On opposite sides of the country, brothers Danh Hai and Danh Thanh Tai have been defending Vietnam’s borders to push back COVID-19.
Tai and another guard patrol the Vietnam – China border in Binh Lieu District, Quang Ninh Province. — Photo thanhnien.vn
In early March, Staff Sergeant Danh Thanh Tai, a final-year student at the Border Defence Force Academy, and 59 comrades were sent to support Quang Ninh Province's Border Guard Command to prevent the pandemic from spreading.
Arriving in Quang Ninh Province, Tai was sent to Hoanh Mo Border Guard Station in the village of Cam Hac, Binh Lieu District.
Checkpoint 1322 where Tai was stationed is actually a tent set up beside a metal fence on the border with Vietnam and China in a dense forest some distance from the nearest residential area.
During his first days at the station, Tai spent most of his time learning about the local culture and living conditions.
On sunny days, when smugglers are trying to cross the border, they have to be on guard round-the-clock.
“The biggest challenge is communicating with people from the Dao and Tày ethnic groups as well as learning about their cultures,” Tai told Thanh Niên (Young People) newspaper.
“We are always eager to learn from more experienced officers,” he added.
In mid-April, it was still cold in Binh Lieu District, something Tai, who was born and raised in the Mekong Delta, was not used to.
On crisp nights, Tai and his friend – Vo Phuoc Trung, another final-year student at the Border Defence Force Academy – lit fires and studied together for their graduation examination in June.
“We want to keep learning but we know we will only be allowed to go back to school once the disease is contained,” said Tai.
|Hai teaches the Vietnamese language to local Khmer children in Tan Chau District, Tay Ninh Province. — Photo thanhnien.vn|
In mid-March, Sub-lieutenant Danh Hai – Tai’s brother, who is a student at the Border Guard Secondary School 2 in the southern province of Ba Ria – Vung Tau, was assigned to Tan Chau District’s Tan Ha Border Guard Station under Tay Ninh Province's Border Guard Command.
Young, fierce and observant, Danh Hai was sent to Checkpoint 1 next to boundary marker 99 between Vietnam and Cambodia to guard the border and prevent illegal crossings.
Anti-smuggling forces had transformed a small bedsit where they used to rest into a quarantine checkpoint, said Colonel Trieu Ngoc Am from the Tan Ha Border Guard Station.
“The terrain is flat, making it easy for people to illegally cross the border if we are not on alert,” said Am.
“I sleep in a hammock outside the bedsit to make room for the other officers,” Hai said, adding the temperature could reach 40 degrees Celsius during the day but dropped drastically at night.
“People use these conditions to try and sneak through so we always have to stay alert,” he said.
Lieutenant Colonel Phung Van Minh, deputy head of the station, said Hai had observed and arrested tobacco smugglers entering Vietnam from Cambodia in late April.
“The mission required great skill, especially in an unfamiliar area,” said Minh.
Despite their packed schedules, Hai and Tai spend a couple of minutes each day speaking to each other by phone.
“No matter how hard it is, we always have to try our best,” Hai told his younger brother. “We have received support from many people, so protecting the country’s border is the best way to say thanks for their assistance,” he added.
Hai graduated from the Border Defence Force Academy in 2017 and was appointed to Phu My District's Border Guard Station, ten kilometres from his hometown in Giang Thanh District, Kien Giang Province.
During his leave, Hai works on the family's fields, helping his parents to clear their debts.
“My parents are illiterate. Our only childhood aspiration was to become soldiers. Now we have all grown up, it is time to take care of them,” said Hai.
He plans to invite his parents to Tai’s graduation ceremony this August in Hanoi.
“I have saved money for the trip. It will be their first plane journey and their first time in Hanoi. However, due to the pandemic, the two of us have been sent to the frontline, so it may not be possible,” he said.
“It might seem like a struggle, but I believe we can all overcome this troubling time,” Hai added. VNS
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