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VN helps preserve ethnic cultures

Ethnic Gia Rai people perform their traditional Xooang dance welcoming the New Year

The Government has approved a special programme on cultural identity preservation and development for five ethnic groups living in far-flung areas of the mountainous provinces of Ha Giang, Dien Bien, Lai Chau, Nghe An and Kon Tum. Included in the program are the Pu Peo, Si La, O Du, Ro Mam and B’Rau ethnic groups.

Dr. Le Ngoc Thang, director of the Institute for Ethnic Minority Affairs under the National Assembly’s Nationalities Commission, praised the project, saying that with a population of less than 1,000 each, the five tribes were beset with great difficulties in achieving subsistence, let alone conserving their cultural nuances.

Viet Nam boasts 54 different ethnic groups and many smaller tribes, all of which are prone to be assimilated by larger groups.

Invited to take part in the programme are relevant central and local agencies as well as scientists, scholars and specialists from different research institutes who are interested in cultural conservation for ethnic minorities.

"The Government has agreed to finance the initial stage of the survey with VND100 million (US$6,400) for each group," Thang said.

To further the programme, Thang emphasised the need to conduct a comprehensive survey on natural conditions and social, economic and ethnological situations as well as the effects of the existing nationalities policy.

Measures to conserve their cultural identities must first of all help them better benefit from the country’s socio-economic growth in the process of industrialisation and modernisation, said Thang.

The survey is also designed to scrutinise obstacles and restrictions the groups face in terms of preservation of production, living environment, tribal customs, practices and languages. Cross-culture relations are another subject of study in the survey that would help the Party and State amend preferential policies for ethnic minorities, especially in culture, education and health care.

Thang cited some difficulties in the conservation of those tribes’ cultural characters. For instance, the O Du ethnic group living in Nghe An Province’s western upland region has only one person left who speaks the O Du language, because her fellow tribesmen have begun speaking the Thai ethnic language and wearing Thai costumes.

Household clusters and families of Ro Mam and B’Rau tribesmen, despite being very small in numbers, have often lived separately and far away from each other in the rugged terrain. These tribes face extinction unless they change their lifestyle and exploit advantageous conditions provided by the State for their own survival and development.

So far, the State has carried out many national and regional programmes targeted at hunger eradication and poverty reduction in regions inhabited by ethnic minorities. Programme 327 on forest planting and Programme 135 on infrastructure in remote mountainous areas are among the most successful projects of this kind.

Thang said the programme of conservation of cultural nuances and identities for small tribal groups is the first of its kind so far in the country. Similar projects will be undertaken on other tribal groups throughout the country, each with a population of equal to or more than 1,000.

Viet Nam plans to attain its target of industrialisation by 2020.

"Economic growth must go together with educational and cultural development as well as improvement of the people’s livelihood and preservation of national identities," Thang said.

Participants in the programme are to lodge specific petitions and recommendations regarding the Government’s policies on the restoration, conservation and development of ethnic minorities’ cultural values via practical surveys of the five chosen tribal groups.

VNS - (13/08/2004)

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