By KEIJI HIRANO Kyodo News
Members of a Japanese group that campaigned against the Vietnam War will visit Ho Chi Minh City later this month to donate materials and documents detailing their activities in the 1960s and 1970s to the state-run War Remnants Museum. About 30 members of the Japan Peace for Vietnam! Committee also plan to exchange views with Vietnamese politicians and intellectuals about how they see the 21st century following the events of Sept. 11, they said.
The committee, known in Japan as Beheiren, campaigned vigorously against Tokyo's involvement in the war and helped U.S. deserters escape between 1965 and 1974.
Influential antiwar activists from around the world, including Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Joan Baez and Noam Chomsky, supported the group.
Last summer, committee members were approached by a college lecturer teaching Japanese in Vietnam and a Japanese travel agent who suggested they donate materials on the history of peace activities in Japan as the museum plans to expand soon.
The facility has a section on antiwar materials from various countries, but there is little about the Japanese group, they said.
"We thought donating Beheiren documents would be a good idea and started collecting them," said 53-year-old committee member Shinobu Yoshioka, a well-known nonfiction writer.
According to the group, some 350,000 people visit the museum every year, including some 80,000 Japanese.
The materials they have gathered include badges and posters with slogans against the Vietnam War, as well as journals published by pacifist soldiers stationed at U.S. military bases in Japan.
"We also found a protest bib demanding the U.S. withdraw from Vietnam," said Yoshioka. "A Japanese white-collar worker wore it for eight years on his daily commute."
The committee had no formal membership system and anyone who participated could be called a member. Followers formed at least 381 groups at schools, workplaces and communities across Japan.
Members have produced a 50-minute DVD for the museum that focuses on Japan's involvement in the war and how the committee opposed it.
The disc features narrations in Vietnamese, Japanese and English for the benefit of visitors to the museum, Yoshioka said.
The DVD says the group helped 20 U.S. deserters, in some cases by providing them with forged passports. It also says Japanese civic movements discovered civil disobedience through their activities.
The Vietnam trip may become a reunion of Japanese activists, but Yoshioka said he wants it to help participants and Vietnamese they meet consider the current world situation.
"I'm afraid that we have become insensitive to the fact that ordinary people are killed indiscriminately in military operations, as we have seen in Afghanistan recently," he said. "I hope we'll be able to talk with Vietnamese people, who endured hardships during the war, in order to sharpen our senses."
He also said he expects the talks with Vietnamese intellectuals, including novelists, filmmakers and professors, to help them understand how the world will be in the future.
The Japan Times: Feb. 16, 2002 (C) All rights reserved
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