Soldiers in Kiên Giang Province remove a wartime bomb. — VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Sang
Nguyễn Đức Soát, Chairman of the Việt Nam Association for Supporting Unexploded Ordnance/Mine Action Efforts, talks to Tiền Phong (Vanguard) newspaper on Việt Nam’s efforts to support war veterans
What was one of your most memorable trips to aid Vietnamese victims of explosive ordnance?
One of my most memorable trips to help victims of landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) was a trip to the northern province Hà Giang five years ago when the Việt Nam Association for Supporting UXO/Mine Action Efforts was established. The key objective of our trip was to offer prosthetics for victims of bombs and mines left over from the war. I was really deeply moved to see dozens of people who had lost either their legs or arms that came to ask us for help. I understood these people were only a very small number among the tens of thousands of Vietnamese people who have been maimed by bombs and mines left from war.
The explosion of a bomb left over by the war in Hà Đông District, Hà Nội, in 2016 caused injuries to many people. Following the explosion you visited the victims. What do you have to say about such accidents?
Whenever I hear a report about a bomb or mine explosion, I immediately tell myself and the Việt Nam Association for Supporting Unexploded Ordnance/Mine Action Efforts (VNASMA) that we have not done our duty to educate the people on how to handle unexploded ordnance left over from the war. Such an accident was a precious lesson for us. We told ourselves to do more in our mass communication campaign to help people handle such a situation.
Can you tell us a little bit about the funding required to run the VNASMA?
The VNASMA has been in operation for five years. One of the driving forces for us is to think about people who have been killed or maimed by unexploded bombs or shells. We tell ourselves that we should do more to accomplish our mission, which is to help the Vietnamese war victims. Luckily, we have received support from many organisations, including banks, mass organisations and the general public. For example, MB Bank has donated a total of VNĐ3.5 billion to the VNASMA to help war victims.
In addition, we have also received support from former US pilots who were our enemies during the war in the northern Vietnamese airspace. So far we have held three meetings between Vietnamese and US pilots who took part in the air battles. Two meetings were held in Việt Nam and the other was in the US. Those meetings help tighten friendship between people of the two countries. And American pilots have successfully advocated the US government to support Vietnamese war victims through a programme of the US government.
What does the VNASMA have planned for the future?
For the immediate future, we will pool efforts to make the VNASMA further complete in its organisation. This is very important for us in carrying out activities.We will also look for more funding to help victims of war ordnance in a hope to help enjoy a better life and integrate into society. VNS