BEHIND THE SCENES
Historical discussions of mainland Southeast Asia typically emphasize the cultural and economic base in agriculture, but it is worth remembering that 40 percent of Thailand’s population, and over 80 percent of people in Vietnam, live in areas designated as coastal. As one geographer has put it, “the degree of marine influence over the environment, settlement, communication and development of resources, both in Mainland and Island Southeast Asia, is probably unmatched in any other part of the world.” (Barrow 1990, p. 78)
THE AMERICAN WAR
Although I tried really hard to ignore the legacy of my country in Vietnam, I could not escape the fact that my research was always juxtaposed against the war.
In Con Dao, just along the beach we were surveying for Dugong, one of my colleagues caught me stare at a signing that read, "American Tiger Cages" this way. He asked me if I knew what they were. I said no... he explained that the Americans evolved the torture techniques that the French had used. An American spin, he called it. They kept men in low cages like they were tigers. I said how ashamed I felt. As we rode back to the guesthouse on his motorbike, Mr. Qui (like how you say yes in French) told me that war does terrible things to people. We are all born pure, he said, but the quest for power does terrible things to people. When I said I was so sorry, he said don't be. When I asked why people didn't seem to care, he said, we won right? Mr. Long said, we are a crazy people, these big countries come with their developed powers and we can still beat them. We are a crazy people.
Vietnam looks forward and the U.S. has a difficult time to acknowledge and recogcile what we do wrong (native Americans, civil war) so in this combination, we can become quick friends but the American wounds doesn't heal while Vietnam is living its best life although as a consequence of the natural environment.