Jun 27, 2014

Vietnam - Poor family of six live in Vietnam jungle for 32 years

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TUOI TRE - Born in a deep forest without any medical support, four children and their parents have been living in an isolated area in central Vietnam, a five-hour walk (20km) from the nearest village.
The 50-year-old father has spent 32 years in the forest, at the border of the two forests Tuy Phong and Song Mao in Binh Thuan Province.

Of the four siblings, the oldest brother is 16 years old and the youngest sister is almost three years old.
Since they have been living in a forest and rarely communicating with people outside their family, they can barely speak Vietnamese.

They can only muster a sentence of five or six words although they can understand the language when they hear it.

It took Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper journalists over ten hours to cross five mountains on paths through forests, bushes, and steep hills to come to a flat plot of land about 100 square meters wide.

A house stands amid huge ancient trees; it is the residence of the family of six in the deep forest.

Ten crop seasons and three wives

Their story began 32 years ago with the man and father of the ‘jungle family,’ A Sang. He is registered as a regular resident of Hai Thuy Village, Hai Ninh Commune of Bac Binh District in Binh Thuan.

A Sang worked as a porter of turpentine oil from forests to local markets. Turpentine is a fluid made from the distillation of resin obtained from live trees.

When he was 18 years old, he decided to build his house in a forest, and thus began his ‘jungle life’.
He fell in love with a woman with the same job and she agreed to stay with him in the forest.

She bore him two children but only one of them survived the harsh natural conditions of the forest. Not long after birthing her second child, she died of fever.

He continued working as a porter to raise his child in the forest before he fell in love with another woman.

The latter bore him a daughter and became pregnant soon after. Sadly, both the mother and baby died during the birth of the second child.

The two children A Sang had with his two late wives have since left the forest, opting for a normal life.
The small man told reporters he is now living with his third wife, Nguyen Thi Huong, in the forest.

Huong is the sister of his second wife and thus the aunt of his daughter. Feeling pity for her niece, she came to the forest to take care of her and gradually fell in love with A Sang and has been living with him for almost 20 years.

While living in the forest, Huong gave birth to four children—three boys and a daughter.

A Sang personally helped his wives deliver all the children, without any medical help.

They live in a clean house with a garden, where they keep chickens and cultivate luffa and vegetables. The house is just like any other houses in the countryside, except for the fact that it stands alone under ancient trees deep in the forest.

‘Jungle boys’

Le Van Tu, head of the second forest management unit of the Tuy Phong protective forest, recalled, “We discovered a family living in the forest in early 1990. Then, the children always ran to hide in the corners in their house whenever strangers came to visit.”

On the day they met the Tuoi Tre journalists, Sam Tay, the eldest son, and his brothers and sister just stood still, smiling shyly.

Since they have no community, no friends, and have not attended a single day of school, the ‘jungle boys’ prefer to communicate with their parents in simple words such as ‘Uh,’ ‘Yes,’ and ‘No’.

“They speak few words but can understand everything they hear,” A Sang said. “I always turn on the radio for them to hear programs on Ninh Thuan Radio.”

Once or twice a month, A Sang collects his forest products and carries them to the nearest market to sell. He uses the money he makes to buy rice and other necessities for his family.

“We eat five kilograms of rice a day, so we have no money to save,” A Sang admitted. “Some friends have asked me to take them to a village to grow up, but I am so poor that I can’t afford to buy land or build a house in the village.”

A Sang’s brother, Gip Nam Sang, 56, said his house is his family’s home, given to the sons by their parents. However, A Sang wanted to save it for his brother and left to build his own house in the forest.

“After seeing my family living in poverty, he refused to share our inheritance so I could have it all,” Gip Nam Sang admitted.

Ly Nhan, a neighbor of Gip Nam Sang, said A Sang is officially registered as a resident of his brother’s house but rarely appears at the address.

“Sometimes he comes back here to visit his brother’s family. We have never seen his wife and children. He is so poor that he has to live in the forest with his family,” said Nhan.

On hearing of the case of A Sang and his four children, Nguyen Le Thai Dung, the vice office manager of the People’s Committee of Bac Binh District, said, “We can’t let them live like that in the forest. We will check on him and call on people to help build a house for him and his children to live in a village.”

Members of a group of philanthropists have raised VND25.5 million (US$1,200) to help A Sang.

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