A visiting Vietnamese delegation, led by Deputy Minister of National Defence Sen. Lieut. Gen. Le Chiem, had a working session with Australia’s UNSW Canberra on September 10 to receive a digitalised project on battlefields and burial sites of fallen Vietnamese soldiers during the war in Vietnam.
|UNSW Canberra representatives hand over the project to the Vietnamese delegation
The project, entitled “Operation Wandering Souls – Bring Them Home”, is an extensive investigation carried out by experts, researchers and veterans on the war at the UNSW Canberra’s Australian Centre for the Study of Armed Conflict and Society (ACSACS).
At the meeting, Chiem, who is also deputy head of the National Steering Committee for Search and Repatriation of Remains of Fallen Soldiers, spoke about war consequences in Vietnam like the issues of unexploded ordnance, Agent Orange/dioxin and missing bodies of soldiers.
According to the officer, the bodies of nearly 200,000 Vietnamese soldiers need to be verified and located.
He said the Vietnamese Government has deployed several measures to find martyrs’ remains, including cooperating with other countries, organisations and individuals.
Chiem said the ACSACS’s project shows the goodwill of the Australian government.
Welcoming the delegation, Harvinder Sidhu, Associate Dean at the UNSW Canberra, said the project has been carried out for years with voluntary efforts from many experts, researchers and Australian army personnel.
He said the ACSACS built the database with records and information from the Australian War Memorial, Australian army units, American army, and armies of other nations involved in the American War in Vietnam.
Sidhu told his guests the database currently offers the location of about 6,500 battlefields and the specific identities and burial sites of some 460 Vietnamese soldiers.
The same day, the delegation had another meeting with Elizabeth Cosson, Secretary of the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) of Australia.
Chiem took the occasion to ask the DVA to inform all Australian veterans on the Vietnamese Government and people’s desire to locate and repatriate soldiers’ remains. Vietnam is willing to host any organisations and individuals that come to provide such information, he added.
Cosson pledged to try her best to work with Vietnam to alleviate the war pain in the country.
She thanked the Vietnamese authorities for facilitating Australian veterans to come back to their former battlefields.