On one side you have the plight of the bears and the park employees but the issue goes much further. We often talk about the need for transparency versus corruption, but this is as transparent a piece of corruption as you are ever likely to find.
By all accounts embassies, NGOs and international organisations are queuing to lobby the Government on this issue and to add their signatures and voices in opposition. They see it as pivotal. If this kind of thing can be allowed to happen then just how serious is Vietnam about developing? This is going to get a lot bigger and a lot noisier. It’s hard to imagine the bear park winning and yet it’s also difficult to imagine that such a travesty could be allowed to happen. Please share the film.
Who knows something good could yet come out of all of this. Better even than Animals Asia and its bear park being allowed to carry on with their excellent work – and that alone would be pretty spectacular.
The film Local Hero is one I keep coming back to.
It was one of the first films I watched with my wife and, in the middle of a hot, airless Hanoi summer, there’s something even more appealing about a barren, windswept Scottish beach.
My wife made her big entrance on our wedding day to Wild Theme from the soundtrack. On our first summer holiday together in the UK we visited Pennan where the movie was shot. Even phoning from the iconic red box outside the pub.
Today I just watched You’ve Been Trumped. The story of how Donald Trump essentially hoodwinks the Scottish authorities into believing his exaggerated offers of investing billions and creating thousands of jobs in return for a stretch of dunes of special scientific interest. The heartbreaking film details how the local residents were bullied by police and the filmmaker violently arrested. The similarities to Local Hero are endless and snippets of the movie are spread throughout the film. Sadly unlike Local Hero there is no happy ending with the dunes bulldozed in readiness for a hotel and golf courses.
Here in Vietnam I have been keeping up with Animal Asia’s campaign to save the Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre in nearby Tam Dao. Suffice to say that it’s very difficult to believe that there are any defence issues stopping the centre continuing as it is. Beyond that you can do your own Googling and joining the dots.
Reminders then, both here and in Scotland that when the rich and powerful want something they tend to get it. It’s hard to know whether it’s more upsetting back in the UK where our “developed” nation has proved to be not so developed after all or here where it’s so easy to feel powerless.
However, doing nothing doesn’t seem like an option. To bring Billy Bragg up to date: “changing your avatar is not enough on days like these”.
I am sure that of the people who read this there will be a cross section of expat business people, NGO workers, embassy staff and general investors in Vietnam. We are guests here but we can still be respectful in getting our message across. After all, it would impossible to argue that a positive outcome for the bear park wouldn’t be good for Vietnam.
We must make sure we are heard. This isn’t just happening in Vietnam but that’s where we are. We need to do something. If you’ve channels to people with power or influence then you must use them – if not then get in touch with Animals Asia and ask how you can help.