Vietnam Center & Archive News and Updates

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Vietnamese Political Prisoners Day Convention

On October 3rd-5th 2008 the Families of Vietnamese Political Prisoners Association (FVPPA) held their Vietnamese Political Prisoners Day Convention at The Special Events Center in Dallas, Texas. Dr. James Reckner (Executive Director of the Institute for Modern Conflict Diplomacy and Reconciliation, and founder of the Vietnam Center and Archive), Jason A. Stewart (Oral Historian at the Vietnam Archive), and Anna Mallet (The Vietnam Archive’s Vietnamese American Heritage Archivist) attended the October 4th activities. The theme of the convention was “Children of Vietnamese Political Prisoners and Amerasians.”

An estimated 4, 000 people, former Vietnamese political prisoners and their families, attended the morning session (10 a.m.-1 p.m.) of the convention. The convention was the first ever reunion for Vietnamese political prisoners from all over the world, not just those who had resettled in the US. Representatives from all 5 of the Republic of Vietnam’s (South Vietnam) allies during the Vietnam War: America, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and the Philippines. A flag representing each of the Repulic of Vietnam’s allies was on stage. Also on the stage were 20 Republic of Vietnam flags that symbolized the 20 years from the re-education camps to freedom and resettlement worldwide, and almost 20 years since the Historic Agreement signed between the US and the Vietnam government on July 30, 1989. Dr. Reckner was a scheduled keynote speaker at the morning ceremony. Actress Kieu Chinh (famous for her role in Journey From the Fall) was also a speaker.

Dr. Reckner and Dr. Stephen Maxner (Director of the Vietnam Archive received awards from the FVPPA, presented by Khuc Minh Tho (cofounder and former President of the FVPPA), for the Vietnam Archive’s work to preserve and make accessible to the public its FVPPA collection, donated by the Vietnamese American Heritage Foundation, which preserves the history and experiences of Vietnamese Americans who came to the U.S. with the help of the FVPPA under the UNHCR’s ODP.

At the evening session (6 p.m.-11 p.m.) an estimated 9,000 people attended to see the biggest Vietnamese stars perform and to see a fashion show designed by a talented AmerAsian designer. All performers are children of Vietnamese reeducation camp prisoners, many were AmerAsian. Almost every song performed was written by the performer themself and was about the Vietnamese reeducation camps. One VietnameseAustralian performed a song he wrote when he was a young student in Paris and heard that those he loved and admired were forced to report to reeducation. Colonel Bernard “Bunny” Leo Talley, Jr. spoke on behalf of Senator John McCain at the evening session. Colonel Talley was one of five high ranking U.S. military servicemen, all former POWs in Vietnam, who attended the Oct. 4th convention. Colonel Talley received flowers and a warm welcome and greetings from McCain kids (children of former Vietnamese political prisoners who immigrated under the McCain Bill refer to themselves as McCain kids in respect for and in appreciate of Senator John McCain and the Bill that allowed them to immigrate).

“The Reeducation Camp Exhibit” was displayed at the convention by The Museum of the Boat People and the Republic of Vietnam, and the Vietnamese American Heritage Foundation. The Museum of the Boat People and the Republic of Vietnam is a brand new museum, it just opened this summer, and is the only museum soley dedicated to the Vietnamese outside of Saigon.

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