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Once sailor, forever sailor

Friday, September 21, 2012

Sundre's Vietnamese freedom flag focus of film

After fleeing Vietnam by boat and spending five days at sea, Nam Tran lived in a Malaysian refugee camp for four months before he immigrated to Canada in 1980 at age 25.

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After fleeing Vietnam by boat and spending five days at sea, Nam Tran lived in a Malaysian refugee camp for four months before he immigrated to Canada in 1980 at age 25.
When Tran finally arrived in Canada, he settled in Sundre and, in 1984, he proudly hung the yellow-and-red-striped flag of the defunct Republic of Vietnam, commonly known as South Vietnam, on an empty flagpole alongside other international flags in the town.

Known as the Vietnamese Heritage and Freedom Flag, despite not being the country's official flag, the banner quietly flew in Sundre, about 130 kilometres northwest of Calgary, until 2007 when it became the source of international controversy.
"This one issue over this flag created so much international interest . . . It's the biggest thing that happened that I was part of during my time as mayor," said Roy Cummings, who served as mayor of Sundre from 2004 to 2010.
A documentary film crew from Washington, D.C., travelled to the town of 2,500 on Saturday to interview Tran, Cummings and others involved with the 2007 flag flap.
The film crew is travelling to locations around the world to piece together the history of the flag before and after 1975, the year the Vietnam War ended.
When the flag was first displayed in 1984, the small town of Sundre became the first place in the world, outside of Vietnam, to fly the flag 365 days a year.
The flag needed to be flown because it represented a key part of Sundre's history, said Cummings.
He noted that people in Sundre opened their homes to those who fled South Vietnam during the war.
However, it's not proper protocol to fly a flag that isn't recognized as a country's official flag. When these concerns were raised, town council decided to remove the flag in 2007, said Cummings.
Removing the flag angered many.
After hearing from several Vietnamese-Canadians who saw the flag as a symbol of their heritage and freedom, town council decided to start flying the old flag again in August 2007, despite criticism from The Embassy of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
"Even though it was controversial, we chose, as a town, to put that flag back up," Cummings said.
Cummings said he still stands by the decision to fly the flag, which is an important symbol.
"We're not trying to create some political nightmare here . . . Just look at this flag as something that represents freedom for all," he said.
Nearly three decades after Tran first put up the flag, it continues to fly in Sundre.
"I feel very peaceful when I see it," said Tran, who today lives in Calgary and purchases a new flag for the town annually.
In separate interviews, Cummings and Tran told the film crew about the flag's history in Sundre, as part of a documentary that Tran said will be released later this year by a company called the Vietnam Film Club.
Tran said he's pleased the American documentary will include the small town of Sundre in the story of the flag's history.
"I feel very happy. I'm really proud for my people," Tran said.

Bill Bell chyển

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