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Vietnam asks Australia to recall a coin that bears South Vietnamese flag

The Royal Australian Mint recently released this AU$2 silver coin commemorating the end of the Vietnam War. (Royal Australian Mint)
June 04, 2023

This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.

An Australian commemorative coin meant to honor veterans in the Vietnam War is upsetting Hanoi because its design includes three red stripes on a yellow background – the flag of defeated South Vietnam. 

Australia sent 50,190 troops to fight in the conflict, which ended in 1975 when communist North Vietnam sacked the capital Saigon in the U.S.-backed South. 

The commemorative Australian $2 coin marks the 50th anniversary of the end of Canberra’s involvement in the war in April 1973. 

One side of the coin features a memorial portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, while the reverse side shows a UH-1 helicopter, colloquially called the “Huey,” encircled by medal ribbons awarded to Australian veterans, two of which incorporate the colors of South Vietnam’s flag.

The Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs formally requested that Australia stop circulating the coin, and take steps to prevent similar incidents in the future.

“We are regretful and strongly protest against the Royal Australian Mint and Australia Post’s releases of items with the image of the yellow flag of a regime that no longer exists,” Pham Thu Hang, the ministry’s deputy spokeswoman said in a report published in The World & Vietnam Newspaper

“This is not in line with the tendency of fine developments of the Vietnam – Australia Strategic Partnership.”

A Royal Australian Mint spokesperson acknowledged the coin, but said it was not recognition of the Republic of Vietnam, the official name of South Vietnam.

“The design of the coin reflects the colours of the ribbons of the service medals awarded to Australians who served in Vietnam, including the Vietnam Service medal, introduced in 1968,” the spokesperson said. “The Australian Government does not recognise the flag of the former Republic of Vietnam.”

RFA’s Vietnamese Service attempted to contact Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, as well as the Australian Embassy in Hanoi, but have not yet received a response.

The mint made two versions of the coin: 80,000 pieces of the gold-colored version, which sold for AU$15 (U.S.$10) each, and only 5,000 of the much rarer silver-colored version, which sold for AU$80 (U.S.$54). 

As they were the first Australian $2 coin to have a design in full color and had a limited issue, the coins completely sold out upon release. According to a Daily Mail report, the silver version is being traded for more than AU$1,200 (U.S.$805) and the gold for AU$80 on e-commerce sites.

The Vietnamese government often takes action against international displays of the South Vietnamese flag. 

In January 2022, when the Vietnamese national soccer team traveled to Australia for a match, Vietnam Television postponed the broadcast because many fans brought red-striped yellow flags to the stadium.