You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Long Tan cancellation `kick in the guts'

AAP logoAAP 17/08/2016 By Rashida Yosufzai

Malcolm Turnbull has issued a stern rebuke to the Vietnamese government over its last-minute ban on 50th anniversary commemorations for the battle of Long Tan.

"This decision and especially its timing shows a disregard for those Australians who have in good faith travelled to Vietnam to participate in this week's events," the prime minister told a Long Tan dinner in Canberra on Wednesday.

Mr Turnbull was trying to phone his Vietnamese counterpart to make his disappointment over the decision known while also seeking a change of heart.

His veteran's affairs minister was stronger in his disappointment, labelling the decision a "kick in the guts".

"I don't think this is the way that you should treat a friend," Dan Tehan said.

There are now concerns that about 1000 veterans who have travelled to Vietnam will be "shattered" after planning and paying for their trips.

The Vietnamese government cited concerns about "deep sensitivities" over the battle and the impact the commemorations could have on the local community.

It comes after about 18 months of cooperation between the two countries to organise the event.

Mr Tehan insists the Australian government was aware of the sensitivities and had planned a "low-key" ceremony.

Memorial events have been held at Long Tan since 1989.

"My real hope is that we will see a change of heart by the Vietnamese government," Mr Tehan said.

"One of the bitterly, bitterly disappointing things about what has occurred is the fact that this decision has taken place with such short notice."

Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia president Ken Foster said veterans would be devastated.

"To be told at the last minute to sit in their hotel or sit in a bar because they can't go where they want to go - they'll be shattered," he told reporters in Canberra.

The Department of Foreign Affairs understands private access to the site will still be permitted.

An official party including the Australian and New Zealand ambassadors will still lay a wreath at the cross site on Thursday.

Mr Tehan said the government's assessment was that the decision was based on sensitivities relating to the battle of Long Tan and not any other aspect of Vietnam-Australia relations.

Commemorations were going ahead in Australian on Wednesday evening - including an event at Parliament House in Canberra - and will also be held on Thursday.

The federal opposition has backed the Australian government.

"The cancellation of the service, at such short notice, is shocking and deeply upsetting for the veterans and families from both countries who have travelled to commemorate this important event," Labor leader Bill Shorten said in a statement.

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon