Firecrackers make explosive, illegal comeback during Lunar New Year in Vietnam

By Cam Giang, Thanh Nien News

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Police seize illegal firecrackers in Quang Ninh Province. Photo: Cam Giang Police seize illegal firecrackers in Quang Ninh Province. Photo: Cam Giang

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More than 20 years since the ban on firecrackers took effect, some Vietnamese still attempt to ring in the Lunar New Year with illegal explosions that altogether have injured at least 60 people this festive season alone. 
According to media reports, firecrakers have been set off across Quang Yen, a town right next to Ha Long Bay in Quang Ninh Province, during the Tet (Lunar New Year) holiday. 
Police in the northern province confirmed this, saying that some locals still use a firecracker's bang to pray for good luck, despite the nationwide ban. 
They have launched an inspection and pledged strict punitive measures against violators. 
“The authorities in Quang Yen did not thoroughly enforce the prime minister’s instruction on banning the transport, trade and use of firecrackers,” said Vu Van Hop, spokesperson of the provincial administration.
Among the violators was 16-year-old Pham Van Hien of Quang Yen Town, who was caught lighting firecrackers at 11:55 on February 18, five minutes to the Lunar New Year, police said. 
He is facing a fine.
Local residents said people who still celebrate the festival with firecrackers are either rich people or those who often travel to the border with China and smuggle the illegal products into Vietnam.
According to the Ministry of Health, 60 people have been hospitalized for injuries caused by firecrackers during the Tet holiday, 32 of whom were hospitalized on the Lunar New Year's Eve.
In 1994, Vietnam banned the production, trade and use of firecrackers on safety reasons.

Firecracker wrappers and residue on the street in Quang Ninh Province during the latest Tet. Photo credit: VnExpress
At first the ban had disappointed some who believed that firecrackers were the hallmark of the Lunar New Year, saying they could scare off evil spirits and bring good luck. 
Violations were rare after the ban, but have become more common in recent years in several northern provinces, including Hai Duong, Nam Dinh, Ha Giang and Quang Binh, local media reported.
In 2013, the Ministry of Public Security made a controversial proposal on allowing the public use of non-explosive fireworks.
The government collected opinions from some relevant agencies, including the police and the culture ministry, on the move, and they all backed it.
But the proposal was met with mixed responses from both the public and government officials.
The proposal has been left unanswered, since an explosion at the Ministry of Defense's Z121 factory, the country's sole producer of fireworks, killed 26 and injuring nearly 100 people later in the same year.

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