Following the last minute cancellation of the commemoration ceremony to mark the 50th anniversary of the battle of Long Tan in Vietnam, the more than 1,000 Australians who had travelled to Vietnam to mark the anniversary have been granted restricted access to the site.
Veterans’ Affairs Minister Dan Tehan, who yesterday described the last-minute cancellation as “a kick in the guts”, said he was glad for the reprieve.
“The Prime Minister appealed to the Vietnamese Prime Minister to understand and empathise with the Australian veterans and their families who have travelled to Vietnam,” he said.
“We understand there are still sensitivities in Vietnam, so over the last 18 months, we have said that we would respect how they would like us to commemorate.
“We are very grateful for the Vietnamese change of mind on this.”
While the official 50th anniversary ceremony still remains cancelled, access to the site is being limited to groups of 100 people or fewer. There will be a wreath laying in the afternoon, which 1,000 people will be able to attend. Visitors to the Battle of Long Tan site are not allowed to carry banners, wear uniforms or medals or make speeches.
According to the ABC, a Vietnamese Government source said that the Australian Consulate had promised to hold a “low key” event, but that a planned gala dinner and concert, that was to feature popular 1960s entertainer Little Pattie, was seen to be insensitive.
Many disappointed veterans have had access to the site restricted since they touched down in Vietnam, with many arriving on organised tour groups and bringing friends and family with them.
Closer to home, hundreds turned out to at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra to remember the battle that killed 18 Australians, with another 24 wounded.
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(Photo By Tacintop (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)