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Circular on naming names sparks debate

Update: October, 29/2014 - 10:33

by Thanh Hai

A circular banning businesses from using Vietnamese celebrities' names or places associated with colonisation has caused concern among the thousands of companies named after famous people or places.

The circular, issued by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, laid out instructions for naming businesses in a manner consistent with the country's history, traditions, habits and customs. Only businesses created on or after November 15 will be affected.

Using a famous Vietnamese person's name to advance a business violates historical traditions, according to the circular. In addition to celebrities, it prohibited names of places used when Viet Nam was colonised or invaded. Examples include using old names for HCM City like Gia Dinh or Sai Gon, which were used by French and US invaders.

Thousands of Vietnamese businesses use names of provinces, cities, places or famous people, such as the mechanical plant Tran Hung Dao or Thang Long Tobacco Company in Ha Noi. Many schools, hospitals and streets do as well, such as Nguyen Trai University or Le Quy Don High School.

Dentist Nguyen Kim Khoa from Nguyen Du Dental Care Clinic on Nguyen Du Street in Ha Noi says he named his clinic after Nguyen Du, a 17th century poet.

"It is very ridiculous to prohibit using the name of someone you love or a place you live for your company," Khoa says.

Using such names provides a positive reminder of Vietnamese celebrities and history, he says.

Nguyen Thi Hang, who owns a restaurant in Ha Noi called Pho Ly Quoc Su, says she worries the circular could affect expansion of her business to other cities or provinces. She named it after the street on which it first opened, Ly Quoc Su, which is also the name of a venerated monk during the Ly Dynasty.

Naming businesses after famous people or places is popular around the world, and doesn't cause cultural, political or economic harm, says Nguyen Van Viet, chairman of the Viet Nam Beer, Alcohol and Beverage Association.

"A good enterprise's fame and prestige would honour our country's celebrities," Viet says.

Reputations at risk

Backing the circular, Ta Dinh Xuyen, deputy director of the Socio-economic Information and Forecast Centre under the Ministry of Planning and Investment, says famous reputations could be tarnished by businesses engaging in illegal activities.

"The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism should issue a list of the names they will ban along with the circular," Xuyen says.

The circular came from a Government decree on regulating businesses, not from the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism itself, says Ninh Thanh Huong, deputy director of the ministry's Grassroots Culture Department. The ministry was hasty to issue the circular despite its infeasibility.

"The ministry has no jurisdiction over the list of banned names," Huong says. "The circular could not be implemented immediately because no one has defined who is a celebrity."

Some other regulations have met strong public opposition, like a proposal to ban late-night alcohol sales and one that would prohibit people with a chest smaller than 72 cm from driving a motorbike.

Economic expert Bui Kien Thanh says the ministry should withdraw the circular to improve the business environment and to create more favourable conditions for enterprises' operation.

"Viet Nam is trying to improve its business environment," Thanh says. "So, we should not let such illogical regulations like this circular block the nation's progress." — VNS

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