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Kent backs Vietnam `heritage flag'

by Bruce Rommel
Journal Reporter

KENT -- Quy Nguyen of Kent proudly displays his Republic of Vietnam flag along with his family's American flag at their East Hill home.

Kent is the first city in King County to adopt a resolution recognizing the former flag of Vietnam as the heritage flag of the Vietnamese community.

``It is a symbol of freedom and democracy,'' Quy said after he, family members and others watched City Council members unanimously approve the measure at their meeting Tuesday night.

The yellow banner with three red horizontal stripes now recognized by Kent as the Vietnamese Heritage Flag is the flag of the former Republic of Vietnam, which ceased to exist after the fall of Saigon in 1975.

The nation is now the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and its government has asked U.S. and state officials not to recognize the former flag.

The current Vietnamese flag is a red banner with a gold star. Many Vietnamese refugees who fled to the United States see the current flag as a symbol of oppression and the loss of democracy in their homeland.

King County Council members Rob McKenna of Bellevue and Jane Hague of Kirkland are sponsoring a similar resolution recognizing the older flag. The measure is expected to come before the County Council for action within a few weeks, according to Hague's staff.

A police officer in Saigon, Quy was among thousands of government and military personnel arrested in 1975 after communist forces regained control of what was then South Vietnam. Quy, now 77, served 13 years in prison, including four years in solitary confinement and years of forced labor, before he was freed and able to emigrate to the United States.

Many immigrants who also served prison terms are backing a national effort to win recognition of the former Vietnamese flag as the heritage flag.

Since early 2003, resolutions have been adopted by the states of Hawaii, Louisiana and Virginia, and by 48 cities in 14 states, said Bao Bui of Tacoma, a member of the state chapter of the Committee Honoring the Vietnamese Nationalist Flag.

Pierce County has adopted a resolution, along with seven cities in Pierce and Thurston counties. Bao said his group is asking city councils in Sumner and Bonney Lake to approve similar resolutions.

Both state and King County officials received a letter from the Vietnamese government asking that only the current red flag with the gold star be recognized.

Kent city staff said they haven't received any communications from the Vietnamese government.

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