Our Final Day in Vietnam: A Visit to the Cu Chi Tunnels

On our last day in Vietnam, The John Marshall Law School students traveled to the Cu Chi tunnels, which were about an hour and a half bus ride from Ho Chi Minh City.  Our guide Sun provided us with an extensive history of the tunnels used by the Viet Cong guerrillas during the war.  They served as hiding spots during combat, communication and supply routes, hospitals, food and weapon caches and living quarters for numerous guerrilla fighters. The tunnel systems were of great importance to the Viet Cong in their resistance to American forces, and helped achieve ultimate military success.

 

Jack squeezing into a camaflouged trap door

During our tour we saw the extensive inter-workings of the three-layer tunnel system.  Several students walked or crouched down 20 meters through the dark tunnels, while others made it 60 meters.  We were also shown the booby traps and underground hiding spots used by the Viet Cong.

Entrance to the Cu Chi tunnel complex

Camouflaged booby trap

Today was an extremely educational and emotional day, which provided us with a further understanding of Vietnamese tactics used during the war.  Following our tour of the tunnels all of the students went to the market to purchase some final souvenirs, and the day culminated with final preparations for our return trip to the United States.

~Klaudia Stolarczuk & Jack Sheehan

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Wrapping Up Law Studies: Final Days in Vietnam

Today was the last of our law study meetings. We spent the morning at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Law where we discussed various aspects of economic law regulations, with the moderator Professor Phan Huy Hong. Additionally, we addressed the legal aspect of land ownership and property law rights with Professor Pham Van Ho. We also had a discussion about environmental law issues with Professor Nguyen Thi Thuy, addressing both current problems of air pollution, bauxite mining and its devastating effect on the environment. The morning session ended with a very honest and insightful discussion by both sides about the lasting effects of Agent Orange which was used by the United States government during the Vietnam War, including the damage to the environment. We discussed the current status of litigation in the United States on the use of Agent Orange, including lawsuits brought by American Veterans against Dow Chemical and Monsanto Corporation.  We also explored together possible remedies to redress injuries to newborn children caused by Agent Orange.

We were able to have an open discussion with various professors regarding Vietnamese intellectual property laws as well as laws which have been implemented to protect the environment. The professors were very straightforward with the present state of the Vietnamese economic conditions as well as their optimism for its future. Overall the morning session was extremely informative and helpful for students to understand the current problems facing the Country.

We broke for one final lunch and we invited professors and translators from the University in order to have a more informal discussion regarding the similarities and differences in the legal education systems of Vietnam and the United States.

The afternoon session consisted of an open question and answer portion with a panel of deans and professors of the University. We discussed overarching issues such as changes in the legal education curriculum and the professors looked to us for guidance in implementing practical legal education. We explored the possibility of having Vietnamese law students study in our LL.M. programs via Distance Education and/or combining it with a visit to The John Marshall Law School.

The John Marshall Law School meeting with the Vice-Rector and Faculty

After the lectures were complete we were taken on a tour of the University and were able to visit lecture halls, libraries, and the University cafeteria where we met with Vietnamese law students to get an insight into their legal education.

The trip seems to be flying by, and we can hardly believe it is almost time to return to the States. We look forward to our last activities together, but can’t wait to share our experiences with our friends and family!

~Sarah Flohr & Kerri Wyman

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A Flavorful Taste of Ho Chi Minh City

Today, we had the opportunity to visit many famous sites in Ho Chi Minh City. At the beginning of our day, we visited the Reunification Palace, formerly known as the Presidential Palace. The Reunification Palace was home to four South Vietnamese Presidents after Vietnam became independent in 1945 and it remained the Presidential Palace until the Reunification in 1975. Actually, the Reunification Palace somewhat compares to the White House in the United States. During our visit to the Reunification Palace, JMLS students experienced a full tour of the magnificent palace, including war and map rooms that the United States and South Vietnamese used during the Vietnam War. Not only that, but we encountered many enthusiastic Vietnamese schoolchildren along the way, with whom we exchanged friendly waves.

A group photo in front of the Reunification Palace

Two North Vietnamese tanks which stormed the gates of the Reunification Palace on the morning of April 30, 1975 and solified North Vietnam's victory in the Vietnam War.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shortly thereafter, JMLS students observed the French influence permeating throughout Vietnam, highlighted by the Saigon Post Office and Notre Dame Cathedral. The Saigon Post Office is the largest post office throughout all of Vietnam and was designed by Gustave Eiffel! During our short, thirty-minute stay, we also discovered that the Post Office is a hot spot for wedding pictures, as we watched four different newlyweds photographed in front of the building! Then, we ventured across the street to pay homage to the Notre Dame Cathedral.

The front entrance to the Saigon Post Office.

 

The famous Notre Dame Cathedral.

The Opera House and People’s Committee Building, formerly known as City Hall, were the next stops during our tour. Although we did not have an opportunity to step inside these two famous attractions, there was plenty of time for a few good photos!

The front entrance of the Opera House, home to the Ho Chi Minh City Ballet Symphony.

A brief glance at the influential People's Committee Building.

 

 

 

 

 

 

After lunch, we visited the War Remnants Museum. At first, it was a bit intimidating to venture up to a building surrounded by U.S. military planes, tanks, and armored vehicles from the Vietnam War. Once inside, though, there awaited three floors of exhibits devoted to various facets of the war, including exhibits in the War Crimes rooms. These exhibits included a display of the devastating effects of Agent Orange, and a collection of pictures entitled “Requiem.” The Museum contained many powerful and heartrending images of the Vietnam War.

An outside look at the War Remnants Museum.

Finally, our day concluded with a tour around Vietnam’s Chinatown. First, we stopped at a Chinese Pagoda and lit incense for Thien Hau, the Lady of the Sea. Then, we took an invigorating rickshaw ride through the chaotic streets of Ho Chi Minh City, amidst a heavy rain, which ultimately led to the Chinese Markets.

Although we visited many famous locations throughout Ho Chi Minh City today, our knowledgeable tour guide truly helped us appreciate the history and meaning behind Ho Chi Minh City’s most memorable sites.

~Julie Gerding & Meghan Tribe

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The John Marshall Law School Delegates Visit Ho Chi Minh City University of Law

 

The first law study session in South Vietnam took place at the Ho Chi Minh University of Law.  Vice-Rector and Professor Bui Xuan Hai warmly greeted The John Marshall Law School students and faculty. During the session, the University faculty presented an overview of economic rights provisions in Vietnamese law.  Professor Canh Hop Nguyen discussed a number of mechanisms employed by the government of Vietnam to protect economic rights including, the constitutional reform of 1986 that further diversified land ownership.  He also discussed the relationship between politics and economy and stressed the importance of human rights development within political and economic affairs in Vietnam.

In addition, Van Van Nguyen, Professor in Tax, Finance and Banking Law, briefed the John Marshall Law School representatives on the current Vietnamese Anti-Corruption Law and banking system.  According to him, the country’s banking system that is based on the government ownership has become more aligned with international standards since the late 1900s.  He then further familiarized the representatives with the Vietnamese legal education as well as various curriculums offered by the Ho Chi Minh University of Law that include Land Law, Family Law, International Civil Procedures and Arbitration, and Administrative Procedures.  During the last presentation, Van Vo Pham, Professor in Land and Environmental Law, answered questions related to land ownership in Vietnam.  According to him, there are currently two major controversial issues surrounding land ownership in the country, land confiscation and the market price of compulsory purchase of land by the government.  Professor Do Minh Khoi and Professor Vu Van Nhiem also addressed important constitutional law and jurisprudence issues and the development of reform in the Vietnamese legal structure.

The law study session was very informative and provided further potential cooperation between the law schools.  In particular, the Ho Chi Minh University of Law can offer various opportunities that are of interest to students of the John Marshall Law School including the Human and Citizen’s Rights Research Center.

~Shayan Davoudi and Eric Bisby

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Traveling Down the Mekong River Delta

Today we left Can Tho and headed toward Ho Chi Minh City. Along the way, we boarded a boat on the Tien River, which took us to Thai Son fruit garden.

Here we toured the fruit garden and saw honeybees making honey. After seeing the honeycombs, we sampled homemade honey tea and fruits grown on the farm.

Jack sampling fresh honey.

Lauren and Jordan sampling the delicious honey tea of Vietnam.

They also made coconut candy at this farm and we were able to see their production facilities and sampled some of the candy.

Fresh coconut toffee.

When we left the fruit garden, we dined at a local restaurant where our meals were caught fresh from the Delta. After lunch, we floated down an estuary of the Mekong River on small traditional Vietnamese rowboats.

Floating down the Mekong River Delta.

The boat took us back to the dock where we continued on to Ho Chi Minh City. Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, was renamed Ho Chi Minh City following the Reunification of Vietnam. It is the largest city and economic center in Vietnam and the capital of the South. We look forward to exploring the city over our next few days.

Lauren Brylinski and Jordan Franklin

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Xin Chao from Can Tho!!!

After our arrival in Can Tho last night, we all rested up for the big day ahead.  Today, we began at the Ninh Kieu wharf along the Mekong River in Can Tho, enjoying some sightseeing and taking in the culture of the local people along the riverbanks.

Riverbanks of Ninh Kieu wharf.

We traveled via boat down the Mekong Delta and visited the Cai Rang floating markets of Can Tho, the largest floating market in Vietnam.  While weaving through the market vessels, we sampled fresh mangoes and even had a refreshing pineapple treat!

Floating markets.

Delicious pineapple treats!

After exiting the boat and enjoying a quick local lunch, we visited a fruit farm.  This farm contained an array of exotic seasonal fruits.  While walking along the farm’s paths, we discovered a bamboo bridge.  This bridge brought an opportunity for both adventure and photo ops.  Finally, we visited a traditional Chinese-Vietnamese house.  This house featured traditional Chinese-Vietnamese furniture, artwork, pottery, and a beautiful garden. It was also the site for the French movie, “L’Amant.”

Traditional Vietnamese house.

We ended our day earlier than usual, allowing us time to visit downtown Can Tho.  We even ran across a wedding in our hotel, and at least four other weddings in our immediate hotel area.

Wedding that took place in our hotel.

All in all, we had an educational and relaxing first day in Can Tho.

 

Hen Gap Lai,

Melanie Berks and Elyssa Pavone

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Ha Noi to Ho Chi Minh City to Can Tho

This morning, after 6:00 am breakfast we departed for the Ha Noi Airport on our flight to Ho Chi Minh City. From there we boarded our bus and spent the rest of the day travelling southward to Can Tho, which is the regional capitol of the Mekong Delta Province. We arrived in the late evening and settled in our rooms in a wonderful hotel that overlooks the Mekong River.

~Teresa Do

 

 

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Our Final Day in Hanoi: Paving the Way for Lasting Relationships in Vietnam

The welcoming sign awaiting The John Marshall Law School representatives as we entered the Vietnam Lawyer's Association.

On our final day in Hanoi, there were various opportunities to meet with local Vietnamese delegates. Our day began with a brief, but meaningful, engagement with the Vietnam Lawyer’s Association (“VLA”). At VLA’s headquarters, we had the honor of meeting the President of the VLA, Pham Quoc Anh. Professor Thanh and Dr. Hai, who previously introduced us to the intricacies of the Vietnamese legal system during earlier study sessions this week, accompanied President Anh. Then, the collective group began discussing the potential for future collaboration between The John Marshall Law School (“JMLS”) and the VLA. Some suggestions for future collaboration included faculty and student exchanges and potential clerkships at Vietnamese law firms. The Vietnamese delegates present at our meeting also underscored the importance of expanding and redefining the Vietnamese legal system, based on knowledge gained from other international exchanges. This was a very significant day for both VLA and The John Marshall Law School since President Anh acknowledged that this was the first official visit to Vietnam by any American law school. Ultimately, this session culminated in the presentation of honorary VLA memberships to Dean Ruebner, Teresa Do, Professor Dana, and the JMLS students. Dean Ruebner also presented President Anh the commemorative Chief Justice John Marshall medallion.

Next, we visited the Law and Life Newspaper headquarters. During this meeting, we discovered that the Law and Life Newspaper is the main source of legal information disseminated to the Vietnamese public. It operates under the authority of VLA. There are at least 200,000 copies of the Law and Life Newspaper distributed each year; there is also an internet version of the newspaper, called the Messenger, made available to the public. The Law and Life and Messenger staff stressed that the purpose of this newspaper is to provide articles commenting on current legal events in Vietnam, while simultaneously remaining within the parameters of Vietnamese law. At one point, both Vietnamese delegates and JMLS representatives engaged in a stimulating discussion concerning the differences in freedom of the press and free speech laws between the United States and Vietnam. These differences included defamation and speech relating to public officials. One of the most signicant topics that was addressed in this session was the restrictions placed on the dissemination of information by the Vietnamese government, including the recent arrests of Vietnamese bloggers. At the conclusion of our conference, the Law and Life Newspaper proposed a lasting relationship with JMLS to aid the publication in its Information Technology and Intellectual Property programs, as well as the exploration of Internet Law. More specifically, JMLS’ Center for Information Technology and Privacy Law and Center for Intellectual Property Law would be of particular aid to the Law and Life Newspaper. Vietnamese representatives emphasized the importance of developing this area of law in Vietnam.

We then visited the United States Embassy in Hanoi where we met with a number of Embassy staff members to discuss the current situation in Vietnam concerning human rights conditions.

Towards the end of our day, we returned to the Galaxy Law Firm, where we learned more about the inner-workings of the firm, its offices, and its specialized areas of law. We also had the opportunity to browse the law firm’s website which featured our visit on the homepage. You can see this at: http://galaxylawfirm.com.vn/index.php?lang=en

We then discussed a potential future relationship with the Galaxy Law Firm. Mr. Pham Minh Duc, founding partner of Galaxy, wrote us a letter outlining the possible benefits of a lasting connection with the firm, including: studying Vietnamese legal documents; exchanging students and faculty between Vietnam and the United States; providing legal services in Vietnam for American individuals and corporations; organizing study sessions in Vietnam for additional JMLS students; and interacting with government authorities to develop new educational programs.

Finally, we said “goodbye” to our new friends in Hanoi, especially: Mr. Hung, whose expert translations assisted our further understanding of the Vietnamese legal system and whose presence we soon hope to see at JMLS, and the VLA, Dr . Hai, and Mr. Duc, whose overwhelming generosity and hospitality will not soon be forgotten!

A special gift to The John Marshall Law School, presented to Dean Ruebner by Mr. Duc

Meghan Tribe and Julie Gerding

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Historical, Cultural, and Social Basis for Vietnamese Law

Once again, we met with Professor Thanh who devoted the day to a discussion of the historical, cultural, and social basis for Vietnam’s Constitution and laws. Joining us again were a number of law students from Vietnam National University School of Law and members of the Galaxy Law Firm. Throughout our visit to the Galaxy Law Firm for our study sessions we were warmly welcomed by the Galaxy lawyers and staff who graciously hosted our meetings and provided wonderful refreshments each day. This was our last study session in Ha Noi.

~Teresa Do

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John Marshall Goes Hillside! Sato & Seitan

This morning we piled on the bus and began our trek out to Hoa Binh, a province which is two hours southwest of Ha Noi and is the home of the following ethnic minorities: Hmong, Muong, Dzao, and Thai. There we visited a Muong Hill Tribal Village. The area has changed a lot since the largest hydropower plant in Southeast Asia was built, creating a lake in the Da River. We made a brief stop at the Hoa Binh Dam to check out the reservoir.

Then we continued on toward the village where we were greeted enthusiastically by townspeople.

One of the villagers anxiously awaiting our arrival!

Although there was an obvious language barrier we were still able to converse with the women about where we were from, our ages, and our family dynamics. We walked through the beautiful village and got a glimpse inside many of the different dwellings. Lunch was served by a local family in their home. For the meal, we all sat together on the floor picnic-style, eating at one large, communal table.

Jack and Eric about to dive into an amazing homemade lunch!

The meal started out with a tasting of their locally made rice wine. The host family then prepared a delicious meal which included the rice we were able to husk ourselves using their handmade machinery. We were also served vegetables that were grown right in the village, along with various other local proteins. The vegetarians of the group were able to try Vietnamese seitan for the first time. The meal finished with sato, which is rice wine brewed in earthenware jars that is sipped through bamboo straws.

Jugs of sato and the bamboo straws we used to drink it communally

After the meal, we continued walking through the village and enjoyed a cultural exchange with the local inhabitants. We savored the views of the hillside while we visited different houses. By the time we got back on the bus, many of our bags were heavier, filled with various souvenirs we had bought throughout the visit.

A typical village house set in the hillside next to a pond

This was a very significant visit for us because it gave us an opportunity to personally meet with members of ethnic minorities and to learn about their culture and daily lives. After leaving the village, we headed back to Ha Noi, but not before a quick stop at the Ho Chi Minh Trail Museum where we learned about the logistical system set up by the government of Vietnam during the Vietnam War to provide man-power and material to South Vietnam.

So far we have had an amazing and educational trip and we look forward to the adventures and lessons ahead!

Sarah Flohr & Kerri Wyman

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