Vietnam cancels Long Tan commemoration ceremony
5.40pm: AUSTRALIAN politicians are making urgent calls to Vietnam to have a last minute decision to cancel 50th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan ceremony in the Asian country cancelled reversed.
A joint statement issued by Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop and Minister for Veterans' Affairs Dan Tehan states the Government is deeply disappointed at this decision, and the manner in which it was taken, so close to the commemoration service taking place.
"Australia's Ambassador has registered our deep concerns with the Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs," the statement says.
"The Government is seeking urgent calls with Vietnamese counterparts at the most senior levels to register our concerns.
"Australia has been working closely with Vietnamese authorities for 18 months to prepare for this event. Memorial events have been held at Long Tan since 1989.
"Australian veterans and their families had planned to attend a ceremony at Long Tan marked by mutual respect to remember and honour the sacrifice of those lost in the Vietnam War from both sides. For many veterans, this would have been their first visit to Vietnam since the war.
"For the more than 1000 Australians who have travelled to Vietnam to attend the 50th anniversary memorial service this is bitterly disappointing news.
"The Vietnam Veterans' Association and the Vietnam Veterans' Federation have been briefed by the Government on the decision taken by the Vietnamese Government."
The Smartraveller website has been updated. Travellers requiring emergency consular assistance should contact the 24 hour consular line on +61 2 6261 3305.
5.25pm: THE Vietnamese authorities have cancelled the commemoration ceremony for Vietnam Veteran's Day at the Long Tan Cross site at 15:30 on the 50th anniversary of the battle.
According to a travel alert issued by Smart Traveller this afternoon, the government department states:
"We understand that private access to the site is still permitted. Follow local instructions and contact your tour operator about any changes in plans. The level of the advice has not changed. We continue to advise Australians to exercise normal safety precautions in Vietnam."
A contingent of Long Tan veterans, Major Harry Smith who lead the 108 Australian and New Zealand soldiers in the battle against over 2500 Viet Cong and North Vietnamese soldiers, was recognition for all Vietnam Veterans.
Cockscomb Veterans Retreat (in Cawarral, near Rockhampton) President Herb Elliot mentioned the trip when explaining what the day meant.
"This 50th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan was one of the most significant battles in a war, which was probably one of the longest wars we (Australia) were involved in," he told The Bulletin today.
He said Vietnam veterans had felt like they were finally being recognised by the Federal Government after it supplied funds for the Vietnam trip, along with planning the first dawn service held in Canberra on Vietnam Veterans Day.
5.20pm: Tomorrow's 50th anniversary Vietnam War commemoration event at the Long Tan cross site has been cancelled by Vietnamese authorities, the Department of Foreign Affairs says.
"The Vietnamese Government has advised the Australian Government that it will not permit the ceremony to commemorate Vietnam Veteran's Day at the Long Tan cross site at 3:30pm on August 18 to proceed," DFAT said in a statement.
"An official party, including the Australian and New Zealand ambassadors, will lay a wreath and we understand small groups will still have access to the site on the day.
"The Government is deeply disappointed at this decision, and the manner in which it was taken, so close to the commemoration service taking place."
Read more at abc.net.au