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Plan to bring back public loudspeakers annoys residents of Vietnam’s noisy capital

Residents of the Vietnamese capital Hanoi are opposing a controversial plan by the city to resume using public loudspeakers to make pronouncements, which many see as an archaic remnant of the Vietnam War era, sources told RFA.

At the height of the war in the 1960s and 1970s, the loudspeakers played an important role in North Vietnamese wards and communes to supply people with information about battles, including warnings about approaching U.S. bombers.

The loudspeakers were used on a daily basis as late as 2017, when then-Hanoi Mayor Nguyen Duc Chung declared that the speakers “completed their historical missions.”  The city then designated them for use only in emergency situations.

The Hanoi People’s Committee recently approved a communication plan for 2022-2025 that would again employ the speakers for everyday announcements. The city plans to expand their use where necessary so that all residential units are within earshot of a loudspeaker by 2025.

But many residents say they don’t want to hear it.

“I was astonished by this news, as it took a lot of effort and time to get rid of the loudspeakers here in Hanoi,” Nguyen Son, a resident of Hanoi, told RFA. “I don’t know why they want them back.”

Opponents point out that the city already has a noise pollution problem that daily loudspeaker announcements would only make worse.

“The ward-operated public loudhailers have been a nightmare to many people and one source of noise pollution in urban areas. Many residents strongly oppose this form of propaganda,” Bui Quang Thang, another Hanoi resident,  told RFA.

“Nowadays, people living in urban areas have many tools to get information in a variety of ways, such as through television, internet, social media and smartphones,” he said. 

Reintroducing loudspeakers would be a waste of money, he said.

“Many other areas such as health care, education and environmental protection need more investment and should be prioritized,” Thang said.

RFA sent emails to the Hanoi People’s Committee for comment, but received no response.

Translated by Anna Vu. Written in English by Eugene Whong.