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UNESCO Vietnam snaps back after culture ministry dismiss titles as ‘illegal’

By Doan Loan   September 11, 2017 | 08:08 pm PT
The ministry claims that in some cases, money is being exchanged for cultural recognition.

Vietnam’s UNESCO affiliate has bristled at calls made by the culture ministry to “clean up” the way cultural titles are bestowed in a country where a slew of recognitions have been dismissed as being awarded left and right.

In a petition to the prime minister last week, the ministry accused various organizations of violating heritage and competition regulations.

The blacklist includes UNESCO Vietnam, a local committee appointed by the Vietnamese government which is accused of violating rules to honor several temples in Hanoi and northern provinces, as well as local artisans.

The Vietnam Association for Conservation of Nature and Environment was also criticized for its “heritage tree” title, while the Culture Conservation Center under the Vietnam Union of Science and Technology Associations was attacked for the titles it bestows on traditional artisans.


An 800-year-old banyan tree stands by its Heritage Tree title in Da Nang. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Dong

The ministry said these organizations are not authorized to honor or certify cultural heritages.

It said UNESCO Vietnam has even taken money for some of the titles it has handed down, triggering vehement opposition from the committee.

In a statement on Sunday, describing itself as an organization established by Vietnam’s prime minister with a recommendation from UNESCO’s director general, UNESCO Vietnam said it is entitled to honor and award individuals and communities who contribute to local cultural development under criteria recognized by the United Nations agency.

The process is not subject to the country’s competition and heritage laws, the statement said.

It said it has been issuing titles and certificates for 25 years and they have never been mistaken for those bestowed by the government.

It criticized the culture ministry for jumping to “subjective and unsatisfactory conclusions that have besmirched the committee’s reputation and legal interests.”

The committee suggested the prime minister look over the matter himself and assess the situation.

Vietnam’s culture ministry first flagged UNESCO Vietnam and the other organizations in March, and it seems like the parties have failed to settle the disagreement, elevating the case to the country’s government leader.

Experts say many heritage titles and recognitions in Vietnam are already a mess and do not effectively help with preservation work.

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