Contradictory histories plague Vietnam

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Ho Chi Minh City is set to erect a new 6.3-meter-high bronze-cast statue of Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc, the ascetic who famously immolated himself in the streets of that city (then called Saigon) in protest against the repressive US-propped South Vietnamese government more than four decades ago.

The statue will next month be symbolically placed on the very spot in the city where the monk was depicted in iconic photographs burning himself to death. With its raising, the Communist Party-led government's new and altered representation of the so-called American War will be on show for the world to see.

Muted in this revisionist retelling is the country's revolutionary history against colonialism and the many decades of its attendant oppression. Re-established instead is Vietnam's willing identification with the West and its emerging reconciliation with the American War. As a consequence, the conflict is being minimized for foreign visitors while a new history that transcends recent animosities is emphasized.

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