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Why did veteran lead 4-decade hermit life in jungle?

Monday, August 19, 2013, 18:06 GMT+7

Several days after the two jungle men - father and son - returned to civilized society after living 40 years in isolation in a remote forest in central Vietnam, many details of their tale have been clarified by related people and authorities. 

On Tuesday morning, the People’s Committee of Tay Tra District, Quang Ngai, Province issued further confirmation of the identities of the “two jungle men”, Ho Van Thanh, 82, and his 44-year-old son Ho Van Lang, who were taken out of the forest on August 7 and are being given help to reintegrate into the community.  The jungle men left their native land, Tra Kem Hamlet, and went to a deep forest in 1974 to live until 30 years later, i.e nine years ago, when local authorities knew of their whereabouts and through their relatives, tried to persuade them to return to normal life but failed.    According to the Committee, Thanh was a native of Tra Linh Hamlet, Tra Lanh Commune, Tra Bong District. During the Vietnam War, Thanh moved to live in Tra Kem Hamlet in Tra Xinh Commune in the same district, and joined an army unit belonging to Military Zone 5. Before going to the forest for a hermit life, Thanh had served six years in the army and had been a well-known blacksmith in the district before that.Going mad after losing three relatives According to some elderly people in Tra Kem, US troops bombed many areas in Quang Ngai during the war. One night in 1972, Thanh returned to his native land only to find his mother and two elder children – one six years old and the other, four – dead along with 23 others in a shelter that had been hit by a bomb. His wife and two younger children had earlier escaped to a forest, so they were not affected by the bombing. Ho Van Tri, Lang’s younger brother, cited some elderly people in the hamlet as saying that his father nearly went mad after losing three close relatives at once and did not return to his army unit. “My father and mother later brought me (three months old at that time) and Lang (one year old) to a village in Tra Khe commune to live. One day in 1974, during a fit of madness, my father beat my mother. Villagers brought my mother, along with me, to a clinic for treatment. At the time, my father held my brother (Lang) to the forest, stating their life as jungle men,” Tri said. “My father later returned to the village to look for my mother and me,” Tri added, “but the villagers, for fear that he could beat his wife again, told him that they had all died. My father had since not returned and villagers also told me that my father had died when I was a baby.” “It was not until one day when I was 12 years old that my mother, before she passed away, told me that my father and my brother could still be living in the deep forest. She also asked my uncle to take me to the forest to look for them,” Tri said. Tri said that he eventually found them in the forest but his father did not accept him as his son. “They [Thanh’s wife and Tri] had died a long time ago. Do not lie to me. Go home. Do not stay here anymore.”A brave soldier Ho Van Bien, 70, a former leader of squad B28 in Tra Bong District, recently arrived in Tay Tra to visit Thanh, VnExpress reported. “I once met Thanh who was a soldier in the Military Zone 5 during the Vietnam War. He had a robust body and a strong laugher. He was naturally gentle but was very brave when engaging in combats,” Bien said to locals. Ho Van Ban, 80, a veteran in Tra Phong Commune, also confirmed that 40 years ago, he and Thanh was comrades-in-arm sharing a trench in East Tra Bong in Quang Ngai. Doan Phung, a local man in Tra Phong Commune, said that before joining the army, Thanh was a famous blacksmith of tools for farming and hunting in the commune. It was thanks to that skill that he made many tools to use in their lonely life in the deep forest, Phung said. Hoang Anh Ngoc, chairman of the Tay Tra District People’s Committee, told VnExpress that the district Military Command has confirmed that Thanh was once a regular soldier of a unit belonging to Military Zone 5 that was posted in East Tra Bong in the Vietnam War.   ‘Jungle man’ listens to music on mobile phone After being brought to civilized life, while the 82-old-year father showed displeasure at the new living condition, his son Lang has gradually got accustomed to the new environment, their relatives said. During the first few days after returning to normal life, Lang often sat alone chewing betel and smoked. He was also shy to contact with others and could not eat instant noodle or a bowl of noodle with beef soup. In addition, he turned his face away when a TV set was turned on in front of him. He did not know how to dress himself. But in recent days, the situation has changed. Lang has become less shy and can do some things by himself. He could also eat some common food. Ho Minh Lam, a nephew of Thanh’s, said, “After being taught, he [Lang] can use a remote control to switch on a TV set to watch. He has begun to smoke filter-tipped cigarettes instead of rolled tobacco.” Lang loves to be taken for a stroll around the village and he likes to use a mobile phone to listen to music after being taught how to do it, Lam said. However, despite being taken care of and given support to integrate into society, the two still miss the forest and the hut where they have lived for 40 years. Therefore, they sometimes asked others to take them back to the forest.      “They often said in the Kor ethnic language: ‘We miss the forest very much. We want to return there to know whether any animals have been caught by our traps or not,’” Lam said.Support Ngoc said local authorities would list Thanh and his son in the local residence registration book and concerned agencies will grant land and VND40 million (US$1,900) for Thanh and Lang to build a house. Authorities will also carry on with procedures to grand ID cards to Thanh and his son. They will also prepare all documents for Thanh to become eligible to enjoy policies intended for sick veterans. On August 9, after the two jungle men were brought back from the forest, the provincial Party Committee of the Military Command gave them necessary items along with VND5 million (US$240) in cash as initial support. Yesterday morning, August 12, the representative of the Vietnam Fatherland Front of Quang Ngai Province visited Thanh and his son and also gave them VND5 million. The agency said it would later donate VND40 million for the building of a house for the father and son. After several days living among the community, the two men have gradually grown accustomed to civilized life, although the 82-year-old man is still weak and is being cared for at the Tay Tra Health Center.

Tuoi Tre

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