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Asides May 2013

(No.4, Vol.3, May 2013 Vietnam Heritage Magazine)

Paintings for the dead
Thethaovanhoa.vn, 9 April
Vietnam’s first art exhibition for the dead was held in April at Truong Son National Martyrs’ Cemetery, in the central province of Quang Tri.
The two-day exhibition, initiated by artist Tran Nhat Thang, aims to commemorate national heroic martyrs.
96 paintings from artists across the country were hung on trees at the cemetery. 60 of them were burnt after display. Burning offerings are seen as a way to send the offerings to the dead.

A rose by any other name
english.vietnamnet.vn, 16 April
On 12 April, the Committee for Amendment to the 1992 Constitution submitted to the National Assembly the new draft constitution and the explanatory report on the acceptance of people's opinions.
The draft includes an option to change the country’s name from Socialist Republic of Vietnam to Democratic Republic of Vietnam, its former name.

Influential Vietnamese
tuoitrenews.vn, 2 May
ASEAN Secretary General Le Luong Minh is the sole Vietnamese representative in Foreign Policy magazine's list of the 500 most powerful people in the world. China has more than 30 people on the list.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Indian leader Manmohan Singh and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un are among the most noticeable Asian names on the list.
Vietnamese veteran diplomat Le Luong Minh, 61, officially took leadership of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) early this year.
Minh is the first Vietnamese to head ASEAN. Minh graduated from Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam and Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, India.
He used to be the head of Vietnam’s permanent delegation at the United Nations and Vietnam's Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Hanoi hungers for books
At a free book-reading stall at the ‘Book reading and the reading culture’, fair which was held at Van Mieu-Quoc Tu Giam, Vietnam’s first university, in Hanoi, colorful straps dangled loosely, each with a book at the end.
Sweating in the heat, kids and their relatives crammed into the stall, voraciously reading from the hanging books.
The stall was packed at all times during the day, with several waiting outside for a seat.
The books were hung for a simple reason: to keep them from being stolen.
‘At our free book-reading stalls held in the past, we always had books stolen. In the morning, there were plenty of books, but many of them were gone by evening. We have no choice but to hang the books like this,’ said a stall attendant.

Most Vietnamese books are school books
english.vietnamnet.vn, 25 April
Textbooks account for up to 75 percent of the 400 million books published in Vietnam, according to the Publication Department.
According to the General Statistics Office, in 2011, Vietnam had 14,782,000 students and the total population was 87.84 million.
The disparity between the percentage of textbooks and reading books shows that adults read too little.

Using the noodle
tuoitrenews.vn, 26 April
Vietnam ranks 4th in instant noodle consumption, with an annual consumption of more than 5 billion units, according to the Japan-based World Instant Noodles Association. It comes after China, Indonesia and Japan.
Statistics released later last year by the Ministry of Industry and Trade showed that the country had 50 producers, resulting in an annual output of 50 billion packets of instant noodles and that an average Vietnamese person consumed one to three units of instant noodles per week.


‘Unclaimed’ vet
In Unclaimed, a new documentary by Canadian director Michael Jorgensen, filmmakers follow a 76-year-old man discovered in the Vietnamese jungle who claims to be a former Green Beret pining for his American family, according to National Post of Canada of 1 May.
In the movie, Mr Jorgenson explores the story of Master Sgt. John Hartley Robertson, a Green Beret whose helicopter was shot down over Laos in 1968.
The film’s premiere was at Toronto’s Hot Docs festival in April.
But, according to U.S. authorities, the film’s producers have simply been taken in by a well-known Vietnamese con man.
In response, the film-makers note that the story they’re telling is that of Vietnam veteran Tom Faunce, who journeys to South Asia to meet the man claiming to be Master Sgt. Robertson.
According to a recently declassified 2009 Defence Department memo, the man claiming to be Master Sgt. Robertson is actually Dang Tan Ngoc, a Vietnamese citizen of French origin with a history of making false claims to U.S. authorities.
Mr Ngoc first approached the U.S. military with claims he was Master Sgt. Robertson in 2006. Officials said they received a purported biography in support of the claims that gave a non-existent high school and bogus U.S. home address for Master Sgt. Robertson, whose name was even rendered incorrectly.
‘Most recently, in late 2008 Mr Ngoc again posed as Mr Robertson and was taken to the U.S. embassy in Phnom Penh where he was fingerprinted,’ according to a recently declassified document.
‘The fingerprints were subsequently evaluated by the FBI, which concluded Mr Ngoc’s fingerprints did not match those in SFC Robertson’s records.’
Mr Ngoc, who has a wife and children in Vietnam, would have been entitled to back pay and veterans’ benefits from the American government if it had been established that he was indeed Master Sgt. Robertson.
In the film, the man claiming to be Master Sgt. Robertson cannot speak English and cannot remember the names of his American family.
Nevertheless, he purports that after being held in a North Vietnamese prison for four years, he escaped and married a Vietnamese woman, who gave him the name of her dead husband, a slain Vietnamese soldier.
The film climaxes with a meeting in which Mr Ngoc meets Sgt. Robertson’s only surviving sister, Jean Robertson Holly, who is seen embracing Mr Ngoc and testifying to his ‘true’ identity in the documentary.
‘There’s no question,’ she says in the film. ‘When I held his head in my hands and looked in his eyes, there was no question that was my brother.’
Notably, the family of Master Sgt. Robertson refuses in the film to get a DNA test to ensure their blood relation
‘My family is at peace and this is who he is. If the world doesn’t believe us, that’s fine,’ Robertson relative Gail Metcalf told a Toronto Star reporter at the time of the film’s premiere.

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