A Vietnamese self-taught mechanic, well known locally for making a helicopter, and his son have been honored by Cambodia for repairing and upgrading its army's armored fighting vehicles and even building a new one for them.
Tran Quoc Hai and son Tran Quoc Thanh were awarded with the Grand Officer medal by the Kingdom of Cambodia, a report on Tuoi Tre Newspaper said Monday.
Hai and Thanh successfully repaired and upgraded Soviet-era infantry fighting vehicles BRDM-2 and BTR-60PB for the Cambodian army, the report said.
He was in Cambodia to provide technical support for his cassava farming machinery when he saw the broken vehicles of the Cambodian army's 70th brigade.
He asked the brigade command to let him try repair them, and spent US$25,000 of his own money on it. The first upgraded vehicle has better mileage - just 25 liters of diesel for 100 kilometers, instead of the original 45 liters. It also boasts stronger firepower with an automatic machine gun turret, the report said.
He was then contracted to repair 10 more vehicles. At the same time, he started to design and build his own vehicle, according to the report.
The new six-wheel vehicle was unveiled after four months, fitted with a machine gun turret that can be controlled automatically or manually and armed with more guns.
The report, however, did not specify more details related to the vehicle's armor, armaments and performance.
Hai and his partner Le Van Danh, a farmer, made headlines in the last decade when they built two helicopters from scrap parts, the first Vietnamese to do so. They hoped to use the vehicle for spraying insecticide and fertilizer on their own fields.
The authorities, however, did not allow both helicopters to test fly, saying their engine was not powerful enough and that they did not meat safety standards.
One helicopter was used in an installation at the New York-based
Museum of Modern Art
Hai majored in sports and never got any professional training in mechanics or the like, but has been keen to learn.
He owns an agricultural machinery factory in southern Vietnam.