Con Dao Vietnam to be combined world heritage
With what it has now, Con Dao island has the opportunity to become Vietnam’s first cultural and natural world heritage.
A group of Vietnam UNESCO committee representatives just finished a field trip to survey cultural and natural values of Con Dao.
The Ba Ria Vung Tau People’s Committee has asked the government to allow the province to work with the Ministry of Culture and Information, the National Council of Heritage and Vietnam’s UNESCO Committee to prepare a file asking UNESCO to acknowledge the island as a world cultural and natural heritage.
In many people’s memories, Con Dao is still the “hell on earth” it was when it was used by Vietnam’s war enemies to imprison Vietnamese patriots. 20,000 Vietnamese war prisoners died and were buried in Hang Duong cemetery on the island.
But that is the past. Today, with its beauty, Con Dao has been known to many visitors as heaven. With 16 islands such as Con Lon, Hon Bay Canh, Hon Cau, Hon Trung, Hon Vung, Hon Ngoc, people have said that Con Dao is as attractive as Ha Long Bay.
Another strength of Con Dao is that it has a national park with many different kinds of wild animals and plants.
Con Dao is also ecologically famous for its system of coral: 342 kinds of coral from 17 families.
A large number of marine tortoises have chosen the island to build their nests on. Every year, around 400 tortoises come to Con Dao beaches to give birth to 60,000 to 80,000 offspring.
Besides its natural values, Con Dao is a place where important historical and cultural landmarks in the country’s history have been marked.
Lying at a favourable location on the sea route connecting Europe and Asia, Con Dao was known to westerners early on. In 1294, Italian explorer Marco Polo with a fleet of 14 boats stopped at Con Dao on his way from China to Europe to avoid a typhoon.
During the period from the 15th to 16th centuries many European exploration teams stopped by the island. In the early 17th Century, western companies, which traded with the east and India, sent people to Con Dao to survey. In 1702, a western company built forts and a flag tower. On February 1, 1862 Bonard, a French Colonel, decided to build Con Dao prison.
A lot of work to prepare the file
According to Mr Le Kinh Tai, Vietnam’s UNESCO Committee secretary, if one compares Con Dao with other combined world heritages in other countries, it is very likely that Con Dao will be acknowledged.
However there are still a lot of things to do to prepare the file for the island to be recognised.
“The file needs to have different documents to convincingly prove the valuable cultural and natural aspects of the island,” said Tai.
Tai also said that the file introduced by Ba Ria Vung Tau province did not have enough documents.
Many experts have said that in order for Con Dao to be recognised, Vietnam needed to emphasise the patriotic tradition of its people rather than use Con Dao prison to condemn the war crimes of westerners.
Another point, which needs to be clearly identified, is that Con Dao has shown evidence of having been home to an ancient culture.
Mr Tai expressed the willingness of Vietnam’s UNESCO Committee to continue surveying the area to prepare the file. “If the file is well prepared, it is very likely that Con Dao will be recognised by 2010,” said Tai.
Vietnam has submitted the files of eight heritages to UNESCO for recognition as world heritages. Four are material heritages: Ba Be Lake, Cat Tien National Park, Sa Pa’s ancient site of stones and the Perfume Pagoda. The other four are non material heritages: Ca Tru, Quan Ho, Water Puppetry and Central Highland’s poems.
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