Charles Tran Van Lam
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He was one of signers of the Paris Peace Accord in 1973. He was the first Vietnamese Ambassador to Australia in the late 1950s and became the Minister for Foreign Affairs of South Vietnam in 1969. In 1973 he became the president of the Senate of South Vietnam. When Saigon fell in 1975, Trần Van Lam was required to sign an undertaking not to take part in any political activities as a condition for his entry into Australia. He moved to Canberra where he and his wife opened a coffee shop. On 6 February 2001, Charles Tran Van Lam died in his Canberra home, aged 88.
The son of a well-to-do ethnic Chinese real estate owner, Tran Van Lam was born in Cholon. He was educated at Hanoi University and trained as a pharmacist. He was the founding Secretary General of the Vietnam Pharmacists Association before his election to the Saigon City Council in 1952, near the end of French colonial rule.
Rise to power
He moved up to the national legislature and was speaker of the Constituent Assembly in the 1950s and the majority leader of the Assembly after that. In 1961, President Ngo Dinh Diem appointed him ambassador to Australia and New Zealand.
A soft-spoken urbane diplomat fluent in French and English, he remained in the post after Diem's assassination in 1963. Mr. Lam returned to private life as chairman of the Vietnam Commercial and Industrial Bank from 1964 to 1967. In 1969 he became the Minister for Foreign Affairs of South Vietnam.
All Points of the Compass A Vietnamese Diaspora (2005) Directed by Judy Rymer, Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Charles Trần Van Lam had the ill-fated destiny to be foreign minister of South Vietnam during the devastating war with the North. He was a patriot, committed to seeing his country emerge from its colonial history. He was also the father of nine children, who with his wife formed a seemingly privileged family, which dined together, had vacations at the beach, learned musical instruments, and were instilled with their Vietnamese identity. As the war intensified, he and his wife made provisions for the children to leave the country. The nine children were dispersed to Australia, France, the U.S. and Scotland. The hope was that they would be educated abroad and bring their talents back to their native country.
That was not to be. Trần Van Lam was betrayed by the United States, his ally against the North. While he was a delegate to the Paris peace talks, Henry Kissinger secretly arranged the pull out with the North. Fortunate to be airlifted out at the fall of Saigon, he and his wife finally emigrated to Australia with one small bag, where they ultimately opened a coffee shop.
The adult children, now in mid -career with families of their own, speak poignantly about their experience of dislocation.They each longed to be re-united as a family and had to struggle to forge a new identity in a foreign land. They were all deeply affected by their father's expectations to become accomplished and"give back." Each one feels "multicultural." All Points of the Compass is at once a gripping portrait of the "immigrant experience" and a new perspective on the American role in the Vietnam War.
Best Documentary, ACT Film Awards, 2004 Bilan du Film Ethnographic, Paris, 2005
- http://www.abc.net.au/tv/guide/netw/200505/programs/ZY7551A001D1052005T193000.htm "All Points of the Compass" ABC TV Guide
- http://www.abc.net.au/abccontentsales/s1171924.htm www.abc.net.au/abccontentsales/s1171924.htm
- http://www.theage.com.au/news/TV--Radio/A-loving-story/2005/04/27/1114462046661.html "A Loving Story" The Age, 28 April 2005
- http://nla.gov.au/nla.cs-pa-HTTP%253A%252F%252FNAA12.NAA.GOV.AU%252FSCRIPTS%252FSEARCHOLD.ASP%253FO%253DPSI2%2526NUMBER%253D8905763 - Charles Tran Van Lam presenting a cheque to the University of Sydney Chancellor on 6 October 1963
- http://www.rummage.com.au/AAPView.aspx?id=101432 - Article: 22 April 2005, Sydney
- http://timelines.ws/countries/VIETNAMA.HTML Vietnam Timeline from 600 BC through 1973
- http://www.nixonlibrary.gov/forresearchers/find/tapes/finding_aids/january1973.php Nixom White House Tapes