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Tácgiả: dchph gởiđăng vàongày Mar.23.2017
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Tácgiả: dchph gởiđăng vàongày Mar.4.2017
| Zanna K. McKay, |
Special for USA TODAY
The quickly-changing skyline of Ho Chi Minh City, once known as Saigon. Photographer Alexandre Garel will release his book of photographs documenting heritage sites, and often their destruction, over the last five years.
(Photo: Alexandre Garel)
HO CHI MINH CITY — Once an architectural gem emblematic of Vietnam’s era as a French colony, the Tax Trade Center with its iconic Art Deco facade is now mostly rubble.
Despite a petition drive spearheaded by a growing historic preservation movement, the building was demolished in recent months. In its place, developers plan a 43-story complex with a connection to the first subway line in the city.
The Tax Center, built in 1924, is one of many historic buildings in the last 20 years that have been razed or severely altered, according to a joint French-Vietnamese government research center.
Preservationists say developers and government officials are intent on making this city modern and care little for the vestiges of its colonial past. But destroying so many historic buildings, they warn, makes the city less livable and less attractive to tourists — which could undercut economic growth the government hopes to foster.
“The more people get caught up in a consumerist lifestyle, the more difficult it is to address what are considered ‘luxury’ concerns like heritage preservation,” said architect Tran Huu Khoa, 27, a leader of the petition drive that couldn’t save the Tax Trade Center. “But I’m optimistic that a strong civil movement is growing in Vietnam.”
The Heritage Observatory website launched in late January, open to anyone who wants to call attention to any threatened historical building in any Vietnamese city. The information will be relayed to government and civil groups who could intervene.
The government has no such system in place. Researchers, historians and others involved in architectural preservation say a comprehensive inventory is a critical first step in raising awareness about the value of historical architecture.
“We cannot preserve or protect anything if we don’t know where it is,” said Daniel Caune, the French software developer behind the website, who has worked in Vietnam for seven years. The Heritage Observatory already has 130,000 historic photos with captions archived.
Caune is also developing an iPhone app that would prompt users to take photos of heritage sites they visit, simultaneously educating them and using geolocation to place the sites on a map.
Caune is counting on Facebook groups such as “Saïgon Chợ Lớn: Then & Now” which has 5,500 members who post historical and current photos of heritage sites in Ho Chi Minh City. Caune and Tim Doling, a British historian and the creator of the Facebook group, say Vietnamese young people are in the forefront of the preservation movement.
Kevin Doan, an architect in Ho Chi Minh City who is an organizer of Heritage Observatory events, said food shortages and housing were the main concerns after the war ended. “Now that the economy has opened up and people of the older generation have some money, they consider building a new house to be a big improvement.”
“But more and more young people are registering for heritage preservation organizations,” he said.
Young people are getting involved despite the risks associated with openly opposing their government. The arrest of a well-known current-events blogger who went by the moniker “Mother Mushroom,” shows that a crackdown on dissent remains a threat.
Caune hopes Heritage Observatory will serve as a comprehensive catalogue of historic buildings, regardless of whether they’re targeted for destruction.
“This isn’t just a heritage issue, it’s an economic issue,” said Mark Bowyer, who runs the website rustycompass.com, and has written extensively about Vietnam’s tourism sector. “Saigon’s reckless heritage destruction hurts tourism — but even worse, it hurts the city’s livability, its global brand and in turn, its long-term economic interests. Heritage is no longer a niche interest for foreigners in Vietnam.”
An Pham, 18, an engineering student working with Caune to put the first sites on Heritage Observatory, pointed to Hoi An, a town in central Vietnam, as an example of what can happen when historical sites are preserved and promoted for tourism.
The town center, Hoi An Ancient Town, is a UNESCO world heritage site. It is owned by the state, which declared it a national cultural site in 1985. The long-term plan is to link it to nearby Cu Lao Cham Biosphere Reserve and designate the area Vietnam’s first “eco-town.”
Late last year, a $1.5 billion development, New Hoi An City, opened on beachfront property adjacent to the town limits. It includes condos, shopping malls and offices. Developers are promoting it as “The heart of Vietnam tourism.”
Vietnam’s century-old French villas and colonial-era government buildings are a draw for the 8 million tourists who visit the country every year.
“Even in France we don’t have so many examples of the beautiful wrought-iron railings and staircases that you see here,” said French Consul General Emmanuel Ly-Batallan.
Heavy roofs are designed to withstand typhoons and large windows placed strategically to catch the breeze. The consulate, now dwarfed by a skyscraper under construction, is considered one of the best-preserved examples of the architecture of Cochinchina, the French name for southern Vietnam.
A proposal from Ho Chi Minh City’s Council for Planning and Architecture to limit demolition of privately owned villas to those deemed to have little historical and cultural value, is currently awaiting approval from city authorities. The biggest hurdle would be setting aside funds to help owners maintain historic buildings. Many owners demolish villas reluctantly, saying they are dilapidated.
Last summer, for example, a centrally-located villa with rows of carved columns and arches was partially demolished before neighbors pleaded with local officials to intervene. Tuoi Tre newspaper reported the owner spent 10 months seeking permission to tear it down before he started demolition. The villa is still standing, partly destroyed, while the owner awaits a decision from the government.
Owner Pham Cong Luan told Saigon Giai Phong newspaper the demands of modern life and lack of concern by local officials make the villa hard to maintain.
Protests and petitions often have little effect, particularly when the developer is wealthy. The Ba Son Shipyard, built in 1790 for the Vietnamese royal navy, was demolished in 2015, even though it had been designated a national heritage site.
It was sold to private corporations for development. A riverside complex with luxury housing surrounded by a park, a cultural center and a transportation hub is under construction where it used to stand. Multiple 60-story skyscrapers also are planned.
“In the eyes of many people worried about heritage conservation, that [destroying the Ba Son shipyard> situation kind of summarized what was wrong in the city,” said Doling.
Inside the Ba Son shipyard as it was being demolished in 2015. The shipyard still had many original French workshop buildings, including several examples of industrial architecture from the 1880s. (Photo: Aleandre Garel)
A $5 billion bid from the South Korean development company EUNSAN for the shipyard was turned down in favor of a bid from Vinhomes, the largest real estate development company in Vietnam, for an undisclosed amount. Pham Nhat Vuong, the founder of Vingroup, which is the parent company of Vinhomes, became Vietnam’s first billionaire in 2013, according to Forbes.
Historic preservation can be a tough sell in Ho Chi Minh City’s economic climate. One of the city’s oldest churches, Thu Thiem Parish — built in 1875 — also is slated for demolition to make way for a $1.2 billion development.
The petition to save the Tax Trade Center, which garnered 3,500 signatures, gained enough public attention that developers promised to save certain elements of the building and add them to the façade of the new skyscraper.
The Tax Center’s double staircase, resplendent with intricate handmade Moroccan mosaic tiles, was one of the leading examples in the world of the French colonial fascination with the art of North Africa. The owners also agreed to preserve the original mosaics from inside the building, but the staircase was destroyed and the tiles were removed without saying what will be done with them.
As the trove of historical architecture dwindles, the momentum for protecting it is building.
“There’s no reason to destroy it all,” said An Pham, the engineering student. There is plenty of room in the city for both historic buildings and new development, he said. “But people believe they can’t make any money from heritage sites.”
This story was produced in collaboration with Round Earth Media www.RoundEarthMedia.org a non-profit organization supporting young foreign global correspondents.
Tácgiả: dchph gởiđăng vàongày Feb.27.2017
|By: Tran Anh Minh|
In this Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017 photo, Nguyen Thi Xuan sits on her bed in Hanoi, Vietnam. Many Vietnamese women married to Japanese soldiers saw their families split up, but today, the former foes enjoy strong bilateral ties, with Japan and Vietnam cooperating economically as well as in other areas.
HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — When Nguyen Thi Xuan said goodbye to her Japanese husband in 1954, she thought he was going off for a year or two on another long assignment. She never imagined it would be more than half a century before she'd see him again.
Like many Vietnamese women married to Japanese soldiers, Xuan's family was split up, victimized by the stormy relationship between the countries.
Today, the former foes enjoy strong bilateral ties, with Japan and Vietnam cooperating economically as well as in other areas, including defense and security.
In a sign of just how far the relationship has come, several surviving widows and families of former Japanese soldiers — including Xuan — will have an opportunity to meet with Japanese Emperor Akihito when he visits Vietnam for the first time this week.
Japanese troops invaded Vietnam in 1940 and remained there until Japan surrendered to the allies in 1945, ending World War II. Xuan's husband, however, was among some 700 Japanese soldiers who remained in Vietnam after revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh declared independence from French colonial rule in 1945.
The Japanese soldiers helped train Ho Chi Minh's Viet Minh to fight the French. But after the Viet Minh defeated the colonial forces in 1954, Xuan's husband was one of 71 former Japanese soldiers who had to leave the communist North without being able to bring their families, because Japan was on the other side of the Cold War. He left behind his two children and his pregnant 29-year-old wife.
"I thought he was on an assignment for one or two years, but we then had no information about him," Xuan, 92, said recently.
She said that after not hearing from her husband for six years, she and her family thought he had died, and set up an altar to worship him.
Xuan had to raise her three children on her own by working on a rice farm in a village outside Hanoi. Villagers would call her Xuan Nhat, or Japanese Xuan, mocking her marriage to a Japanese man. Her children also were mocked.
"People called me Japanese son, son of a fascist. There used to be a lot of discrimination. But it is better now," said Nguyen Xuan Phi, Xuan's eldest son.
But anti-Japanese sentiment started to dissipate after communist Vietnam launched reforms in the mid-1980s and opened up to the outside world in the early 1990s.
In 2005, Xuan learned that her husband was alive and living in Japan through a Vietnamese woman living in the country with her Japanese husband, also a former soldier. The following year, Xuan's husband, who had married a Japanese woman, arranged to visit her.
Xuan said she was very happy to see him again after all those years.
"You look great," Xuan quoted her husband as telling her in still fluent Vietnamese when they reunited.
"Yes, I'm fine. I still have been waiting for you," she said she told her husband, who was in a wheelchair after suffering a stroke and visited Xuan with his Japanese wife. Xuan has not remarried, and her husband died several years after his 2006 visit.
While Xuan's family was unable to stay together, when the last group of Japanese soldiers was asked by communist North Vietnam to leave in 1960, they were allowed to bring their families.
But Hoang Thi Thanh Hoai's father, the son of a Japanese soldier, decided to stay behind to take care of his Vietnamese grandmother. He did not reunite with his brothers and sisters in Japan until 1995, when he and Hoai spent six weeks in Japan visiting their relatives.
Hoai, who is now 43 and works at a Japanese eye clinic in Hanoi, decided to study Japanese after seeing how her father was unable to communicate with his siblings after reuniting with them.
"Learning Japanese helps me feel like a bridge of my two families, and more broadly a bridge between Vietnam and Japan," she said.
Today, Japan is Vietnam's biggest foreign donor and one of its top investors and trading partners.
Even defense and security ties have gotten closer in recent years, with both countries facing maritime disputes with China. During a visit to Vietnam in January, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged to provide Vietnam with new patrol vessels.
The upcoming visit by Emperor Akihito, whose six-day trip starts Tuesday, further underscores the strength of the bilateral relationship.
Xuan is scheduled to meet Akihito on Thursday. For her, the opportunity to meet the emperor comes late in her life, but is something she's looking forward to.
"I am too old, even my children are getting old," Xuan said in her small home, the walls decorated with photos of her husband and other family members. "I just hope the two governments could take better care of my grandchildren, who are also grandchildren of Japanese people, so that they could have an education and jobs."
Tácgiả: dchph gởiđăng vàongày Feb.17.2017
| Koh Swee Lean Collin |
The Vietnam People’s Navy is shifting from sea denial to counter-intervention.
(Image: Gepard-class frigate. Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons/Detmar Modes)
In 1287, Gen. Omar Khan of the Yuan Dynasty led a sizeable invasion force, including numerous war junks, against Dai Viet (present day Vietnam). With battle-hardened Mongols forming the vanguard, it seemed as if the campaign would be a walkover for China. But a naval battle the following year proved otherwise. In the estuary of the Bach Dang River near Ha Long Bay, Dai Viet general Tran Hung Dao repeated the feat accomplished by the earlier, celebrated general Ngo Quyen against the Southern Han Chinese invaders, back in the year 938.
Following Ngo’s approach, Tran planted iron-tipped stakes in the river’s northern distributaries—Chanh, Kenh and Rut—and waited until high tide to lure the Mongol fleet into the shallow waters. When the tide turned, those Mongol war junks were impaled upon those stakes. The much smaller Dai Viet war canoes then swarmed around the trapped Mongol fleet and their crews hurled “mud oil” grenades—little ceramic bottles filled with naphtha and sealed with betel-nut husk, which also acted as a fuse when lit—at the immobile war junks, setting them and their hapless crews ablaze. The Battle of Bach Dang saw grievous losses to the Yuan invasion fleet.
But unlike the battle in 938, which contributed to the end of the first Chinese domination over Dai Viet, the naval victory in 1288 did not alter the bilateral relationship—the Tran Dynasty accepted Yuan suzerainty until the latter’s demise.
The two naval battles at Bach Dang, and contemporary examples in the French Indochina Wars and the Vietnam War, as well as the brief but bloody Sino-Vietnamese border war in the late 1970s, highlighted Vietnamese ingenuity in conducting asymmetric warfare against a stronger foe. Yet the Battle of Bach Dang constituted a rare example of how the Vietnamese could pull off what were essentially land-based tactics in the maritime realm. Also of note is the fact that the naval battles at Bach Dang were fought in shallow waters close to the Vietnamese shores, instead of the open waters of the South China Sea, where Mongol war junks could optimize their combat performance.
No wonder, then, that in March 1988 the Vietnamese suffered a defeat at Chinese hands during a clash in the open waters of the disputed Spratly Islands. The Chinese navy proved more than a match for the Vietnamese, unaccustomed to fighting naval battles in the open waters, who found themselves outnumbered and outgunned. That battle was an attempt to stop the Chinese from encroaching upon what Hanoi claimed as sovereign territory in the Spratlys, and with the Vietnamese forces extended so far from the Vietnamese coast and shorn of quick and substantial reinforcements, the outcome of that battle was quick and decisive. Retaking those features, forcibly snatched from Vietnamese hands following the naval skirmish, was out of the question for Hanoi’s political and military leaders.
The Vietnamese were cognizant of their naval limitations. There was no way they could repeat their ancestors’ feat at Bach Dang against the Chinese. Hence, it has been taken for granted—almost by conventional wisdom—that in view of the gaping and still growing naval asymmetry between the Chinese and Vietnamese, Hanoi must adhere to a sea-denial strategy. Essentially, sea denial envisages denying or disrupting the adversary’s access to maritime areas of interest, while denying the one practicing this strategy free use of the same space. Wu Shang-su, for instance, has argued that Vietnam, standing little chance against Chinese military aggression, has no choice but to adopt a sea denial strategy. Furthermore, he added, a sea-denial strategy fits well within the broader ambit of Hanoi’s post–Cold War policy, emphasizing such principles as independence, non-alliance and defensive defense.
There is also a fiscal imperative, given that Vietnam continues to prioritize its socioeconomic development set in motion under the “Doi Moi” (Renovation) reforms, under way since the early 1990s (also a time that saw a downsizing in the manpower of the People’s Army of Vietnam). “The state budget is still limited while we have to invest in many significant areas such as transport infrastructure, resources for socio-economic development, welfare for the people who served the country well, healthcare and education,” said then defense minister Gen. Phung Quang Thanh in December 2014, who added, “so investment in defense should be taken gradually and be suited to our capabilities. We have two parallel tasks: protecting and building the country. We do not underestimate any of them but if we focus too many resources on defense, we will lack investment in development. Because of a lack of investment in development, we will lack future resources for investment in defense.”
Yet it would be misleading to view the Vietnamese as fatalistic. They have long recognized the limits of a traditional sea-denial approach, and thus have sought to enhance their strategy to forestall Chinese military aggression in the South China Sea.
As Hanoi’s navy has just received its final Russian-built Kilo-class diesel-electric submarine, and is on the cusp of operationalizing a complete submarine squadron within 2017, the image of a sea-denial-centered Vietnamese naval strategy is still in place. While it is true that a submarine, especially a conventionally powered one, is commonly associated with sea denial, it is necessary to look beyond this attribute in the Vietnamese case. All six boats are not only equipped for sea denial in the traditional sense—torpedoes and mines, for example—but they also possess Russian-made Klub-S sea-launched land-attack cruise missiles (SLCM) that can hit targets as far away as three hundred kilometers—well within the Missile Technology Control Regime, which places restrictions on exports of certain offensive missile systems to non-signatory states.
Long-time Vietnam military watcher Carlyle Thayer has opined that Vietnam’s SLCMs would be employed against Chinese ports and airfields, such as the Sanya naval base on Hainan Island, rather than cities arrayed along the southern Chinese mainland coast. This counterforce role would still fit well within Hanoi’s strategically defensive deterrent strategy, but acquiring such an offensive capability would certainly depart from a sea-denial approach. There is no way the Vietnamese can hope to forestall Chinese aggression without the means to raise the costs for Beijing—the potential destruction wreaked upon its forward-deployed naval forces in Sanya being one such instance.
If anything, Russia’s feat during its campaign in Syria in late 2015 demonstrated that it is feasible for small naval forces to conduct limited, expeditionary force projection. The Kilo boat Rostov-on-Don became the first conventionally powered submarine to launch SLCMs in deep, inland penetration strikes. However, the Russians could manage this by leveraging on their extensive command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) capabilities, such as GLONASS satellite navigation, to allow the missiles to fly smoothly over wide swathes of the Middle Eastern land mass. The Vietnamese has a fledgling C4ISR program, focusing on unmanned aerial vehicles and remote-sensing microsatellites. Its current satellite-based targeting capability relies on commercially obtained satellite imagery—far from useful to carry out inland strikes.
Nonetheless, this shortfall would not hamper Vietnam’s counterforce ability against coastal targets. Without the strategic depth and naturally formed terrestrial features to shield it, China’s Sanya naval base is exposed to overwater missile strikes, which do not require C4ISR targeting capabilities like those for deep penetration attacks. And Hanoi is only keen to enhance the ability to punish Beijing and raise the costs of its aggression, beyond those submarines it has acquired. Referring to the Kilos, back in September 2014 a military official in Hanoi remarked that “they are not our sole weapon, but part of a number of weapons we are developing to better protect our sovereignty.”
So, to that end, Vietnam has made further moves to put into effect a more robust counter-intervention strategy that signals a departure from a traditional sea-denial approach. For example, its marines have trained for “island recapture” in the Spratlys—unthinkable back in 1988. In May 2016, Vietnam was reportedly negotiating with Russia the purchase of a third pair of Gepard 3.9–class light guided-missile frigates. What is so special about this purchase is that Hanoi wants these new ships to be armed with the Klub SLCMs. One recalls that the Russian Navy’s Caspian Flotilla corvettes—in the same size category as the Gepard 3.9s—along with the submarine Rostov-on-Don had proven that small surface warships are capable of launching SLCM attacks. Hanoi apparently caught on, and became inspired by Moscow’s feat.
The Vietnamese may not be oblivious to the fact that, like the battle of Bach Dang in 1288, any foreseeable war in the South China Sea with Beijing would result in a preordained strategic victory for the latter. But Hanoi has gradually shifted away from a traditional sea-denial strategy to one that would raise the cost of Chinese aggression. The completion of its submarine squadron in 2017 is just the first major step towards this direction. Vietnam’s modern-day versions of war canoes and “mud oil” incendiary antiship weapons now carries a wholly new significance.
Koh Swee Lean Collin is research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, based in Singapore. He specializes in research on Southeast Asian naval affairs. He would like to thank Robert Haddick, Visiting Research Fellow at the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, for his comments and suggestions.