Saturday, May 2, 2015

The Cham and the Nuclear Power Project

The Cham and the Nuclear Power Project


(From the Vietnamese NGƯỜI CHÀM VÀ DỰ ÁN ĐIỆN HẠT NHÂN, Translated by Thục Quyên & Melissa Ryzek)

1. Pangdurangga (nowadays includes Ninh Thuan and Binh Thuan Province ) is a geographic region - the southernmost of --- four historic areas in the ancient kingdom of Champa. During the tumultuous history of the kingdom, this area has always had to suffer the most, in all aspects.
Being far away from the major cultural center Amaravati during Champa's flourishing time, Pangdurangga had not been much favored. So many times invaded by the army Khmer, the people of Pangdurangga always had to face the enemy alone, and then, when the kingdom weakened, Pangdurangga had to take a stand for the whole nation to outlast, in accordance with the character of Pangdurangga. Geographic location and life circumstances forced the people to equip themselves with an independent spirit. This spirit of independence and resistance, forged generation after  generation, gave rise to its extreme endurance, some could even say stubbornness.

Thus, in XVII-XVIII century, when Lord Nguyen, and after Him, the Tây Sơn dynasty overran Nha Trang and invaded the vast land of the South, Pangdurangga still stood firm. Only after its autonomy was seriously violated by King Minh Mang, in 1822, Po Cơng Can and his followers fled to Cambodia, and the land changed hands. During the ten years following, many important uprisings erupted , and extinguished completely in 1834.  Champa  was wiped off the map of the earth.

The People of Pangdurangga remained.
They stayed, endured hard times and included all the Cham coming from elsewhere in their community, blew in the newcomers the Pangdurangga spirit, creating a cohesive community, with both Cham national and regional characters
Drastic and generous, stubborn but still modest, the people of  Pangdurangga had resolved and re-conciliated the two antagonist religions, Brahmanism and Islam, to a unique religion in human history, the Ba-Ni (old Islam).

According to the the latest statistics from March 2012, the Cham in Ninh Thuan has a population of 72,500. In 1908, it was a mere 6,000 people, and thus, has increased more than 12 times after a century.  Living in poverty, they still celebrate all kinds of festivities. Throughout suffering: they sing, they dance and they make poems. They live within and with the Kinh people , but never lose the Pangdurangga identity nor their  unique ethnic culture.

2. The Cham have resided in Ninh Thuan over 2,000 years, where Caklaing village has its name carved on a stone marke more than ten centuries old. Over a hundred cultural and historical monuments still exist in Ninh Thuan. In addition to the three main temples:  Po Rome, Po Klaung Girai and Hoa Lai, the Cham maintain their spiritual life  in hundreds, or more, of the land's cultural and religious monuments.
Ninh Thuan is an arid region of Vietnam with the least rainfall, where life is much harder than in quite lot more regions, nevertheless the indigenous community here never intended to move away permanently. When forced by  natural disasters (droughts, epidemics ...) to take refuge in other regions, they always came back. To their land and their sacred towers. "Stupid, stubborn" and proud, but theirs is a peaceful community with a love for knowledge. Except for some local protests in April 1975, more or less embedded within the flow of social history, the Cham  never had any ethnic conflict with the Kinh (Viet) , let alone the idea of reclaiming their land or reviving the Cham nation.
The peaceful atmosphere suddenly was shattered by the news reported in the National Assembly approved the Nuclear Power Plant Ninh Thuan project.
The Cham community was in shock. The shock even intensified 15 months later as the news about Fukushima nuclear disaster arrived from Japan, covering up Cham souls with a nebulous smoke .

3. The Cham showed reactions.

On March15, 2012, I tried to open up a "dialogue with readers" about the "Nuclear Power Plant Project in Ninh Thuan" on my website "":The topic for the first discussion period was "What do The Cham think about the nuclear power project?", and for the second, "What do Cham Intellectuals  think about the nuclear power project?".
For over 2,000 years, half of the vietnamese Cham population live in Ninh Thuan. Ninh Thuan is also the ground for more than a hundred places of worship for various religions and beliefs. In the event of a nuclear disaster, all the Three Sacred Temples would find themselves in the 30km radius exclusion zone.

No one would dare to come to these places and the Temples would be abandoned. Kut and Ghur would be deserted ... It needs to be stressed that each morning the Cham community will wake up to see the nuclear power plant and worry about the uncertainty of their future -  “how could they live then in peace and contentment? "

More than fifty Cham writers, intellectuals, and students shared their views, such as: Trà Vigia, Dong chuong Tu, Chay Mala,Palei Krong,Chay Dalim, Paka Jatrang.....and about a hundred of other feedbacks showed concerns, preoccupations and worries of the community.

"...To begin with, a popular referendum should be called. But how to get the most credible results from it? First, the authorities should provide the people with sufficient information about the project ; second, promote greater understanding of the essentials of democracy, and of the right to self-determination as for responsible citizens; ultimately the authorities should create an atmosphere of openness, so the Cham and the people of Ninh Thuan can express their views without being confronted with obstacles and problems. "

When a petition opposing the Nuclear Power Project, submitted by three intellectuals: Nguyen The Hung, Nguyen Xuan Nghia, and Nguyen Hung appeared on May14, 2012 in network, the Cham were initially in a panic and hesitated to get involved, but calmed down and signed the petition.
Lưu Van wrote on It has been 20 days from May14 to June 4, 2012, since the Petition opposing the Nuclear power project was submitted. From the  621 signatures are 68 out of 69,000 Cham residents of Ninh Thuan, while merely 6 out of the 574,000 Kinh residents .

This Cham reader noticed, while Cham people felt the wide-spread insecurity among them, the Kinh (majority ethnic group of Vietnam) seemed not to be conscious or aware of what was and would be happening.
Were the Chams frightened ? Yes, they were. So, why didn't they dare to sign? Were the Kinhs afraid? Yes, They were also. But why? ...

The Kinhs use the idiom: "(where)  the placenta was cut and buried" for the fatherland. Slightly different, the Chams say: "(where) the placenta was buried and the (first) brick laid" (Dar thauk ppadauk kiak). Bury the placenta just shows blood relation, while  "lay bricks" [build towers] is to set the foundation of the spiritual life.

Bimong (tower) is the spiritual symbol of Cham culture. Where there is a Cham community, there is a tower for the Chams to pray, to worship. This explains, beyond any doubt, the supreme position of the two tower complexes Po Klaung Girai and Po Rome in the spiritual life of the Chams in Ninh Thuan.

After bimongs, danauks (temples) are built to worship female and male heroes or village deities ...
Next are Ghur, Kut ...

The construction of the Nuclear Power Plant in Ninh Thuan was expected to begin in 2014 in  Vinh Truong village, located in Phuoc Dinh ward,  Ninh Phuoc district.  This is a position from where, in the case of a nuclear disaster, the radiation effects  would reach most Cham villages and would have severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts on all aspects of life of the Cham population.

Imagine one day, a nuclear disaster occurs,  and all the Chams will be displaced - that land of thousand of generations left behind,  along with the sacred towers and hundred of temples, Kuts, and Ghurs!

No matter how experienced they have been with natural disasters, or how immense were the injustice and sufferings they had to endure, and no matter how hardheaded, stubborn or proud they have had to be, none of the Pangdurangga Chams dare to think about that situation which will happen to him, when he  turns his eyes to the sun each morning.

4. Cham ´s response and Cham´s hope ...

Cham Culture Gallery Inrahani is my newly erected center in 2010 in the village of Caklaing, considered as a "humble grasp to hold Cham back to the land." Furthermore, I also completed the novel Tcherfunith in April 2012. The magazine Sports & Culture from June 4, 2012 reported: "Inrasara just finished the "nuclear" novel: With a name hard to remember, Inrasara's " Tcherfunith" is an acronym for Fukushima+Tchernobyl+Ninh Thuan. A scholar and poet devoted himself  to the study of the Cham-culture and civilization. His novel was started as the Nuclear power plant  Project in Ninh Thuan was just being launched.

Finally, on August 23, 2013, driven by the one way propaganda campaign, Mr Bao van Tro,  ethnic Cham, confirmed the "absolute safety" of the nuclear power. Another person, Mr Ngo khac Can, a Kinh and president of  the Local Senior Association of Thai An, back from his trip to visit a Japan Nuclear power plant, "explained" that only "atom" would explode but "nuclear power" is quite safe. Making the Chams lose entire trust in the matter.

Nevertheless, on Jan16, 2014, Tuoi Tre newspaper reported that Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung had declared "The  nuclear power plant project will be delayed  till  2020".

The Chams breathed a sigh of relief. As if they had just put down the basket full of earth and gravel they had been carrying on their heads the last four years . A sigh of relief, because they hoped, that "postponement " will last seven, ten and even more years  until the scientists found a clean energy source alternative to nuclear energy, if not, than "we will not proceed if the qualification criteria are not met" ( Prime Minister Dung).

They hope that Po Yang Cham will not have the heart to leave his children banished again, the last time in their tragic fate.

Saigon, March 7, 2014

Content notes:

1/ Currently, the Cham people of Ninh Thuan are concentrated in 26 villages and 1provincial city:
  • 22 villages in Ninh Phuoc district,
  • 3  villages in Ninh Hai district
  • 1  village in Ninh Son district
  • and the provincial city of Phan Rang - Thap Cham.
2/ The village Thanh Tin (Cwah Patih, Phuoc Hai commune, Ninh Phuoc district) with 4,600 inhabitants/ 800       households is merely 6 km from the Nuclear Power Plant Ninh Thuan (NPP NT)

3/ The 26 villages:
  1. Tuấn Tú (Katuh,  An Hải commune), 2.100 inhabitants/ 328 households;  8km from NPP NT
  2. Nghĩa Lập (Ia Li-u & Ia Binguk, Phước Nam com.) 2.257 inh. / 312 h.; 7km from NPP NT
  3. Văn Lâm (Ram, Phước Nam  com.) 7.200 inh./ 1.424 h.; 10km from NPP NT
  4. Nho Lâm (Ram Kia, Phước Nam com.) 1.577 inh./ 360 h.; 13km from NPP NT
  5. Hiếu Thiện (Palau, Phước Ninh com.)  2.270 inhabitants; 17km from NPP NT
  6. Vụ Bổn (Pabhan, Phước Ninh com.) 3.100 inhabitants; 18km from NPP NT
  7. Chung Mỹ (Bal Caung, Phước Dân town) 2.150 inhabitants;11km from NPP NT
  8. Mỹ Nghiệp (Caklaing, Phước Dân town) 3.606 inh./664 h.;11km from NPP NT
  9. Bàu Trúc (Hamu Crauk, Phước Dân town)  2.700 inhabitants; 12km from NPP NT
  10. Hữu Đức (Hamu Tanran, Phước Hữu com.) 6.800 inhabitants; 16km from NPP NT
  11. Tân Đức (Hamu Tanran Biruw, Phước Hữu com.) 1.400 inhabitants; 17km from NPP NT
  12. Thành Đức (Bblang Kathaih, Phước Hữu com.) 1.350 inh.; 16km from NPP NT
  13. Hậu Sanh (Thon, Phước Hữu com.)  2.300 inhabitants; 17km from NPP NT
  14. Như Bình (Padra, Phước Thái com.) 1.780 inh./333 h.; 20km from NPP NT
  15. Như Ngọc (Cakhauk, Phước Thái com.) 1.480 inh./ 282 h.; 21km from NPP NT
  16. Hoài Trung (Bauh Bini, Phước Thái com.) 2.102 inh. - 333h.; 24km from NPP NT
  17. Hoài Ni (Bauh Bini Biruw, Phước Thái com.) 2.002 inh./325 h.;24km from NPP NT
  18. Chất Thường (Bauh Dana, Phước Hậu com.) 2.250 inh./500 h.; 22km from NPP NT
  19. Hiếu Lễ (Cauk, Phước Hậu com.) 3.200 inh./ 600 h.; 20km from NPP NT
  20. Phước Đồng (Bblang Kacak, Phước Hậu com.) 2.400 inh./520 h.; 19km from NPP NT
  21. Phú Nhuận (Bauh Dơng, Phước Thuận) 2.000 inh.; 22km from NPP NT
  22. Thành Ý (Tabơng, City of Phan Rang-TC) 1.900 inh.; 21km from NPP NT
  23. An Nhơn (Pabblap, Xuân Hải com., Ninh Hải district) 2.100 inh.; 26km  from NPP NT
  24. Phước Nhơn (Pabblap Biruw, Xuân Hải com.) 4.200 inh.; 28km from NPP NT
  25. Bính Nghĩa (Bal Riya, Phương Hải com.) 2.200 inh.; 30km from NPP NT
  26. Lương Tri (Cang, Ninh Sơn district) 1.800 inh./ 450 h.; 30km from NPP NT.

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