On the ninth anniversary of the Mylai massacre, $150,000 in American contributions were presented to the government of Vietnam today to build a 100 bed hospital on the massacre site, as a gesture of reconciliation.
The donation by 12,852 Americans was presentated here this morning by Friendshipment, a coalition of 45 religious and peace groups providing reconstruction aid to Vietnam, to Pham Duong, conselor of Vietnam's observer mission at the United Nations.
Construction work on the hsopital, to be built along the lines of 10 district hospitals being established in Vietnam by UNICEF, is to start in several weeks and should be completed by the end of this year, according to Cora Weiss, the longtime antiwar astivist who spoke on behalf of Friendshipment.
"We hope this gesture of helping to rebuild what our government destroyed will serve as a demonstration to the President and the Congress that the American people will support a government move to help heal the wounds of war," Weiss said at the presentation ceremony.
Duong, in his response, made no direct reference to the Mylai massacre, in which several hundred Vitnamese civilians were killed by American troops on March 16, 1968.
"It is hard for us to forget the war," Duong said, "because we are dealing with the aftermath every day. But we are willing to put enmity behind us, and work to strengthen friendship with the American people. This will certainly help to promote understanding and friendship."
The presentation also coincided with the arrival in Hanoi of a presidential commission headed by United Auto Workers Union President Leonard Woodcock, which is to investing the fate of the Americans missing in action in Indochina, and to discuss the normalization of relations with Vietnam.
Duong ducked the questions on the Woodcock mission, and simply reaffirmed the Hanoi position that "We are ready to take into consideration questions of concern to the American side and the American side should take into consideration questions of concern to us."
These phrases are Vietnamese shorthand for saying that Hanoi expects U. S. agreement on Vietnam's addmission to the United Nations and on aid Vietnamese re-construction, in return for the MIA data.
Duong also said he would attend Thursday's speech at the United Nations by President Carter and the reception afterward in Carter's honor, given by Secretary General Kurt Waldheim.
But he insisted that this represented simply his delegation's participation in the full panoply activities taking place at U. N. headquarters, and should not be seen as a gesture to the United States of to the Carter administration.
At the end of the presentation Weiss gave Duong a framed stainless stell plaque, to be hung in th Mylai hospital, on which is inscribed in Vietnamese a message that reads:
"Friendshipment Hospital - a gift of friendship from the American people."