Vietnamese runners target Olympics qualification 

Truong Thanh Hang (L) and Vu Thi Huong are training hard to qualify for the 2012 Olympics in London.

Sprint queen Vu Thi Huong and middle distance runner (800m, 1,500m) Truong Thanh Hang are training hard to qualify for the 2012 Olympics in London.

Local experts say the athletes should concentrate on the Olympics rather than the Southeast Asian Games in Indonesia in November where they should be defending their titles easily because as are no strong rivals in the region.

Huong and Hang both participated in the 2008 Olympics in China but they did so with wild card entries, not after qualifying. This time, they want to qualify.

Nguyen Manh Hung, deputy general Secretary of Vietnam Athletics Federation (VAF), said, “There are strong grounds for our ambition because Hang and Huong are at their peak.

“With a double budget of US$160,000 this year, we can make big track and field investments. For the first time, Huong, Hang and Le Ngoc Phuong will train in Germany at an expense of $44,000. We will also put VND150-170 million ($7,200-8,100) into cash prize funds.”

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) is yet to announce an official requirement for qualification for the 2012 Olympics, but it is likely to be below 11.30 seconds for the 100m race, the benchmark for the 2008 Olympics.

“My personal best was at the Southeast Asian Games in 2009 where I did the 100m in 11.34 seconds. That is 0.4 seconds more than the Olympic qualification requirement. At the Asian Games in China in 2010, I won the bronze medal but I covered the 100m in 11.43 seconds. That’s why I must train hard now. I’m leaving for Germany on April 18 for a training course and I hope the 3-week training in Cologne and Frankfurt will improve my performance,” Huong told Thanh Nien.

Coach Nguyen Dinh Minh said, “It will be extremely hard to improve Huong’s performance, but we are determined to make it better. The main tests will be the Asian Track and Field Championships in Kobe (Japan, July 7-10), the World Track and Field Championships in Daegu (South Korea, August 27 till September 4) and the 26th Southeast Asian Games in Indonesia in November.”

Thanh Hang’s coach Ho Thi Tu Tam said, “Hang will train in China from May 1-28 before going to Germany for more training.”

German expert Uwe Freimuth, who is also training Hang, has said that Hang, who finished second in the women’s 800m and 1,500m races at the Asian Games in China in 2010, can qualify for the London Olympics.

A VFA website report said, “Uwe has suggested making Asian Games runner-up Hang one of the world’s top 10 in her category, which no Vietnamese expert has ever thought of before. However, Hang’s performances at the 16th Asian Games in China in 2010 have made VAF believe in Uwe Freimuth’s suggestion."

Hang herself said, “To be in the world top 10 is a dream for any athlete; but I know I must do more, especially in nutrition and technical skills.”

DTLA moves into relegation zone after home loss 


Dong Tam Long An (DTLA) were thrashed lost 0-3 at the Long An Stadium by Da Nang in the ninth round of Vietnam’s top-tier V-League football tournament on Sunday.

It might be too early to say the 2005-06 champs will be relegated to the second-tier First Division, but if the dismal form continues, it looks as a distinct possibility.

The absence of a real matchmaker for DTLA was made glaring by the role played by Da Nang midfielder Minh Phuong.

Phuong, who transferred from DTLA to Da Nang before the league kicked off, made neat passes to the visitors’ strikers and Ngoc Thanh scored a brace before Gaston Merlo scored the third.

There was a controversial event in the match when referee Nguyen Duc Vu awarded a goal from a free kick to the home team, but changed his mind and denied it.

While the visitors were leading 1-0, Kassim’s 48th -minute free kick hit the shoulder of home team striker Thanh Binh while he was in an offside position before going into Da Nang’s net.

The decision let to arguments between the players and coach Simon McMenemy.

DTLA now remain in 13th position out of 14 teams with just six points while Sunday winners Da Nang, title winners in 2009, retain their third place standing with 17 points.

Meanwhile, Song Lam Nghe An climbed one position to top with 19 points after a 1-0 away win over Navibank Saigon at Ho Chi Minh’s Thong Nhat Stadium on Thursday. Navibank Saigon slid one spot to seventh with 12 points.

Nghe An’s climb was made possible because Dong Thap with 17 points slid from top place to second after a 0-3 away defeat to Thanh Hoa at the Thanh Hoa Stadium on Sunday. Thanh Hoa with 12 points still remained in 12th spot despite their impressive victory.

Khanh Hoa’s 2-1 home win at Nha Trang Stadium lifted it up one place to fourth with 16 points while their opponents Hoang Anh Gia Lai, 2003-04 champs, fell one position to fifth with 13 points.

Defending champs Hanoi T&T climbed one place to sixth with 13 points while 2007-08 champs Binh Duong slid one spot to ninth with 12 points after both teams fought to a goalless draw Thursday at Binh Duong’s Go Dau Stadium.

Ninh Binh jumped three places to eighth after a 2-0 home victory at home over Hanoi ACB, who remain at the bottom with four points.

Hoa Phat Hanoi and Hai Phong each slid one place to 10th and 11th respectively after their 1-1 tie at Hanoi’s Hang Day Stadium on Sunday. Both teams have 11 points now.

Help readied for Vietnamese citizens in Ivory Coast: FM spokeswoman 

A supporter of internationally recognised Ivory Coast leader Alassane Ouatarra mans a machine gun at a check point in the Angre district of Abidjan.

Vietnamese diplomatic agencies around the Ivory Coast stand ready to help Vietnamese citizens residing in the African country racked by unrest when needed, foreign ministry’s spokeswoman Nguyen Phuong Nga said Thursday.


Nga said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has ordered the Vietnamese embassy in Morocco to ascertain the number of Vietnamese nationals as well as their living conditions in the country that is said to be on the brink of a civil war.


Thanh Nien reporters found that many Vietnamese residing in Ivory Coast mainly run restaurants and photography shops, while most laborers are former crew members of foreign fishing boats.


A reader in the southern province of Soc Trang said his elder sister and ten other Vietnamese citizens were hiding in a restaurant in Abidjan City, where the unrest is most intense.


Many other readers reported similar situations involving their loved ones.


Le Van Thanh, deputy chief of Overseas Labor Management under the labor ministry, said they have never granted licenses to any local laborer to work in the Ivory Coast, and so far no companies or individuals have registered for sending laborers to the country.


“We only know of laborers [who are sent overseas] legally, so we cannot know the number of Vietnamese laborers in the Ivory Coast,” Thanh said.


But, the labor ministry is responsible for securing the safety of all Vietnamese workers in all countries, he added.


The French embassy in Abidjan told Thanh Nien Thursday that Vietnamese people in the Iovry Coast can contact the UN force in the country as well as Opération Licorne (Operation Unicorn), a French peacekeeping force, for help.


Vietnam evacuated more than 10,000 workers from Libya recently after the country was hit by anti-government demonstrations and a government crackdown.

The Boys are in town 

(L to R) A. J. McLean, Nick Carter, and Howie Dorough – three members of US boysband Backstreet Boys at a press conference in Ho Chi Minh City Wednesday

Nick Carter and Howie Dorough, two members of the world-famous American band Backstreet Boys, arrived in HCMC Monday for the short Vietnam leg of their This Is Us world tour.

The band is doing two shows in Vietnam: at Military Zone 7 Stadium in HCMC on Thursday and My Dinh National Stadium in Hanoi on Saturday.

The Backstreet Boys are the biggest selling boy band of all time and have been nominated for seven Grammy Awards in their long career together.

Many fans turned up at HCMC’s Tan Son Nhat Airport to give the ‘boys’ a warm welcome when they arrived after 36 to 47 hours in the air.

“I’ve been looking forward to seeing the Backstreet Boys for months. And I just must go to Hanoi to see them,” exclaimed university student Thanh Xuan.

At Wednesday’s morning press conference at the Park Hyatt Hotel, which only lasted for 25 minutes, including the photo op, Thanh Nien Weekly asked the band what they expected out of their visit to Vietnam.

“We expect to give back what we get. We’ve had a great time for 18 years and gained lots of experience. We want to give back the energy and hope they (the audience) have a great time and enjoy our music,” Nick Carter replied.

Ahead of their Thursday show, the Backstreet Boys traveled around HCMC and visited the war museum, Ben Thanh Market and the Cu Chi Tunnels.

“This trip has definitely opened our eyes and taught us things we didn’t know. We had a lot of fun getting out on our first day here. We visited the countryside and spent six hours relaxing by small ponds amid the rice fields,” Carter said.

Also at the press conference, the band announced that they would be touring with New Kids On The Block.

“They’ve done well in the past. It’s a joint venture for us. We’re trying to do something different, create something special. It is the beginning of many new things,” Carter said.

Their world tour, which began in Europe in 2009, is said to be renewing and refreshing one of the most famous boy bands in the world.

A.J McLean said they had been thinking about the band’s direction for a month and decided to go back to what they were best at: pop music. He also said they were thinking of getting a new producer.

This Is Us – Vietnam


An exclusive source has informed Thanh Nien that playgirl Paris Hilton could attend the VIP party held to welcome the Backstreet Boys’ show in Hanoi. The party could take place at the Hilton Hanoi Opera, a property that belongs to the corporation founded by Hilton’s grandfather. Paris is also known as one of the Backstreet Boys’s ex-girlfriend.

Do Hoai Nam, president of Water Buffalo Productions, the promoter who has brought the Backstreet Boys to Vietnam, spoke with Thanh Nien Weekly about signing up the band.

“It took us a year of talks and emails back and forth. Finally, relying on the advice of international lawyers, we signed a very long and detailed contract. The Backstreet Boys made a thousand enquiries about things like the lighting and sound systems, stage design and their accommodation here,” Nam said.

“From the outset we didn’t anticipate making any profit from these concerts. Few international acts come to Vietnam, unlike in nearby countries like Thailand. We want to invite more international bands to Vietnam so that local fans can experience international music and culture. However we don’t hand out free tickets as it would kill our business,” he said.

“Some Vietnamese people spend two to five million dong a week at the discotheques,” he added.

He also told Thanh Nien Weekly about the habits and preferences of the Backstreet Boys. “A.J loves fast food, and Howie D really likes Vietnamese food, especially Bong thien ly xao toi (a vegetable flower fried with garlic) while Nick Carter can spend a whole day with a Play-station. Howie also feasts on parties. On their first day in Vietnam, Howie and his wife escaped from their bodyguards’ phone calls and went out all day,” Nam said.

In their concerts here, the Backstreet Boys will be using the latest Meyer sound system like Madonna, Michael Jackson and Britney Spears.

Ahead of the first concert, the stadium was already teeming with hundreds of bodyguards.    

Nguyen Van Nam of the International Security and Protection Company, which is looking after the Backstreet Boys while they are in Vietnam, said that the huge number of fans could create problems.

“The guys have lots of local fans. “We have to arrange for 20 to 30 bodyguards to be present at every stage of the tour. Their four personal bodyguards are coordinating with us well. There’ll be around 300 security personnel for the concerts in HCMC and Hanoi, checking the fans and protecting the band members,” Nguyen Van Nam said.

These will be the first shows in Vietnam to use a special detector to check the bar-coded tickets and spot any fakes, he said.

Ticket prices range from 500,000 to two million dong. To book tickets and have them delivered, call 1900 6604 in Hanoi or 1900 6608 in HCMC.

Fisherman frees rare sea turtle in central Vietnam 

Vo Ngoc Thanh is about to release the green sea turtle into the sea

A fisherman in the central province of Binh Dinh Thursday released a rare green sea turtle weighing more than 70 kilograms back into the wild.

Vo Ngoc Thanh, 45, said he caught the animal, officially known as Chelonia mydas, while fishing for shrimp off the coast of Quy Nhon Town.

He said a trader then asked him to sell the turtle at VND1.8 million (US$92) to kill for meat but he refused and phoned Binh Dinh Province’s Department of Aquatic Resources Protection.

After being told that the green sea turtle is listed as an endangered species by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and is protected from exploitation in Vietnam, Thanh returned the animal back to the sea.

Gold miners end up in nameless tombs away from home 


People prospecting for gold from a river in Quang Nam Province


Many nameless tombs in the central region’s Quang Nam Province are the only markers for gold miners who died prospecting far away from their homes.


Sau, a local xe om driver, said the gold miners had died without their families around, so he and residents of Kham Duc Town, Phuoc Son District, have buried the gold miners at the end of an old runway used during Vietnam War.


It’s hard to locate the graveyard, which is only a collection of about 20 dunes. The latest one was in April, a man more than 40 years old who was also a drug addict and HIV carrier.


Meanwhile, many miners have been buried by their bosses inside the forest next to their gold mines, making it hard for the family to track them later.


Most of these people worked for illegal gold mines.


“There are countless unnamed tombs. Gradually, they will all be concealed by the forest,” Sau said, sighing.


A lot of people died of malaria in the area between 1985 and 1999, most of them gold miners from provinces up north like Nghe An and Thanh Hoa, he said.


There’re also people who died of drug addiction, mine collapse or typhoid.


Sau said some tombs have been moved back home by the dead person’s family but most stayed where they were.


Doctor Huynh Tan Dung, director of Kham Duc Hospital, said he and his staff had also spent their own money buying coffins or mats to bury gold miners who succumbed to their sickness or injuries.


Dung said he had received so many sick gold miners that he cannot remember how many.


“Most of them were sent in without a name, age, hometown or relatives… We could only write briefly in the medical files that they’re dead,” Dung said.


There’re nights the gold miners carried a person to the emergency room and left immediately, because they didn’t want to have anything to do with the case, the doctor recalled.


“Some cases were luckily saved, but many died.”


Tran Thi Xuan, a doctor at the hospital, said she’s now used to receiving patients unaccompained by relatives.


“Many days, I’ve had to bring food and clothes to the patients. I am poor but how could I see people dying and not help?”


Around eight years ago, Xuan took care of a gold miner named Thanh, then 17, who insisted on not revealing his hometown and the names of his parents.


“I left home coming here with a hope to change my life, to earn money to help my poor family, to pay the school fees for my brothers and sisters. I didn’t expect to lose everything. My parents back home would die of pain on knowing I’m like this,” Thanh told Xuan two days before he died.


“Since then, no one has asked for Thanh. Maybe his family thought that he has become a successful man somewhere or has been too busy making money to come home,” Xuan said.


Le Thi Mai, a doctor who has been nearly 30 years with the hospital, said she had cleaned up a lot of dead bodies of the gold miners.


“Some people had ulcers all over their bodies. Some could no longer control their bladder before dying. Some didn’t have a complete body after a mines collapse. But I cleaned them all, gave them a hair wash before they were buried,” Mai said.


The latest person she cleaned up in April also tried to hide his personal information.


“He might not want his wife, children and parents to feel sorrow. So I didn’t try to ask him,” said the doctor whose husband also died as a gold miner 15 years ago.


A misty mountain getaway 


 The green forests in the Ba Vi mountain range create a cool and romantic atmosphere, and are rich in medicinal herbs

The road was narrow and winding steeply up the mountain. Sharp bends kept me gripping the motorbike, turning my knuckles white. It was getting steadily colder as I pushed my bike into second gear and continued the climb up Tan Vien Peak.

I was in the Ba Vi National Park, just an hour and half’s drive from Hanoi’s bustling downtown.

Spread across 7,377 hectares, Ba Vi National Park surrounds Ba Vi Mountain which boasts three peaks: the highest is Vua (King) Peak at 1,296 meters, followed by Tan Vien at 1,226 meters and Ngoc Hoa at 1,120 meters.

I had followed several other nature lovers driving up Tan Vien, perhaps because of its special place in Vietnamese mythology. The peak is said to be home to the Mountain God, Son Tinh, who helped defeat the Water God, Thuy Tinh, and save the land from natural disasters.

I had just driven 50 kilometers away from Hanoi, but it felt like a lifetime away. Gone were the busy streets, the honking and the calls of street vendors.

It was hard to keep my eyes focused on the meandering road. The landscape was circled by shadowy mountains, peaks playing peek-a-boo with clouds, and streams snaking through the valley below.

About 400 meters from the foot of Tan Vien, I stopped at the Ba Vi Resort for some drinks. In a manicured lawn packed with winter blooms, Dang Van Thanh, manager of the resort, urged us to explore the park on foot.

For years, Ba Vi National Park has been considered the lungs of Hanoi. I decided to abandon my pollutant-emitting bike for a walk in the woods with a local guide.

Our enthusiastic guide Hung pointed out several rare plants and birds as I ventured deeper into the forest. The Ba Vi National Park is home to more than 800 exotic plants. More than 100 bird species make the park a bird-watcher’s paradise.

Hung said the forest is a significant source of income for the people of the Dao ethnic minority who use herbs from the forest to make medicines for local as well as foreign consumption.

Since it was the dry season, the emerald green lakes I had seen during my last visit three years ago were mostly dried up.

But there was something else missing too. I realized suddenly that the chatter of monkeys that had animated the forest earlier was conspicuously missing.

Hung said the monkeys had been chased away so they wouldn’t trouble the visitors. It was sad because the monkeys had really added to the atmosphere of the forest.

Ba Vi was developed as a hill station by the French together with Sa Pa and Tam Dao in the North and Da Lat in the Central Highlands. Along with a 1,100 kilometer road, around 200 villas, a military training center and a church were built on the mountains.

After a two hour trek in the wilderness, I hopped back on my motorbike and continued the drive up the peak. The fog thickened as I climbed up the 1,200-meter mountain.

Upon arriving at the peak, the sun suddenly brightened, its rays slicing through the mist to reveal breathtaking scenery. It was only 2:30 p.m. and there was plenty of time to climb to two mountain top temples dedicated to Mountain God, or Saint Tan Vien, and Uncle Ho (the late President Ho Chi Minh).

Some might say winter is a harsh time to visit the mountains but the misty mountains of Ba Vi are a haven for the romantic and adventurous. If you have the luxury of time, spend a night at the Ba Vi resort. I wish I had.


Visitors can easily get to the site by motorbike or car. Follow Thang Long Avenue and turn right to head toward Son Tay Town. The Ba Vi National Park is about 6 kilometers from Son Tay Town. For more information or for accommodations, contact Ba Vi Resort at (09) 9 274 0055/ (09) 8 871 4696.

Visitors can book a day or two-day one-night tour to Ba Vi National Park at: Kien Thanh Tourist, 2nd floor, 381 Truong Chinh Street, Hanoi. Tel: (04) 3 568 1252. Email:

Ami Tour, 2A Tran Thanh Tong Street, Tel: (04) 3 987 6839, Hotline: (04) 2 240 2240 – 09394 88666 – 0904927888.



Reported by Phong Lan

Tourists on a bike trip at Ba Vi National Park