Southern Vietnam's last surviving fort could wash away in the rain

Thanh Nien News

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A national historical monument in the southern town of Bien Hoa, Dong Nai province, that dates back 200 years could collapse before a $2 million restoration project can save it.

The Bien Hoa fort, the only one of its kind, is on the verge of collapse.

The 1.1-heactare fort was first built during the 14th century and was reconstructed out of laterite in the early years of the 19th century, when the armed forces of the Nguyen Dynasty used it as a stronghold in the sparsely populated south.

When the French occupied the area in 1861, the citadel was reinforced with modern materials and served as a barracks and hospital for colonial troops.

A Thanh Nien photographer recently found the national historical monument on the brink of ruin while local residents threw up pig pens and toilets along its exterior wall.

A lack of preservation has accelerated its decay.

The sky can be seen through big holes on the tiled roofs while green moss and grass grow all over the ground. The stairs look as though they might collapse at any time.

Le Tri Dung, the Director of the Monument Preservation board for the town’s Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism said that the only revenue generated to preserve the citadel was from a coffee shop at a corner of the historical monument.

“The provincial budget includes no funds for preserving the citadel, so we do all we can, from unpaid work to clear the grass to hiring guards to watch over the historical site,” said Dung whose office occupies the one preserved portion of the fort. “Thanks to the business [the coffee shop] we can pay for the materials to temporarily preserve the citadel, and more people [guests of the coffee shop] can learn about the historical monument.”

Dung told Thanh Nien a VND 40 billion (US $2 million) restoration project is supposed to begin seeking bids in the last quarter of 2014. From there, a lengthy process of selecting a contractor and disbursing the funds will begin.
Dung fears that ancient citadel may not be able to wait that long.

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