Nguyen Dinh Xuan - a legislator & environmental activist
Date: 22th April, 2010
VietNamNet talked with National Assembly (NA) deputy Nguyen Dinh Xuan, who was recently honored by Bern city for protecting bears.
Switzerland honors Vietnamese activist for protecting bears
Insider view of National Assembly
Xuan, 39, director of the Lo Go-Xa Mat National Park in the southern province of Tay Ninh, has joined the National Assembly for two terms. As a member of the NA’s Committee for Science, Technology and Environment, deputy Xuan has actively protected wildlife, especially bears.
In May 2009, he made trips to farms in Ha Long City and Quang Ninh province where bears were bred in cages to collect bile from their gall bladders for South Korean tourists. He sent letters to South Korean agencies to inform them of the situation and recommend that South Korean visitors not buy the bile in Vietnam.
The Mayor of Bern, Switzerland’s capital city, has presented an award to deputy Xuan for his contributions to protecting bears in Vietnam.
To an environmental activist like you in a country where economics is the top priority, what does it mean to receive an award from Bern?
This award is an encouragement to all environment protectors. My expectation is calling for the people to set up an annual award to celebrate the bravest people in protecting the nature and biodiversity in Vietnam.
Certainly, in a poor country like Vietnam, we have to attach importance to economic development but environment protection and sustainable development are also great concerns.
How does the legislator status support you in protecting the wildlife?
As an NA deputy, I have good status to bring up many issues that have been raised by the people. I have access to the NA forum and the support from both the public and the media.
If I’m a normal forest ranger, nobody could know about my ideas because there is no forum for me to talk. I will also not have opportunities to collect information and to raise my voice.
Many NA deputies are afraid to talk to the media, not you. Don’t you be afraid to be backbitten that you want to be a “star”?
I refused to talk to the media sometimes but it is not very often. This depends on the viewpoint and the issues. Many people refuse to talk to the press perhaps because they are afraid of their inability to express themselves professionally, which can have negative consequences. Some may be afraid of offending people.
I always see you are surrounded by reporters during the breaks of NA sessions. Do you prepare to always have the best answers?
To have good answers I have to invest time and efforts to seek information and practice to express my opinions clearly and correctly. I think the mission of NA deputies is to communicate with constituents. They have to listen to constituents and speak to them. The media is a good channel of communication.
Besides questions about forest and environment protection, you don’t refuse to answer questions about other matters. You don’t want to displease the media, don’t you?
I give priority to my specialized field because that is the field of my best understanding, otherwise I would recommend another deputy for reporters.
But I also have other interests. Do you think that doctors should only talk about health and teachers only talk about education?
I’m interested in complaints related to the interest of farmers and workers. I have to represent them to talk about their aspirations.
Many deputies only answer question about burning issues. Do you think that it is clever?
Speaking to the media is communicating with the people to seek the public’s support. If a deputy is backed by the media and the people, his voice will be more important and the quality of his work at the NA forum is better.
Deputy Xuan at a bear farm in Quang Ninh province.
They may be backbitten and criticized but it is clear that these forums benefit deputies. Of course, they have to be careful because their answers can’t satisfy everybody.
Have you ever been “reminded” after an interview?
Not officially but in the fifth NA session, when deputies talked about state-owned groups, I compared the fast development of these groups as “giants who walk on clay-made feet” because of the lack of legal corridors for their operation and their limited management ability.
After the media quoted my speech, some people reminded me that I should not displease the people who I may need their help. They may be state-owned groups and ministries and I have other ways to reach the target, no need to speak to the NA.
Do you shrink from these “warnings”?
I have to listen to them. If there are other ways to archive the goals, we can choose a more suitable measure.
If you are elected to the next NA, will you be less “talkative”?
It is too early to talk about the next term but it is sure that a deputy who works at the three NA terms cannot talk less. Mrs. Hoai Thu has had six NA terms but she is very energetic. But I will speak more carefully, move effectively and correctly.
There are many issues that have not improved much though they were criticized many times at the NA forum. How can you still keep your enthusiasm?
I’m entrusted by constituents. Moreover, I’m absent from my job to go to Hanoi to attend NA meetings so I can’t sit and nod repeatedly. “Silence is golden” is meaningful somewhere, not at the NA, otherwise, I should stay at home.
If a matter is not solved after one time of criticism, I will continue to talk, but in another approach. But I don’t think that my speeches are helpless. For example, after NA deputies spoke about the rampant development of hydro-power plants in the central region, many hydro-power projects were canceled.
Will you reach your goals after two NA terms?
The time for NA deputy status is too short. Today I’m a legislator; tomorrow I’m the director of a national park.
Once I forced a person to remove his house, which was illegally built in the national park, he sent a text message to me: “You are an NA deputy but you break my house”.
I sent him an answer message: “There is no NA deputy who breaks the people’s house. That’s the job of a director of the national park”.
So I think everyone has to play his role correctly.