December 19, 2014 04:03 UTC

As It Is

Legacy of Vietnamese General Remains Divisive

Catherine Karnow with General Giap
Catherine Karnow with General Giap

Multimedia

Play or download an MP3 of this story

Hello and welcome to As It Is from VOA Learning English! I’m George Grow in Washington.
 
Today we tell about the research that won three scientists the 2013 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. 
 
But first, we hear about a Vietnamese general who sometimes has been called one of the best military leaders of the 20th century. Vo Nguyen Giap is perhaps best known for winning his homeland’s independence from France.
 
Remembering Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap
 
One of Vietnam’s most celebrated war commanders died a week ago. Vo Nguyen Giap was 102 years old. People throughout Vietnam have been remembering General Giap and mourning his loss. But his long career remains an issue that could incite disagreements, not least among Vietnamese political activists. Bob Doughty has our report.
 
Social media reported the news of General Giap’s death last Friday. People reacted quickly -- and with different opinions.
 
The general is said to have plotted the battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954. That battle led to the end of French colonial rule in Indochina. He has also been described as a major influence in the defeat of South Vietnam in 1975. That ended what the Vietnamese call the American War. 
 
Vo Nguyen Giap taught himself how to plot military campaigns. He is also considered to have launched the Vietnam People’s Army. And, he was a close friend of celebrated Communist revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh.
 
Jonathan London is a Vietnam expert at the City University of Hong Kong. He says the passing of General Giap makes many Vietnamese think about the performance and record of the country’s present leadership. 
 
After the war, the general raised concerns about the quick acceptance of economic reforms and foreign policy that were like those of the old Soviet Union. He retired as deputy prime minister in 1991.
 
Professor London says Vietnam’s leadership wants to control the official story of General Giap. He says the leadership wants people to remember his military victories. But that may prove difficult because of the political positions he took in later years. 
 
Professor London notes that the general spoke about issues like the mining of bauxite in Vietnam’s Highlands. And he called on the country’s leaders to show more responsibility to the public.
 
Some activists who expressed support for the general’s way of thinking were targeted by the government. 
 
Anti-China protesters demonstrated in Hanoi two years ago. Some of the marchers carried pictures of General Giap’s face. 
 
One of those activists was Nguyen Quang Thach. He believes the Vietnamese people should embody General Giap’s spirit -- but not just oppose China. He says this should include making economic and educational reforms and improving the army. 
 
Not all activists, however, agree with him. General Giap remained an influential voice in Vietnam during his 90’s. But some say his influence was reduced in recent years while he was hospitalized. 
 
Professor London says the general was in the hospital for three or four years, and that his death was expected.


“In the meantime, I think Vietnam’s own political culture has changed a lot in a very short period of time. And so while the general himself just a few years ago was an individual of great interest among those struggling for political reforms, institutional reforms, in Vietnam by the time of his death just recently, the country had in respect moved on.”
 
For those who fled to the United States after the war, the reactions to the general’s death are very different from those in Vietnam’s capital. 
 
Duy Hoang is a spokesman for the group Viet Tan, which is banned in Vietnam. He disputes the idea that General Giap caused the American fighting forces to leave Vietnam.
 
He says it is important to recognize the general’s part in the independence movement against the French. I’m Bob Doughty. 
 
Cell Transport System Research Wins Nobel for Medicine
 
Three researchers based in the United States have won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. James Rothman, Randy Schekman and Thomas Sudhof studied how cells organize and move the molecules necessary for them to operate.

Tom Kirchhausen is a cell biologist with Harvard University in Massachusetts. He was asked to explain the work of the Nobel Prize winners. He suggests that we think of every cell in our bodies as a tiny city.

James Rothman and Randy Schekman, of the US, and German-born researcher Thomas Suedhof.James Rothman and Randy Schekman, of the US, and German-born researcher Thomas Suedhof.
x
James Rothman and Randy Schekman, of the US, and German-born researcher Thomas Suedhof.
James Rothman and Randy Schekman, of the US, and German-born researcher Thomas Suedhof.
“You have people that are moving from one place to the other to do whatever function they do. And then you move from one place to the other, in these carriers, the containers. That’s the bus, the motorcycle, the train.”
 
In his comparison, the people are the enzymes, hormones and other proteins and chemicals that do work and carry messages around our bodies.
 
If the transport system breaks down, they cannot get to where they need to go and cannot do what they need to do. The results are diseases -- from diabetes to disorders of the nervous system.
 
The Nobel Prize-winning researchers discovered how the cell’s buses, motorcycles and trains get to the right place at the right time. The process is so important that evolution -- development and change over time -- has not changed it much from the microorganism yeast to people.
 
University of Utah neuroscientist Erik Jorgensen praises the work of Randy Schekman at the University of California at Berkeley. Professor Jorgensen says most neuroscientists would never imagine that the yeast cell would be a good model system for the brain. He says Randy Schekman discovered in yeast the genetic plan for the proteins that make up the delivery system of cells.
 
“We then subsequently found that the proteins involved in this process that allow us to think, that allow nerve cells to communicate with one another, are precisely the same ones that were found in yeast.”
 
Erik Jorgensen says a list of players came from Randy Schekman’s work. But he adds that another Nobel winner, James Rothman at Yale University in Connecticut, showed which player was interacting with another.
 
Professor Rothman discovered how each little cellular bus takes its passengers to the right station.
 
The third-prize winner is Thomas Sudhof of Stanford University in California. He discovered how nerve cells release their passengers quickly and exactly. They do so in reaction to a signal.
 
Speaking to reporters, James Rothman said that he was lucky to start his research at a time when a young scientist could take chances on an idea. But he said times have changed. 
 
He says government financing for scientific research has dropped in recent years. And he says that decrease threatens American leadership in science and technology. 
 
This is George Grow wishing you all the best. Join us again tomorrow for another As It Is from VOA Learning English.
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Khanh from: Vietnam
10/21/2013 1:42 PM
Citizens of VietNam were very shocked after general's death! I hope everyone will forever remember his glorious victories...R.I.P


by: BIJU.P.Y. from: SOUTH INDIA
10/14/2013 2:31 PM
I wonder what made General Giap live upto 102. Perhaps his way of life may be responsible for it. I was told that his enemies had licked the dust because of his wise and cunnig plotting. He was unparellel, I think, and may have created a long vaccum in the world of military strategy. I take off my hat to the three scientists recently awarded with the Nobel prize. Long live such scientists who are the salts of this earth. Thank you.


by: Quang Pham from: Wa
10/13/2013 7:53 AM
These days, large numbers of Vietnamese people mourning general Giap not just because he was the one who defeated the French but in recent years, when he was not hospitalized yet, he voice as a opposite to some policies of the government (yet he was never listened), that what the peoples wanted but they dared not do. Besides, general Giap was quite clean in comparison with any high-ranking officials in VN now.


by: My from: Vietnam
10/11/2013 4:45 PM
firstly,i 'd like to give my thanks for your concerning about our respected general Vo Nguyen Giap.He is one of the most excellent generals in the world in the twentieth century .He is one of the most pride about Vietnamese people.Although there are many diferent opinions or comments about general Giap,He is still a hero who will live on forever in Vietnamese people's heart.The way he did,the way he thought will be a model for our generation to look up on.
History of Vietnam is proud of him until forever!!!!!


by: Hong from: Vietnam
10/11/2013 4:17 PM
I'm very sad after hearing about the General Giap' death. He is the first general of military in Vietnam. He and Ho Chi Minh uncle are heros and alway are in every Vietnamese' heart.


by: Tsha from: Vietnam
10/11/2013 12:26 PM
he always stays in Vietnamese's hearts, immortal symbol of a marvelous period 54s


by: SimonMa from: VietNam
10/11/2013 11:46 AM
i'm a vietnamese, and i'm pround of The General too much. in our mind Vo Nguyen Giap's spirit exists forever.

Learn with The News

  • Mideast Islamic State US

    Audio Top Islamic State Leaders Killed in Airstrikes

    Three top Islamic State leaders were killed in a series of targeted airstrikes in Iraq. U.S. not ruling out White House visit by Cuban President Raul Castro. Suspected Boko Haram gunmen kidnap over 100 women, children. Putin says Russia’s economy will improve in two years. More

  • the interview

    Video Sony Criticized for Cancelling 'The Interview'

    The company acted after a group of computer hackers attacked the company and threatened to attack movie theaters that show the film. Most people have criticized Sony’s decision to cancel the release. The US says North Korea was behind the cyber attack. North Korea denies the accusation. More

  • The MOM Incubator could save more babies in refugee camps who die due to complications of premature birth.

    Audio Low-Cost Incubator May Save More Babies

    Premature birth is the biggest killer of children worldwide. About one million babies around the world die of problems because they are born too early. Many of these babies could have been saved if they had been placed in an incubator. A young British researcher says he has found a solution. More

  • A screenshot from Cuban television shows President Raul Castro addressing the country, in Havana, Dec. 17, 2014.

    Audio US, Cuba Normalize Relations

    After the release of Alan Gross from prison, U.S. and Cuba announce policy changes that end more than 50 years of diplomatic isolation that began in the Cold War. Also in the news, India joins Pakistan in mourning after Tuesday's Taliban attack. And Sony Pictures cancels release of "The Interview." More

  • Audio How Much of You Does Facebook Own?

    If you use Facebook, your friends may have posted an update recently saying Facebook is not permitted to violate their privacy. But how much of your data -- things you post -- does Facebook legally own? Experts say Facebook's terms of service agreement clearly says they own most of what you post. More

Featured Stories

  • Video Music Shows in Private Homes Gain Popularity

    Attending a live musical performance, be it in a huge arena or a small cafe, is an exciting experience. But here in the U.S., a very different kind of performance is gaining popularity: house concerts. “There's just a totally unique experience as opposed to playing like a coffee shop or a bar." More

  • Lee Surrenders to Grant at Appomatox

    Audio Southern General Robert E. Lee Surrenders at Appomattox

    General Robert E. Lee’s military skill and intelligence helped extend the war between the states. But even his skill could not save the South from the industrial power of the North and its mighty armies -- armies that were better-fed and better-equipped. On Sunday, August 9, Lee surrendered. More

  • Uganda Playground for Disabled Children

    Audio Helping Uganda’s Disabled Children Play

    You may think that all children have freedom to play. But for children who look differently from others or have physical disabilities, the idea of play can seem far away. An organization in Uganda is seeking to change that. Read on to learn words needed to talk about this sometimes difficult topic. More

  • A microneedle used to inject glaucoma medications into the eye is shown next to a liquid drop from a conventional eye dropper. (Georgia Tech Photo: Gary Meek

    Audio Tiny Needles Treat Eye Disease

    Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness around the world. In the United States, more than two million people suffer from the disease. Now, researchers are developing very small needles that may offer a more effective and painless treatment for glaucoma and other eye diseases. More

  • The National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement in Las Vegas

    Audio Mob Museum Tells About the Mafia in America

    The U.S. government has long used public money to fight organized crime. Now, public money is also paying for a museum in Las Vegas to tell about "The Mob,” and not everyone is happy about that. But some say it helps the local economy by bringing people to a part of Las Vegas that few visit. More

Practice Your Writing

Confessions of an English Learner BlogConfessions of an English Learner Blog

Tell us About Our Programs