Saturday, August 10, 2013

Vietnamese soldier, son turn up alive in jungle 40 years after they went 'missing'

He was a war refugee who lived like Robinson Crusoe. Except he had a son to keep him company. 

Vietnamese soldier Ho Van Thanh, now 82, disappeared into the jungle with his one-year-old son at the height of the country’s war with the United States 40 years ago, and has just been discovered.

However, a man claiming to be another son has said he has known of his father and brother's jungle hideout for the past 20 years.

Provincial authorities described the father and son’s dwelling place as a house “that looks like a bird’s nest, built from sticks on a big tree around six meters from the ground.”

Thanh and his son, Ho Van Loan, now 41, were found by authorities in the province of Quang Ngai Wednesday at the heart of the forest after a 40 kilometer trek that took several hours, the Vietnamese daily Thanh Nien News reported.

The pair survived by cultivating vegetables and hunting animals using knives, axes and arrows that they made themselves. They also planted sugarcane near their house.

The two men’s rescue after 40 years reportedly shocked the whole village, who thought they were already dead. 

However, a man claiming to be Thanh’s youngest son said in a report quoted by Thanh Nien News that he has known his father and brother were alive for 20 years.

According to the website VnExpress, Ho Van Tri, who was just a few months old when Thanh fled, said he already found the pair with the help of an uncle more than two decades ago but could not persuade them to return home or to their village.

Tri, who said he survived a bombing during the war because he was rescued by a relative, said he has not yet been accepted by his father and brother although he has been bringing them salt and oil every year.  

The US was prompted to launch a war against Vietnam in 1955 due to the American government’s fear of letting communism spread across Asia. The 19-year war, which resulted in the death of more than 4 million Vietnamese civilians and 58,000 US soldiers, ended with the fall of Saigon to the Vietnam People's Army in April 1975.

Jungle rescue

Based on an account by the newspaper Dan Tri, the Bangkok Post reported that the pair was discovered after two people from a nearby village saw their tree house while looking for firewood in the forest.

The villagers alerted the local authorities about the men, who went to the jungle to rescue them.

Local officials found Thanh and Loan clad in pants fashioned from dried tree barks, and later discovered they also made shirts from the same material.

Inside the house, they discovered that Thanh kept his soldier’s trousers and his son’s little red coat neatly folded in a corner.

The Bangkok Post report quoted a local official as saying on the condition of anonymity that although Thanh can communicate a little in the Cor ethnic minority language, his son only knew a few words.

The 82-year old man has been brought to the hospital for medical care since he can barely walk while Loan is under the care of his nephew, Ho Ven Bien.

"My uncle doesn't understand much of what is said to him, and he doesn't want to eat or even drink water," Bien said. - GMA News

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