Flag a point of contention UT-Arlington students disagree with administrators over which which flag should represent Vietnam
STAR-TELEGRAM STAFF WRITER
Dung Dinh cries on the shoulder of Ann Nhon as they join protesters waving the flag of South Vietnam during a fashion show.
ARLINGTON -- An annual festival aimed at celebrating international brotherhood is sparking controversy at the University of Texas at Arlington as students disagree with administrators over which flag should represent Vietnam.
During a fashion show Wedneday night at the university's International Week festival, dozens of Vietnamese-American students and community members waved the yellow-and-red flag of South Vietnam that they believe university officials should display.
Administrators have not allowed the yellow flag with three red stripes to be displayed. It was banned by the communist government in 1975 in one of the final moves to solidify its victory over the American-supported South Vietnamese government.
University officials said they used Vietnam's current flag - red with a yellow star - to follow their policy of only using flags recognized by the United Nations.
But Vietnamese students still feel offended.
"How can we see this communist flag exist here in this country," said a tearful Tracy Nguyen, a 23-year-old senior at UT-Arlington. "That flag does not represent us, we are nothing like them."
Many have complained to UT-Arlington Associate Provost Michael Moore.
"I understand it's emotional," Moore said. "None of us are denying the pain, the tremendous human rights violations."
But, he said, the university is just following its policy.
"This is not a political issue for us," Moore said. "We've got the Chinese flag and the Taiwanese don't like that and vice versa."
A community leader in the Vietnamese-American community said UT-Arlington should have been more sensitive about the issue.
"UTA is trying to expand its international influence," said Andy Nguyen, chairman of the Vietnamese-American Community of Tarrant County. "We understand and support that. But bringing that flag here without considering the feelings of the community and the students is quite inconsiderate."
Tom Ha, a Vietnamese activist, said that displaying the Vietnamese flag in front of people who fled the oppression of the communist government is like parading the swastika in front of Jews.
"Many students were very distraught over this, and two girls were crying [Monday] night during the emergency meeting of the community to get a resolution to this problem," Ha said, adding that about 30 people attended the meeting.
Huong Duong, a junior majoring in biology, said the International Student Office asked her to participate in International Week under the current Vietnamese flag.
"That offended me," she said.
Duong said that she will continue to participate in International Week, which ends Friday, but that she has distanced herself from the current Vietnamese flag.
Duong said both flags should be allowed to be displayed.
"Personally, I really don't care what they do with their flag. I want to show my flag," she said.