PANO – Vietnam and Laos are together leaning against the Truong Son Mountain Range, sharing the Mekong River and have common enemies and revolutionary ideals. The two nations enjoy a time-honored special relationship. In the hearts of many Vietnamese people, there exists a friendly, loyal and beautiful country of Laos. As for me, my love for this beautiful country grows deeper and stronger after each visit.
I accompanied officers of the Vietnam People’s Army who used to be experts and voluntary soldiers in Laos, to visit their old battlefields in Hua Phan Province for the first time.
I have visited many places and taken part in several receptions of foreign heads of states, but I have never witnessed such as a crowded and enthusiastic welcome of Hua Phan people to this Vietnamese delegation. Along the 80km-road from the Na Meo Border Gate (Thanh Hoa Province) to Sam Nua Town (Hua Phan), Lao people cheered up and waved the Vietnamese and Lao flags and flowers to welcome the delegation. Reporter Xuan Ba from the Tien Phong Newspaper and I found out that up to 34 groups of Lao people standing along the roadsides to welcome us. Even some groups included thousands of local people with both the elderly and children.
We arrived in Sam Nua when tens of thousands of people had gathered at the town’s square. No introductions, neither opening nor closing speeches, the welcome had only music, flags, flowers and smiles, even tears.
Seeing too many people at the square, I asked Hua Phan Province Chief: “Does the welcome trouble local residents’ life or do the province’s authorities mobilize local people for the event?” However, the chief answered in Vietnamese: “My officers only announced people that today Vietnamese senior officials would visit Hua Phan. Of these delegates, some spent nearly 40 years fighting against enemies and helping Laos to protect and rebuild the nation”. The local people in deed considered the Vietnamese were like their grandparents visiting descendants and they decided to welcome the Vietnamese delegates as their families’ relatives returning home for a long time.
Hua Phan Province has Vieng Xay, bordering on Vietnam, known as the revolutionary capital of Laos and also Sam Nua Town which is famous for the Vietnamese through the song “Girl in Sam Nua” or poem “Tay Tien” (Advancing to the West). In Vieng Xay, we could not imagine that the district which was previously damaged by the enemy’s bombardment in the war, now is becoming a tourist area with clean roads, verdant grass covers, large lakes, museums, luxury restaurants and hotels.
Visiting a cave that used to be as a meeting hall of the Lao Defence Ministry in Na Cay Mount, it came as a surprise to me with a large stage, furniture and room for actors and actresses to make up, to name a few. Ms. Vieng Keo, Head of the International Relations Department, under the Central Commission for Information and Training of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party, told that during the national resistance war, the cave witnessed many important conferences and also art performances for the Pathet Lao armed forces. Interestingly, despite the US’s fierce bombardments on the area but bombs could never hit the cave.
Nearby is another cave where General Khamtai Siphandon, former Defence Minister, used to live and work with a 1m-thick concrete wall in front of the entrance. Colonel Vu Duc Mai, former Deputy Head of Unit 600 which was assigned to help Lao people build Capital Xieng Vay explained that the wall could protect the cave from missile’s attacks. General Khamtai Siphandon was also very satisfied with a typical house designed by Colonel Vu Duc Mai in 1973. It was made of fiberboards and concrete columns and finished in a record construction time of over one month.
There are two other caves, 3km from the cave of General Khamtai Siphandon and the Lao Party General Secretary, Kayson Phomvihan and Prince Souphanouvong had lived and worked during wartime.
Hua Phan Province borders Vietnam and has welcomed many Vietnamese expert and soldier-volunteers over the past time, so many local people know Vietnamese. Hua Phan residents have always been faithful to Vietnam. I remember for ever the night in Sam Nua when the post closed and I met a local woman and asked her an internet station to send my article to the office. Immediately, she led me to her house and then drove me in her car to the internet access point about 60 km away.
Written by Colonel Do Phu Tho
Translated by Van Hieu