaganda crap has got to stop. Tell them.

Viet Embassy
vembassy@webone.com.au
Phone 02 6286 6059
Fax 02 6286 4534

Aimee 10:38 pm 05 Nov 05

Yet another clueless non-vietnamese Australian who attended the Gala here!
Sorry to say that I hadn’t a clue about the political ramifications, and sorry to have walked in during a protest, but I loved it.
The first half kept us laughing until we cried (the perm + leather guy… ooh I want to marry him) and the second half was much better after a lovely vietnamese girl next to us realised we needed translations 😛
The monochord (and was the other a small harpsichord?) instrumental performance was amazing, and altogether I thought it was lovely… if absolutely freakin hilarious 😛

The protest itself was the largest and best organised protest I’ve yet seen in Canberra, and wow, we almost turned back wihout entering the theatre. We came a bit late, and that many people screaming at you with total hate… whew.
Massively shocked that such a large and controversial event can have gone so unnoticed by the news, and by people in general, because I’ve noticed that it seems that only the people who went (in either capacity) actually know it even occured.

and P.S. From the position of your photos, it looks like we were quite near you!! I can’t remember our seat numbers but behind you a little, center-left 🙂

hans 9:03 am 05 Nov 05

He’s one of the rally organisers. They had 3 rallies in one week – canberra 1500 protesters, sydney town hall 15000, bankstown town hall (nsw) 10000. Wow!! No wonder Mr editor is not very happy. Looks like the ‘charming gala’ tour backfired on the commie.

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