What have we done to our country’s public image?

Thanh Nien News. Original Vietnamese story by Tuoi Tre

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The carcass of an elephant was discovered at the Yok Don National Park in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak in August 2010. The animal was believed to be killed by poachers before having its tusks cut off. / PHOTO COURTESY OF TUOI TRE
A video clip showing Prince William and his father Prince Charles calling on the world to unite to save wildlife has recently gone viral among Vietnamese netizens.
The reason why it drew such attention in Vietnam is that the message was spoken in six different languages, including Vietnamese.
It was not the first time foreigners used Vietnamese to convey a message or a warning targeting Vietnamese people.
In 2012, a Vietnamese tourist took and posted online a photo of a notice at a buffet restaurant in Thailand. Written in Vietnamese, the notice asked customers not to take excessive foods, or they would be fined if leaving leftovers.
Last year the photo of a notice in Vietnamese about petty thefts in Japan also drew a great deal of attention among local netizens.
It is obvious why the Vietnamese language was chosen for such notices: many Vietnamese must have been caught doing such shameful acts abroad.
This was also the reason for Prince William’s Vietnamese message.
Vietnam in recent years has drawn lots of criticism from the international media, wildlife organizations and on social networks for locals’ prevalent practice of poaching wildlife and consuming their products such as ivory, bear bile, and rhino horns.
Some wildlife organizations expressed their rage when a photo showing a dead rhinoceros with its horn hacked off made headlines in 2010. The last Javan rhino in Vietnam, the mammal was shot by poachers in Cat Tien National Park.
Others have launched campaigns in the hope of changing Vietnamese people’s awareness about wildlife. Many groups have claimed that their members would never visit Vietnam as a result of environmentally destructive practices here.
With all these movements, it’s time we think about how bad Vietnam’s current image is in the international view.
Many of us often pride ourselves on being Vietnamese, but national pride is not something that can be showed in words, but in particular actions that can protect and boost the country’s image like behaving in humane ways, showing to the world that Vietnam has not fallen behind the rest of the world.
Early this month, animal lovers around the world criticized a Danish zoo for killing and chopping up a healthy young giraffe before feeding it to lions in the witness of a crowd of visitors, including children.
The killing was explained as an effort to prevent inbreeding between giraffes under European Association of Zoos and Aquaria rules.
Even though the act was committed by the zoo only, many netizens commented that the case showed the degradation of Denmark or even the whole Europe.
Obviously, a country’s public image can be greatly affected by the actions of a person or a group of people, especially when the action is against the development of humane practices around the world.
Therefore, each Vietnamese can make difference and improve the country’s image by saying “no” to wildlife products instead of simply claiming “I’m proud to be Vietnamese.”
By Vi Thao Nguyen
* Vi Thao Nguyen is a co-founder of the Association of Animal Lovers (www.yeudongvat.org), which was established in August 2010 to help needy animals and raise public awareness about problems related to animals’ rights

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