Civilization fails to lure Vietnam man, son from 40-year jungle home

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Ho Van Lang visits his father Ho Van Thanh at a medical station in Quang Ngai Province several days after they were removed from their jungle home last Wednesday

Less than a week after being "rescued" from a jungle home they built and fled to 40 years ago during the Vietnam War, a former soldier and his son have both asked to go back.

They were taken from their dwelling, where they had been ever since their house was bombed in 1972, by a group of family members and local officials last week.

Ho Van Thanh, the 82-year-old father, has recovered with some medical care after being carried from his home 40 kilometers deep in the jungle in the central province of Quang Ngai on a hammock last Wednesday. Doctors said he has no medical problems except that he was malnourished.

Thanh does not speak the mainstream Vietnamese (Kinh) language, but the man from the local Cor minority group said in his local language that he wants to go back to the jungle and take care of his field there. The father and son have a nearly one hectare (2.47 acre) field where they grow cassava, corn, sugarcane, and tobacco.

He did not speak to anyone except for his son who visited recently.

News website VnExpress on Sunday said both Thanh and his son Ho Van Lang, have been wearing sad faces and staying up all night ever since returning to "civilization."

While Thanh was taken to a medical station, Lang has been introduced to modern life and now wears clothes and slippers, uses utensils, watches television, and uses a motorbike.

But he recently also told his cousin Ho Van Lam, in the Cor language, that he wants to be taken back to the jungle. "I miss it. I don't want to stay here," he said.

He also said he does not understand why people took him and his father out of the jungle.

The family, who has been keeping track of the two of them over the past three decades and visiting them regularly in the jungle, was asked to keep a watch on him in case he tried to leave.

Lam said Lang already tried to leave on Friday but he was noticed by some local children.

The man has been seen sitting at the corner of the house smoking and smiling any time tools made by him and his father are brought in from the jungle.


Ho Van Tri, another son of Thanh's who was responsible for bringing the two back, said Thanh had not accepted him yet as he believed he had died many years ago.

Tri said that he was three months old when his house was bombed in 1972 during the war with the US, killing his grandmother and two older brothers.

Thanh went crazy after the incident, so he did not go back to the army. He carried Long while the mother carried Tri when they left for another village.

Later, Thanh beat his wife and she had to be hospitalized. Locals sent Tri over to stay with her, while Thanh left with Long.

He came back later asking about his wife and Tri, but people told him they were dead, because they were afraid he would beat her again. He had not come back since.

Tri said that when he grew up, people told him that his father had died.

"Only when I was 12, before my mother died, she told me the truth and that my father and brother could be living in the jungle. She asked an uncle to bring me to look for them."

He said he cried at their reunion as the other two looked at him like stranger.

"I was very happy while he kept saying that his wife and son died a long time ago and that I should leave and stopped lying to him."

Thanh had not only served for years in the military, but he had also been a locally famous blacksmith producing tools and hunting equipment.

That explains the collection of axes, hammers, arrows made from pieces of bombs and gasoline bottles from the war that were found at his jungle home.

Thanh and his son also kept animal skins, had a fire pit inside their tent, and smoked tobacco to deal with the cold, which people said a strong man would only be able to withstand for two hours.

They also used animal skin and bile as medicine.

Locals said the father and son first lived around a one-hour walk from the village, but they moved further and further away. People recently had to walk for more than five hours to find them.

Lam, who has gone hunting since a boy and has visited his uncle and cousin once in a while, said the two had built around eight tents, one on the ground and seven on trees.

"My father asked Thanh to come back to the village many times, but every time he said he did not want to, that he did not feel comfortable working in such a crowded place."

Local officials said they could only bring the two out of the jungle now because the father was too weak to run.

"And Lang loved his father so much he accepted to come along."

The jungle men on television:

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