The first construction project for a nuclear power plant in Vietnam is proceeding in Ninh Thuan province, on the country’s south-central coast.
I visited the site in September on an Okinawan university’s study tour.
Inrajaka, a 30-year-old man belonging to the Cham ethnic minority, invited us to “drink some tea in my new home, if you’d like.” His new house was in the middle of the wilderness where the cactus grows, away from the village of My Nghiep where only Cham live.
Borrowing from Cham tradition, he built it with only wood and red clay. A woven mat was laid out in front of the house. A few people were having a party as they viewed the harvest moon. Inrajaka graduated from university in Ho Chi Minh City.
He now lives alone, drifting between jobs as a writer and musician. He is quite a handsome man. Living here by himself, he says he focuses on creating art without being disturbed by other people. Inrajaka is always clad in an ethnic costume that looks like a white turban and skirt. He even walks the streets of downtown Ho Chi Minh City barefoot. He’s quite a character.
I asked Inrajaka a question with an obvious answer. “They’re gonna construct a nuclear power plant around here. What do you think about that?” Immediately he replied, “It’s among the worst things humans do.” His new home is 10 kilometers from where Russia is going to build the Ninh Thuan No. 1 nuclear power plant.
That night at a meeting in the hotel, a student, whom I’ll call “M,” murmured, “So they have ethnic minorities in Vietnam. It’s terrible they’d put a nuclear power plant in such a place. I think it’s good we don’t have ethnic minorities in Japan.”
Hold on there M, but aren’t you from Naha, Okinawa Prefecture? I purposely bit my tongue, and then an older student, “A,” said, “No, that’s not the case. We Okinawans are an ethnic minority, right?”
“Japan will build a nuclear power plant near our village soon. What do you all think of that?” “What happened with the Fukushima crisis?” I purposely refrained from helping the students field the questions the villagers bombarded them with. I did no more than interpret the best answers they could give.
Issues concerning nuclear power plants and bases … in other words, Ninh Thuan and Henoko, Okinawa, where a U.S. base will be relocated … the Cham and Okinawans–I think we’ve had parallel experiences.
They only met each other for a short while, but taking this realization away from it made me feel a little glad as the lone Yamato. It might not be going too far to say it is a feeling of self-satisfaction as a member of the majority.
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