by Trung Hieu-Anh Dai
The authorities may permit residents to use "non-explosive fireworks" during the coming Tet (Lunar New Year).
This news has set off an explosion of reactions on many social networking forums. People expressed their excitement that they might be able to explode firecrackers for Tet.
It seems to have infused new vitality in those who have missed playing with firecrackers (of course, these people also include those who have been using firecrackers illegally during the traditional holiday, despite a government ban).
It also provides an opportunity to "revise the issue" despite the potential risks that firecrackers pose.
"Hopefully, this Tet we will feel more excited for the New Year as we will have the 'art firecracker' to play with," said a fan of firecrackers, Hoang Tuan. "I really miss Tet of the past years when we used to burn firecrackers."
"It's great. I hope this New Year will be more colourful with non-explosive fireworks. The traditional Tet will have more fun," said Phuong Diep, a student.
"We live in the countryside and have waiting for this day for a very long time," said Nguyen Thanh Lam, another fan of firecrackers.
The new kind of non-explosive fireworks has some advantages that fans appreciate. "I've seen the performance of this firework and found it to be very beautiful and suitable for festivals, birthdays and parties. The price is reasonable and more important, this fireworks creates beautiful colours and is very safe to use. I tried to touch the bursting firework and was not burnt at all," said Vu Van Truong.
However, on many forums, members also said that this firecracker is no different from the flares smuggled from China. Others said it could be a safer option because it is made by a reputed factory - the Z121 Plant of the Ministry of Defence.
However, this non-explosive firework cannot be compared with the real firecrackers of the past. Some cultural researchers also expressed their views.
Folklorist Nguyen Hung Vi from the University of Social Sciences and Humanities, said: "I think if the government has banned the use of firecrackers for the past many years, the ban should be continue.
"There are some traditions that develop in an extreme manner and became evils. We did ban it, so we propose the ban be continued. If we use a non-explosive firework, it is something very abnormal."
Vi also said that this "quiet firework" creates a light effect only, and should not be used. "Moreover, we should spend that money on other things. People who have seen firecrackers being burst during Tet have seen the brutal effect they can have. If we let firecrackers explode during New Year's days, it would be very dangerous and uncontrolled," said the researcher. "That was also a reason for the government's ban on use of firecrackers in the past. The use of firecrackers should not be restored."
Some other people also expressed their opposition to the proposal.
"If the non-explosive firecrackers are flares, we should call them flares. It is very funny to call it 'non-explosive firecracker'. But whatever kind they are, we should not allow people to use any kind of firecrackers. In our society, we have already misused the burning of incense and votive papers. This is too costly," said Nguyen Thanh Mai who lives in Dong Da District.
An overwhelming majority of opinion is against the proposal to allow the use of non-explosive firecrackers.
"'No firecrackers' is a correct policy of the State and a majority of people have responded well. Obeying this ban has helped save thousands billions of dong annually and reduced accidents caused by fire and explosions. This is the right policy. Why does the police want to amend regulations to allow people to play with firecrackers? Non-explosive fireworks do not explode but can still cause fires. We should use the money for hunger and poverty reduction," said Pham The Chien from Ha Noi.
Prof To Ngoc Thanh, chairman of the Viet Nam Folk Arts Association, said: "This issue has raised different opinions. But our people were used to not bursting firecrackers. If this is about tradition, then we should not talk about ‘non-explosive firecrackers'. According to tradition, there should be explosions to simulate thunder in early spring, in order to pray for good weather. Now if this firework does not explode, there's no need to use it."
But researcher Trinh Hoa Binh from the Institute of Sociology expressed support for "non-explosive firecrackers".
"I think the authorities will allow people to play with firecrackers, but not now. The State banned firecrackers because of specific reasons. Whether they are unsafe or not depends on human reasons. The important issue is how we manage them. In the past, fireworks manufacturers put TNT explosives in them. So it caused fatal accidents. If we make firecrackers only with sulfur, there would be no problem."
Talking about the "quiet firecracker" made by the military factory, Binh said that it is a controlled process. "If they can do it well, then we can support this idea. Making firecrackers is a special business sector that should be under control. We cannot absolutely ban it because people still buy it illegally, so our money flows out. I agree to the use of firecrackers, but we should have a good management solution," Binh said. — VNS