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Thanh Nien Daily welcomes readers' responses and publishes them in its Monday edition.

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Skyrocketing prices at Cat Tien Park

I've just read Gia Binh's article about the Crocodile Lake in Cat Tien National Park [The crocs of Cat Tien, March 12]. I have visited the park and the lake several times. It is very beautiful to experience the forest and the lake very early in the morning. Tourism, however, will not increase if the quality of the accommodation and amenities does not improve. The prices for access, accommodation, food and transport inside the park have been pushed high recently, but I regret to say that the standard is getting worse.

Sandra Kubin
Ho Chi Minh City

A liberating ritual or needless suffering?

I am a European who became a Buddhist three years ago, and I must say that I have never understood this practice of releasing caged birds. I first saw it done in Thailand, where I also saw signs at one 'wat' (pagoda) saying "Don't pay to release birds - It only encourages the captors." And so it does.

Vietnamese pagodas would do well to follow this example. Surely the heart of Buddhism, as the Buddha taught it, is compassion, the wish to remove suffering.

Yet the capture and caging of wild birds causes unnecessary suffering: clearly these sensitive creatures are extremely distressed in the cramped conditions of a cage and often attack each other. If it is true that their wings are clipped, then the practice is even more abhorrent.

Buying and releasing fish that have been brought to market and are destined for the frying pan is quite another matter. This is preventing the act of killing, saving lives, and carries true merit in the Buddhist sense. Not so with releasing birds, whose "imprisonment” is purely for monetary gain.

In order to eradicate this cruel practice, I think the initiative must come from Buddhist monks and nuns to discourage it outside the pagodas.

The organization Education for Nature in Vietnam (ENV), based in Hanoi, is working hard to raise awareness and understanding about the environment, and the need to protect nature and wildlife throughout the country.

Annie Eagleton

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