By BEN STOCKING – 18 May 2009
Vietnam (AP) — Each day at around 4 p.m., Hoang Thi Gai tries to lull
her five-month-old grandson to sleep so that she can prepare supper.
About 15 minutes later, a loudspeaker starts blaring just outside her
"He starts screaming and crying and his face turns purple," said Gai, 61. "My dear boy hasn't been able to adapt."
signs of the Vietnam War fade away in this rapidly modernizing country,
one relic is hard to miss: a nationwide network of loudspeakers from
which the communist government blasts propaganda at dawn and dusk, 30
minutes at a stretch, whether the public likes it or not.
a Web-savvy Hanoi politician wants to silence the head-rattling
messages and put them on the Internet, where people can read them at
the Vietnam War, the loudspeakers aired crucial warnings about bombing
raids. Today, they broadcast an odd mix of local news, bureaucratic
trivia, communist ideology and patriotic songs.
"I must admit, for people who live near the speakers, it's a disaster. It hurts their ears," Pham Van Hien said in an interview.
38, is chairman of the People's Committee in Hanoi's Khuong Mai
commune, one of more than 500 such elected officials in the capital.
And, like any good politician, he has his finger on the popular pulse.
His campaign against the loudspeakers has received resounding support
in Vietnamese chat rooms, blogs and newspaper Web sites.
if you lived near a loudspeaker and someone in your family was
terminally ill and had to keep hearing a song like 'There Has Never
Been Such A Beautiful Day As Today,'" Hanoi resident Tran Hung wrote to
the Tien Phong newspaper's online edition.
cruel," he continued. "If my neighbor made that kind of noise, I would
take him to court. Why does the government give itself the right to
create noise pollution?"
At the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, which oversees the system, officials declined to comment on Hien's effort.
says his idea has received warm reviews from some of his higher-ups in
the Communist Party who are eager to embrace technology and update
their party's image. But he is also careful not to push his plan too
hard lest he annoy party bosses. Instead he is showing how the system
can be modernized, hoping that officialdom will get the message — that
people should be allowed to "choose to listen rather than be forced to
wards across Vietnam make loudspeaker broadcasts, including 577 in
Hanoi alone. They tailor the content to their needs, but incorporate
lots of information from the Ministry of Culture.
In Hien's ward of 20,000 people, 60 loudspeakers on utility polls broadcast messages from a tiny guard house.
a recent day, the reader was Tran Anh Tuyet, a 33-year-old state
employee. She read from a government pamphlet called "Happy Family,"
offering information about an upcoming national census. Then came
exhortations to people to "enrich their spiritual life" by skipping TV
and attending cultural events instead.
make Hanoi beautiful in the eyes of international friends," she read,
urging citizens to create a "polite, cultured environment."
broadcasts often urge listeners to follow the example of Ho Chi Minh,
the father of Vietnam's communist revolution: "Live virtuously, work
hard, and give your heart to the people."
Web site, The Khuong Mai News, offers everything the loudspeakers
deliver, plus extra coverage ranging from floods to a Russian
fortuneteller predicting Barack Obama's future.
says more than half the households in his district have access to the
Internet at home, and there are also several Internet cafes in the area.
says the site has received over 800,000 hits since it went online last
year. VietNamNet, an online newspaper, wrote a story about the site,
and then state-run television did a story.
When the 7 a.m. loudspeaker broadcasts come on, Nguyen Thi Oanh, 23, buries her head under the blankets.
"Who cares about the news they read?" she said. "The sound is so bad, they all sound like they have a stuffy nose."
At 68, Nguyen Thi Phuong is old enough to remember the speakers in wartime.
"Whenever they warned us about air raids, we rushed to the bomb shelters," she said. "Those speakers saved many lives."
But now they're simply annoying, Phuong said. "Putting that information on the Internet is a wonderful idea."
Associated Press Writer Vu Tien Hong contributed to this story.
Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.