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More help urged for owners of heritage-listed buildings

Update: May, 24/2013 - 09:38

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Two women in HCM City have just been caught red handed for alledgely having sexual activities with two male sex workers. Images of the women were featured in newspapers and on many news websites.

While prostitution has long been reported in the mass media in Viet Nam, this is the first time people who buy sex have been put in the spotlight. Most of those who buy sex are men but in this case the customers happen to be women. In the past, it was the female sex workers who received most attention instead of their male customers.

It seems there is a prejudice, especially in the media, when it comes to reporting on the causes of prostitution.

Prostitution is illegal in Viet Nam but there is still an argument over whether it is the customers or sex workers themselves that should be punished.

So far, many female sex workers have been sent to rehabilitation centre, while sending those who buy sex to such centres is unheard of. Is it unfair to consider women as the cause of prostitution? What do you think about prostitution? If prostitution is illegal, what forms of punishment and measures are the best?

How is prostitution managed in your country?

Please reply by email to:, or by fax to (84-4) 3 933 2311. Letters can be sent to The Editor, Viet Nam News, 79 Ly Thuong Kiet Street, Ha Noi. Replies to next week's questions must be received by Thursday morning, May 30, 2013

Last week, Viet Nam News asked readers to comment on the concerns of the people of Duong Lam Ancient Village in Ha Noi's Son Tay District, who have asked for the town's national heritage listing to be removed.

They claim that the requirement not to rebuild, repair or enlarge their old houses without consulting heritage advisers is hindering their life styles.

Readers expressed their sympathy, but still called for more support from the Government to preserve ancient sites. Below are some of the responses:

Yi En He, Binh Duong

Heritage is the legacy of a nation's soul. Can we aim for the future by neglecting our past? The Chinese did it with their Cultural Revolution, but they lost so much.

How would our future be if we did not show respect to our ancestors? We have to understand that our personal quality of life should be in synergy with the quality of the lives of our neighbours.

One should realise this before cutting down an old tree on his own property. The land property the tree stands on might be private, but in many ways, the tree's beauty belongs to everyone in the community.

As heritage is part of the quality of a nation's quality of living, it is the Government's duty to guard precious buildings and landscapes.

In the West, there are classifications on the social and historical value of a building. Buildings and even landscapes can be awarded the title of "National Monument".

In Japan even people can get the title of "Living monument", as they have the knowledge and experience of a unique ability related to the nation's culture.

Receiving such a title is not only a feather in one's cap, but can also result in financial support. Subsidies to stimulate people to share their treasures with the community are normal.

However, in Viet Nam, who gets the financial benefits, tour-operators or the locals? In Thailand, the government recently ordered that entrance-fees to villages where long-necked Karen people live goes directly to the villagers themselves.

Preserving heritage can be a two-way benefit. The owners as well as society should both benefit from the protection orders. We still have a long way to go in Viet Nam.

Huyen Mi, Vietnamese,Vassa, Finland

If Vietnamese authorities gave permission to freely renovate, it would cause problems as most people don't know the difference between renovation and preservation. Neither do the authorities.

Further, truly effective renovation costs a large sum of money, which neither the authorities or villagers are willing to pay.

I think a good example for old houses preservation is in Hoi An. You can find many ancient houses there in good condition.

Should the local authority of the Duong Lam Village learn from Hoi An? To achieve something like that, not only money but true will is needed.

Nguyen Ngoc Dung, Vietnamese, Ha Noi

There is a controversy over whether Duong Lam Ancient Village should be preserved. I live in Son Tay District, I have visited this village many times and I think that the villagers' opinion is understandable.

If the authorities do not offer any solutions, Duong Lam Village will not be attractive to tourists anymore because of the disordered mix of old and modern lives.

One time when my friends and I went to visit an ancient house in the village, the house owner reminded us to support the village by leaving some money to help preserve the ancient house.

He reminded us several times as if he wondered that we would leave and forget. Owners who welcome tourists are often old and too tired to look after many guests, while the young are busy with their work elsewhere. Obviously, villagers do not feel comfortable having to live in these kinds of houses.

To preserve the ancient village, local authorities should ask for Government funds to buy some houses for tourism, and allow people to repair the rest.

Hoang Giang, Vietnamese, Ha Noi

I believe in preserving the old village, but it's selfish to leave villagers living in bad conditions to preserve national heritage.

As a tourist, I was interested in visiting ancient Duong Lam and I think the locals have done a good job in preserving the site.

If the authorities want to preserve heritage sites, they should at least spend money to strengthen the houses and make them liveable.

If the authorities want to prevent the houses from being rebuilt and the families living there want to move, the authorities may offer to buy the houses at market price and use them for their own purpose.

Andrew Burden, Canadian, Ha Noi

I have not been to the village and have no interest in sleeping under a leaking roof. Preserving the past to keep history alive is important, but a man's home is his castle.

I would take the lunch tour, buy a postcard, and then stay at the hotel down the street. One solution to the problem is to challenge officials to sleep over, squeezed in like sardines.

I come from a relatively young country where the oldest houses are only a couple of hundred years ago. We do a poor job of heritage management. National parks are being overrun with hikers and campers and wildlife is being pushed out.

In cities, condominiums spring up with rooftop gardens and underground parking. Little old grandmother houses are bulldozed.

Bigger is not always better and shiny and new is often cheap. But old, damp and falling apart is just silly.

John McDonald, Australian, Ha Noi

The village is a wonder to look at, but needs funds to be repaired properly. As it has been declared National Heritage, it is the duty of the nation to look after repairs and also the housing needs of the villagers themselves.

National Heritage should not be an ongoing argument or something that a few unfortunate people are forced to look after. If it's a national treasure, then the nation should iron out all the wrinkles.

But it is pointless for villagers to say "there is another old bridge or town or pagoda over the hill so we don't have to worry about ours". This is exactly what the people on the other side of the hill are saying. — VNS

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