A memorial service will be held at Truong Sa (Spratly) to honor the soldiers who died in the Battle of the Paracel Islands, a naval skirmish between China and the Republic of Vietnam in 1974, and boat people.
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Nguyen Thanh Son, who is also head of the State Committee for Overseas Vietnamese, said at a press conference in Hanoi last week the ceremony would be held on May 3 during a visit to Truong Sa by a delegation of overseas Vietnamese this month.
In 1974, taking advantage of the withdrawal of American troops from Hoang Sa (Paracel), China invaded the Islands.
A brief but bloody battle ensued between troops of the US-backed South Vietnam and the Chinese.
On January 19, 1974, China completed its occupation of the Paracel Islands.
“Though the South Vietnamese forces who died in the battle did not belong to the Vietnam People’s Army, they fought the invaders to protect the country’s sovereignty over the sea and islands; therefore, we must recognize their contributions,” Son said.
“They died [fighting] for sovereignty the same way that soldiers of the Vietnam People’s Army did in 1988 in the Spratly Islands; so it is right to commemorate them.
“I think people across the country will support the commemoration.”
Son said many painful events had occurred in the East Sea, internationally known as the South China Sea, over the past decades. Many boat people had lost their lives at sea after trying to leave the country.
“They left because of their families' financial difficulties and the country’s difficulties and also because of a failure to understand the government.
“We call those who left before, during and after 1975 'victims of the (Vietnam) war'.”
There are no exact statistics about the number of people who died at sea, but it is estimated in the thousands, he said.
On some trips, none of hundreds of people on the boat survived, he said.
The Buddhist ceremony is also meant for all Vietnamese soldiers and international comrades who lost their lives there, he said.
The event will be broadcast live in the northern mountainous province of Dien Bien, Hanoi, and Truong Sa.
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