Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Cu Chi Tunnels ...Vietnam

If you are ever in Vietnam, there are a couple of things you cannot afford to miss.
One of those things that you must do is to visit the Cu Chi Tunnels and see for yourself
how the Vietcong and NVA soldiers survived the non-stop carpet bombing and attacks
by American forces during the Vietnam conflict.
You'll probably need half a day to do this as the Tunnels are located about 70 kms away
from HCMC ( Saigon ).
But it is a journey worth the time and expense.

In the years gone by, I have read much about these tunnels...of how American GIs and other combat troops went on "search and destroy" missions of these tunnels. They found some here and there but did not really go all the way in for fear of "booby traps" and such things.
Many of those who ventured inside did not come out alive!
The strategic opening/ entrance of each tunnel is kept very small, tiny enough for a VC soldier
to get in or out but not for the bigger size of an American generally.
These tunnels are linked underground to others in a vast and complex network that stretch from
North to South, East to West.

It's truly mindbloggling when you sit through the introductory presentation in an actual underground dugout lecture room.
No electricity nor modern heavy equipment were used to dig these tunnels.
So what were the basic tools used by these resourceful peasants?
Not surprising at all.
I had used them myself when I helped my late father in the early 60's to construct an
underground room for me as a study cum simple bedroom, under our Siang Lim Park
The main tools, still useful today anywhere, are the changkol and the "punki".

At last, we arrived at the entrance to the Cu Chi Tunnels. It is vast.
We orientate ourselves to see where we should explore using the Site Map.

Our "NVA" Cu Chi guide led us into this lecture room where
we watched a historical ( propaganda ) film in mainly black and
white format depicting the history of the Vietnam conflicts.

It was a very hot day on the surface. I can't imagine how the
Vietcong cope with the burning sun, the heat, the humidity, the
mosquitoes, leeches and terror raining from the sky daily.

A diorama showing the cross-section of a typical underground tunnel system
complete with different facilities such as kitchen, sleeping quarters, hospital,
meeting room, store room etc..all connected by tunnels over separate levels.

After a bombing raid, the VC emerged to scour for unexploded bombs.
There were many.
They took these back to their underground workshops, saw them open
to extract the gunpowder for making their own explosives and bullets.
Resourceful and ingenious!

These are the 2 basic tools they used to dig these famous tunnels...
the changkol and the "punki" ( rattan basket ).
It just go to show that in this case of the Cu Chi Tunnels as well as all
other tunnels elsewhere in Vietnam...the indomitable spirit of a people
willing to survive at all costs can unite together, struggle against all odds,
do the almost impossible and defeat the vastly superior might of America...
the world's leading super power.

Vietnam War...3 Brave S'poreans Ultimate Sacrifice.

BELOW is the full transcript of the Straits Times Feature Article dated 6 Dec 1997.
'I'm OK .' Moments later, he was shot
THREE Singapore photojournalists who died on assignment during the Vietnam War were honoured in Requiem, an exhibition that opened last month at the Newseum in Arlington, Virginia.
Former Straits Times photographers Sam Kai Faye and Terence Khoo, and Charles Chellappah, who worked for a short period for the now-defunct Malayan Times, were among the 135 brave men and women from 11 countries remembered by their colleagues.
Requiem, a book edited by Horst Faas and Tim Page, was also launched by Random House at the exhibition.

Chellappah, whose full name was Canagaratnam Chellappah, was born in Indonesia but emigrated to Singapore so he could find a job as a news photographer. His lifelong dream was to cover the war.
Arriving in Saigon on Jan 21, 1966, he headed straight for the action and was baptised into the scary world of war photography when he followed American GIs into a dense jungle full of Vietcong tunnels.
His close-up shots of casualties and combat from this outing north of Saigon were so dramatic that Horst Faas, his picture editor at Associated Press, warned him to be more careful.
On Valentine's Day, 1966, he was with a troop on a road-clearing mission when a claymore mine went off. Chellappah and a company commander and medic, went to the rescue of the wounded. A second mine exploded, killing them all.
Just before his death, he had written to his businessman-father about his plan to return to Singapore a month later to start a news photo-agency.
Chellappah was the third AP photographer to die in a year and Faas was ordered to write a report for the president of his agency.
"This last roll of film was released by the authorities today along with his other personal effects," Faas writes in Requiem.
"The pictures show, better than any words could, how close Chellappah was to the action up to the moment of his death."

Sam Kai Faye and Terence Khoo were 48 and 35 respectively when they were killed in a similar incident on July 21, 1972. They were working for American television network ABC at the time and had a lot in common.
Both were former staffers of The Straits Times. Khoo was known for his bravery and suaveness and was frequently in the news.
In the book, Steve Bell, a former ABC correspondent, tells how Khoo had saved his life.
They were both captured in April that year and a Vietcong offered to let Khoo and other Asians go -- but not Bell. Khoo persuaded the soldier that the act would make the Vietcong look bad in the eyes of the world. The argument worked and they were all spared.
Sam had collected many prestigious international journalism awards. Both men were bachelors but Khoo was engaged to marry Winnie Ng, a secretary from his company's Hongkong bureau, at the end of 1972.
After seven years in the trenches, he was to leave for a safe posting to the ABC News bureau in Bonn the next day.

"I was to join him there later," his fiancee said in a newspaper interview at the time, "and we planned to be married there in December."
But he and Sam, his replacement, decided to spend the day on the battlefield instead. It proved to be a fatal decision.
Not long after setting out, Sam was shot by a sniper near Quang Tri. Khoo stayed behind to help him. His last known words to a Korean soundman who managed to escape were: "I'm OK." Moments later, he too was shot. Their bodies were recovered a few days later.
Ali Yusoff, a Straits Times photographer, remembers that the sadness in the newsroom was almost palpable when word of their deaths reached Singapore.
Sam had worked for the paper from 1950 to 1955. Khoo had joined in 1954 and left two years later to freelance.
Sam Yoke Tatt was only a child when his uncle Sam Kai Faye's picture of a plane crash won the top award in an international press photography competition in 1955, but he was well aware of its significance.
"As far as I know, no other Asian has won the award," the nephew said.
When his uncle died in 1972, Yoke Tatt was in his early 20s. He brought his uncle's casket back from Saigon. For many years, Yoke Tatt helped his late father, ex-Straits Times photographer Sam Kai Yee, in their family business.

Khoo's mother, Sim Geok Kee, who was 73, described him in a newspaper interview after his death as a "very brave and famous boy" who knew his own mind.
Khoo had bequeathed one-third of his insurance money of $62,500 to the University of Singapore. Yearly awards of $1,300 were given to the medical research fund for good students from poor families.
The first award went to Lim Meng Kin, a final year medical student who later joined the army after his housemanship, rising to the rank of brigadier general.
Now chief executive officer of Health Corporation of Singapore, Dr Lim was filled with deep emotion when asked about the man who had helped him but whom he knew little about. "Yes, I was one of his beneficiaries," he said, "and I'm very grateful to him."
He said the little he knew about Khoo came from newspaper reports and a small write-up in the scholarship prospectus.
"I met somebody who knew the family and was hoping to meet and thank them personally," he said emotionally, "but the opportunity did not arise."
Apart from Khoo's bequest, ABC, the US TV network Khoo and Sam had worked for, also set up fellowships for Asians to study at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.
Shortly after the article appeared, family members of Charles Chellappah called to point out a few discrepancies in this article.
Chellappah, according to his younger brother, Kandasamy, was born and raised in Singapore. (The book said he was born in East Indies, which later became part of Indonesia.)
The family also believes that he was killed by a sniper bullet instead of claymore mine explosion. His elder sister remembers his body was very much intact, apart from a severed face, which would have been impossible if he had been killed by the mine.
Attempts to contact the family before the publication of this article was futile as there were very few reports about Chellappah.
The author apologises unreservingly for the errors.

Of the 3 brave Singaporeans who were killed, I clearly can recall seeing the photos and pictures
of Terence Khoo and Sam Kai Faye in the Straits Times and elsewhere...before July 1972.
Both were really well-known during those days before their sudden and unexpected deaths.
I wonder if anyone knows whether the legacy left behind by Terence Khoo for the University
of Singapore to sponsor good medical students from poor families...still exists today.
It's more than 38 years since.

Was it fate that played a cruel hand for the both of them on that fateful day in July 1972?
Terence was supposed to leave the very next day for Bonn, Germany.
Sam was his replacement photographer.
Despite that day being his final day in Vietnam, Terence decided ( fatally ) to go into the
battlefield and show Sam around.
Just consider this, Terence must have gone on many field operations months before to bring
us his "top action" pictures. The battles he witnessed and captured from the frontlines on those days may have been even more dangerous than that day he was killed. Yet, though he was captured by the Vietcong, he came through safely.
With this blogpost, I hope my younger visitors will have a better insight and understanding
of the dark days of the Vietnam War which claimed the lives of 3 truly BRAVE Singaporeans.
May their souls rest in peace.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Manila DRAMA...even Shakespeare could not write this.

Below is an article from Sin Chew Daily online.
I think it is a very good piece of writing as it manages to encapsulate my feelings, thoughts
and sentiments about this MOST UNNECESSARY TRAGEDY.
Unk Dicko would urge all readers to pay particular attention to the last paragraph of the report.
Note especially the key phrase, " the whole thing should not be seen as merely an incidental
or isolated case". [ I fully concur ] .

Many kidnappings, murders, hostage-taking and other most serious crimes have taken place
over the years in an unending upward spiral, including in recent days.
Many of these crimes are committed by police officers and uniformed personnel.
One of my blog visitor Stanley has requested me to share personal anecdotes about my
experience there...so that anyone intending to visit the Philippines will be more prepared.
Certainly Unk Dicko will do so.

Rolando Mendoza was extremely cruel and inhuman in this COWARDLY ACT.
HE IS A 100% COWARD, no two ways about it, just like
those Mumbai terrorists who murdered Lo Hwei Yen and company .
When you hold a gun, bomb or machete and threaten openly to kill INNOCENT people NOT CONNECTED with your cause whatsoever...You are nothing but a most depraved COWARD.
However, though he killed without mercy, the world knows that his act was symptomatic [ not a culmination ! ] of the depth of the disease of extreme Corruption, Greed for power and money, politics, nepotism and all manner of criminal activity throughout the Philippines.

Where did he get his M 16 rifle and hundreds of rounds from...since he was already sacked
in 2008? He was also carrying handguns too.
Well..no one has even asked this question so far. Why? It's irrelevant that's WHY. It's unnecessary to ask. This is THE P'ppines remember....where everything goes, where everything
just might be possible...FOR A PRICE, of course.

The Philippine drama
Sat, Aug 28, 2010

Sin Chew Daily

The Philippines has become the latest target of international reproof and ridicule.
The whole world watched the incident, which was a concoction of many different genres of drama, unfolding on the TV.
It began with a sitcom:

An ex-police officer hijacked a tourist bus just to demand a reinstatement. That was a typical topic for a sitcom, which tackles day-to-day problems in a superlatively elaborate style.
What happened next was a farce.

The hostage-taker looked relaxed while the police did not seem to take things too seriously.
Both sides were seen negotiating in a "chit chat" manner at the door of the hijacked bus, interrupted at times by the delivery of dinner and drinking water.

What took place next was an impromptu plot:
Police cops, some fat and some thin, were seen circling around the bus, armed with short or long guns, some in riot gears and bulletproof vests while some in casual plainclothes.
They only had one thing in common: having no idea what do do, like an impromptu plot without a proper sketch and designated roles where the players were made to act whichever way they liked.

What followed then was a black comedy:
The police broke the window, but forgot about the stairs. They went into the bus through the safety door, but very soon retreated. They did not use a modern invention called "explosive" to blow up the door, but a primitive hammer that did not seem to work very effectively.
After that, it was the criminal psychology la Hollywood in play:
The police had the slightest idea what was taking place inside the bus, but thanks to the TV onboard, the hijacker had the government's every single move at his finger tips, including the ill-conceived arrest of his brother which triggered the hijacker to kill and gave the plot a dramatic twist.

In the end, it was most definitely a tragedy.
Nine innocent lives were sacrificed, along with the reputation of Manila.
The grand finale was a satire, a marriage of absurdity, incompetence, ignorance and extreme violence.
The absurd thing was: an ex-police officer resorted to hostage-taking to get his post reinstated. If we go a bit deeper, this could have been a grotesque approach for a ex-police inspector to seek justice for himself under a corrupt regime.

The ignorance and incompetence derive from the adoption of all the fallacious tactics in handling this crisis, showing that the Philippine authorities were low in crisis awareness, judgement capability, effective strategies and command giving.
The violent thing was that a disgruntled ex-police officer took the hostages' lives as a bet in his own pursuit of justice.

The whole thing should not be seen as merely an incidental or isolated case.
While the confrontation between a blood-thirsty killer and an incompetent police squad could happen in Manila, it could also take place anywhere else in this world.
But such tragic eventuality will only occur in a highly inefficient, corrupt and disorderly regime that lacks professionalism and effective leadership.
Only in a mismanaged country where social orders are in tatters will such incidents find a fertile ground to prosper.

The Philippine drama

Govt didn't ask media to moderate live coverage
Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo Thursday said he had raised concern over the live coverage that could jeopardize the safety of the hostages. -Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN

HK cancels flights to Laoag and Manila
Travel agencies association also said hotels and resorts reported requests for cancellations by HK and some China tourists, amounting to about 300 rooms in popular destinations. -Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN

Mayor ordered hostage-taker's brother arrest: Manila police chief
Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim ordered the arrest of the brother of the dismissed policeman who held hostage Hong Kong tourists in Manila that resulted in the deaths, said chief. -Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN

Silence in Hong Kong for Manila hostage victims
Three minutes of silence with government work suspended and flags lowered to half-mast at a special ceremony. -AFP

Souvenir photos in front of bus irk HK folk
Filipinos infuriated critics even more by posing in front of the bullet-riddled tourist bus. PDI/ANN

Elsewhere in AsiaOne...
Business: Hostage bloodbath knocks Philippine stocks: analysts

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Vietnam War...135 truly BRAVE men and women!

In a previous post I had asked, " Were any Singaporeans killed during the Vietnam War?"
Click HERE to read that post.
If you are in the War Museum in Saigon, you will not want to miss the section displaying the vivid images of the war from both sides. The photos, taken by some of the best photographers in the world, captured the scenes of death and destruction caused by war. Looking at the photos, no one in his right mind can conclude that war is glorious. All the human emotions we know about are right there in those beautifully -taken shots. The technical quality of the photos are truly beautiful and excellent...but not what they sought to depict.
What is so unique in this section of the War museum is that the photos of 135 war photojournalists and war correspondents have been featured prominently.Who were these 135war photographers? Why were their works specially chosen for display? The answers to these questions are in this newspaper clipping above.
These photojournalists took the risk of getting close to the war action ( obviously too close) to bring images of the war to the rest of the world. Besides great courage and heroism, they all had one other thing in common...they were all killed while out shooting with the camera in Vietnam.
The 1st one on the list killed in 1954 was famous cameraman Robert Capa. He was only 41 when he was killed by a landmine.His famous quote lives after him, " If your pictures aren't good enough, you're not close enough."Many followed his advice and returned with excellent pictures...but paid dearly with their lives.
Dicky Chappelle was one of those killed in 1964. She was an American and was among a handful of women correspondents covering the war.
Before she died, her parting words reportedly were," I guess it was bound to happen".

Probably, the most famous of all those killed was Larry Burrows. His pictures were regularly featured by TIMES and LIFE and NEWSWEEK.
[ There are some in Unk Dicko's archives ].

Three Singaporean war correspondents were killed during the Vietnam War.
They were:
1. Terence Khoo
2. Sam Kai Faye
3. Charles Chellapah

In my next post ...the full details of how and when they died.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Manila Massacre... the cover up begins?

Photo source: S T online news showing mother and family
members of H K tour guide Masa Tse crying in anguish at
the arrival of her coffin in the airport at H K.
From Straits Times online news.
SE Asia
Home > Breaking News > SE Asia > Story
Aug 27, 2010

Fatal bullets likely hijacker's
MANILA - THE bullets that killed eight Hong Kong tourists in a Manila siege likely all came from the hijacker holding them captive and not from the police rescue team, a police spokesman said.
'We can say that with a certain degree of certainty,' Philippine national police spokesman Senior Superintendent Agrimero Cruz told reporters when asked if the bullets that killed the tourists came from the hijacker's weapons.
Superintendent Cruz said the initial finding was based on witness accounts and testimony from the police involved in ending Monday's hostage crisis,
as well as the number of bullets found on the bus.

However, in his briefing to the press on Thursday, he said the police investigation was still ongoing and that final conclusions had not yet been made.
Ex-policeman Rolando Mendoza held a busload of Hong Kong tourists hostage in a desperate bid to have himself cleared of extortion charges and get his job back.
After a standoff of about 10 hours, a police SWAT team assaulted the bus but its members were held at bay by Mendoza who police said used the hostages as human shields. -- AFP

Unk Dicko's Comment:

In my previous post, I had predicted almost EXACTLY this course of action that Manila
would take. I had also predicted what some of the possible headlines would read like.
Do check it out.
The above report stated that their initial findings is based on Police testimony, witness accounts and "number of bullets in the bus".
Manila police? They have already bungled, proven useless, ineffective and unreliable...and now
can give testimony truthfully? What testimony...when the whole world wants to know just whose bullets killed the victims? Rolando or the SWAT team?
Most importantly, they the Filipinos have signed off their own fate by NOT INVITING SOME
TOP FORENSIC PATHOLOGISTS FROM THE WORLD AND INCLUDING a H K EXPERT to be present before they conducted the autopsies.
As each bullet is extracted from the body, it should be carfully filmed and marked and sealed with no possibility of tampering, for later analysis.
The whole circus smacks of some fly by night stuff.

Just watch, I predict more incredulous and unbelievable stuff will be emanating from
these cowboys.
It is beyond my comprehension why they keep piling up one disaster upon another.
Something is not quite right about their psyche and DNA.

Vietnam...The Sorrow of WAR and other books.

My recent trip to Vietnam In June was hugely meaningful for me personally.
I have had so much contact and connection with Vietnam through the books I've read
over several decades.
As Professor Higgins confessed in the movie musical My Fair Lady ...." I've grown accustomed
to her face. " Me too, except this is the face of Vietnam that I've grown familiar with.
Here in this blogpost, I would like to share a brief insight about 3 books from my Vietnam section.

First published in 1972, Devil's Guard by George Robert Elford tells about the life story
of an ex- German Waffen SS officer who, after the end of World War 2, who escaped the
war crime trials in Europe and joined the French Foreign Legion.
His name: Hans Josef Wagemueller. He and other escaped Germans like him were then
sent to Indo-china ( Vietnam ) to fight against the Viet Minh. Their battalion was nicknamed
Of all the factual books about Vietnam and the wars connected with it which I have in my library
or have read, I would rate the account in this book as the most brutal and raw that I have come across to date. The degenerate and totally inhuman violence that both sides perpetrated on each other is so shocking that you need to have strong nerves and a steady hand to hold the book while reading it. If you can somehow set aside the brutality and gruesome descriptions of some of the most inhuman acts against a human being...you will learn much about the brilliant German mind at work and the equally fascinating response from their formidable foes.
It is my belief that reading this book and learning from the Devils Guard concept of jungle warfare would have been of a super great help to all those greenhorn GIs and fresh college kids from America who were sent to Vietnam....many of whom did not survive.

[A beautiful Vietnam Rose of pink variety ]

Navy SEALS are the highly trained specialised units of American fighting forces that operated
effectively by air, sea or land. In Vietnam, they had much success against the NVA or Vietcong
as they carried out ambushes and other mainly covert missions.
First published in 1995 by Lt. Cmdr. Michael J Walsh.
I have many of such books.

[ A beautiful pure white Vietnamese Rose ]

Of all the books on and about Vietnam in my modest Library, this book
" The Sorrow of WAR " by Bao Ninh a former North Vietnamese Army veteran is my top favourite.
It won the Independent Foreign Fiction Award. It was first published in 1991 in Hanoi.
In 1994, the translated version in English first appeared in the UK.
The book received numerous accolades and excellent reviews around the world.
Humbly, Unk Dicko adds his confirmation.
The language and imagery used by Bao Ninh is most poetic and sublime.
This was his very first book and what an achievement!
To me, reading this book is best done when you are truly relaxed...just like finding the time
to enjoy a beautiful masterpiece of painting by Picasso or Leonardo da Vinci or Rembrandt.
He writes as though he is painting the landscape with precision, with words and phrases that
help the reader see what he actually saw or went through.
That's definitely not an easy thing to do.
But he does it so well.

[ Wow! Wow! So pretty this Vietnam red Rose ]

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The circus continues...latest updates!

Philippine police test guns used in hostage tragedy.
Posted: 26 August 2010 1351 hrs
Philippine police said Thursday they were carrying out ballistic tests to determine if their commandos fired any of the bullets that killed eight Hong Kong tourists at the end of a hostage siege.
"We are examining the firearms used in the assault, including the 200 firearms used by the assault team," national police spokesman Senior Superintendent Agrimero Cruz told AFP.
Cruz said the M16 rifle and .45 automatic pistol used by the hijacker, ex-policeman Rolando Mendoza, were also being tested. The ballistic tests were part of a series of investigations being carried out by police and government bodies into the tragic end to Monday's hostage crisis.
Mendoza took the busload of Hong Kong tourists hostage in a desperate bid to be reinstated in the force. The hostages were killed as a police commando team attempted to storm the bus, only to be held at bay for about an hour as Mendoza fired at them, using some of his captives as human shields.
The ill-prepared commando team eventually broke into the bus and Mendoza was shot dead.
President Benigno Aquino and the police admitted many mistakes were made during the hostage crisis, and the four leaders of the assault team were suspended on Wednesday. Manila's police chief has also gone on leave.
An inter-government agency commission and the Senate are conducting separate investigations into Monday's events, in addition to the police probe. Cruz said police would give regular updates on the results of the investigation, but would not say when the final conclusions would be released. -AFP/wk
Unk Dicko's observations and comment:
They will never learn!
Reading this report and after listening to the " shocking" live coverage of the Filipino Interior
Minister being questioned in front of "live" cameras and video on our 9.30 pm Headline news, I have a few things to say.
1. The Minister has openly admitted that they all had blundered. That include their police, their chiefs and he included himself too.
Too many red Indian chiefs so, everyone thinks he is very clever and of course very important resulting in far too many diverse views on how to tackle and put an end to one mad man's antics. Thus they doodled and dawdled with no singular focus action plan. Too many cooks spoil the soup ...our teacher used to teach us but obviously Filipinos have other ideas.
All they needed is just one BIG Chief as Ground Zero Commander like the legendary Chief Sitting Bull who completely wiped out General George Custer of the US 7th Calvary and his troops...at the Battle of the Little Big Horn.
Even among the American Indians, though there were many real chiefs present as different tribes combined their forces, ..they only knew too well this adage.." we need to have a strong, DECISIVE LEADER ". Sitting Bull was that Leader. He was strong and he was DECISIVE! And that led to victory.
2. Look at the report. They are truly beyond belief. Instead of forming a PROPER COMMISSION of INQUIRY task with finding out the TRUTH of the whole tragedy and debacle, what did they say they will do.?
Different segments will do "their own" investigation.
This tells me alot!
It tells me that the separate segments...police, senate and inter-govt agency do not trust each other's findings, methods or approach. Again the familiar tune of "too many red Indian Chiefs"!
On the other hand, this may be a PLOY ( of somebody who is cleverer than those chiefs ) ..a potential masterpiece of investigation by 3 separate parties yet ALL COMING TO THE SAME CONCLUSION...whatever those conclusions may be.
[ One likely joint finding might possibly be, " No police bullets killed the 8 victims. All bullets from Rolando's gun/s." And one likely headline might read," 3 separate and independent commission came to the same truth...Rolando killed all the victims. Police fire did not kill
any victim." ]
3. The Hong Kong Government has just announced that they will be conducting their own
autopsies on the victims' bodies and their own investigation. Hong Kong had asked Manila govt
to allow them to do a joint autopsy. Well, what was the answer?
Manila CHOSE NOT TO EVEN REPLY to them !!!
Obviously FEARFUL of what they already somehow knew. And what is that?
From what I've read directly from H K's local newspapers..the survivors had been interviewed and they told a most frightful story.
Just one example:
One survivor, her name mentioned, recounted that the victims were killed by mostly bullets fired
from outside the bus.
And who were outside the bus??? Rolando the gunman was inside the bus.
The so -called Filipino super SWAT team may have ended up killing most of the Hong Kong victims.!
What does that tell you?
I do not blame them. It is the right thing to do knowing the lack of transparency, dependability
and integrity in Mabuhay land.

10 Hours of FAILURE vs 3 seconds of SUCCESS ! Must see video!

There was only one hostage taker in the Manila Tourist Bus massacre. And there were hundreds of policemen at the scene, most in uniform and holding handguns and snipers with rifles. It is simply beyond belief ! WHY use a sledgehammer to kill a mosquito? All that was needed was someone BRAVE enough, a volunteer undercover plainclothes man or woman ( preferably a woman as the hostage taker in his highly charged disoriented state would never suspect to be capable of anything else) to step forward as a planted "negotiator", or someone bringing him food and water, or a "media interviewer" etc.. etc.. .

Then with a few seconds of DISTRACTION / DECEPTION ... the hostage taker will be permanently consigned to the rubbish bin of history. In many parts of the world, where such a similar situation has occured, a lone gunman or someone wielding a knife and neck-locking a hostage...has been neutralised most often by just a single police officer with SPLIT-SECOND DECISIVE ACTION.

Watch this video below carefully again and again if necessary. THIS was what was missing in the Manila Bus massacre scenario.... DECISIVE ACTION! All those killed by Rolando Mendoza should NEVER have died at all !

This is an actual, real-life incident of a dangerous and highly-charged man who had taken an innocent girl as a hostage in Canton, China recently. He was armed with a dagger and held her securely in a neck-lock with his arm. Police and other negotiators had tried reasoning with him to no avail. An ambulance was on standby. And no armed police, especially with assault rifles, were around the scene. This is good planning to allay the fear of the hostage taker. It does not mean NO ONE is armed! The actual footage was shown "live" or as reported news in Canton, Hong Kong and China. The news reader spoke in Cantonese..the dialect commonly spoken in the Canton region and Hong Kong.

It took only 3 SECONDS for this brave lady officer to kill the terrorist and therby saved the lifeof the hostage. Observe closely how she distracted the knifeman while her right hand went to locate her hidden hand gun. It is also very important to put her index finger on the tiny trigger of the gun...to be ready to shoot without "cocking" the gun. Count how many shots she fired in just 3 seconds of superb, DECISIVE ACTION. She did not miss !

The Filipinos have much to learn from this... especially their leaders. They OWE IT to their own people and they OWE it to the tourists and foreigners.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

More on the Manila Hostage Killings

[ Photo source: NPR news online ]

[ Photo source: BBC news online ]
24 August 2010 Last updated at 15:28 GMT

Ten things the Philippines bus siege police got wrong
[ From the BBC news online ]
A security analyst who has worked in counter-terrorism with the British Army and Scotland Yard, Charles Shoebridge, says the officers involved in Manila's bus siege showed great courage - but they were not properly trained or equipped for the task.
Here are 10 areas where, in his view, they could have done better.

1. Determination
Philippine police end Manila bus hijack
The first officers who tried to storm the bus were driven out by gunshots from the hostage taker, former policeman Rolando Mendoza. "They showed great courage to go on board. It's very crowded, just one aisle down the middle of the bus. But once you get on board it's not unexpected you are going to be fired at. Squads like this have to be made up of very special people, specially trained and selected for their characteristics of courage, determination and aggression. In this case they acted as 99% of the population would have, which was to turn round and get out. They didn't seem to have the necessary determination and aggression to follow the attack through."
2. Lack of equipment
The police spent a long time smashing the windows of the bus, whereas explosive charges (known as frame charges) would have knocked in windows and doors instantly. "They had no ladders to get through the windows. They smashed the windows but didn't know what to do next," Mr Shoebridge says. "They almost looked like a group of vandals." Their firearms were also inappropriate - some had pistols, some had assault rifles. Ideally they would have carried a short submachine gun, suitable for use in confined spaces.
3. Lost opportunity to disarm the gunman
Mendoza's gun was not always raised
There were numerous opportunities to restrain the gunman, Mr Shoebridge believes. "The negotiators were so close to him, and he had his weapon hanging down by his side. He could have been disabled without having to kill him."
4. Lost opportunity to shoot the gunman
The video of the drama also shows there were occasions when the gunman was standing alone, during the course of the day, and could have been shot by a sharpshooter. "You are dealing with an unpredictable and irrational individual. The rule should be that if in the course of negotiations an opportunity arises to end the situation decisively, it should be taken," Mr Shoebridge says. Either this possibility did not occur to the officers in charge, he adds, or they considered it and decided to carry on talking.
5. Satisfying the gunman's demands
"I wondered why the authorities just didn't give in to all of his demands," says Charles Shoebridge. "A promise extracted under force is not a promise that you are required to honour. Nobody wants to give in to the demands of terrorists, but in a situation like this, which did not involve a terrorist group, or release of prisoners, they could have just accepted his demands. He could be reinstated in the police - and then be immediately put in prison for life for hostage taking." The Philippines authorities did in fact give in to the gunman's demands, but too little, too late. One message promised to review his case, while he wanted it formally dismissed. A second message reinstating him as a police offer only arrived after the shooting had started.
6. Televised proceedings
The gunman was able to follow events on television, revealing to him everything that was going on around him. This was a "crucial defect in the police handling", Mr Shoebridge says. He adds that police should always consider putting a barrier or screen around the area, to shield the scene from the cameras and keep the hostage taker in the dark.
7. No element of surprise
It was clear to the gunman what the police were doing at all times, not only because the whole incident was televised, but also because they moved "laboriously slowly", Mr Shoebridge says. The police did not distract him, so were unable to exploit the "crucial element of surprise".
8. Safeguarding the public
This boy, a bystander, was hit by a stray bullet
At least one bystander was shot, possibly because the public was allowed too close. The bullet from an M16 rifle, as carried by the gunman, can travel for about a mile, so preventing any risk of injury would have been difficult, Mr Shoebridge says, but a lot more could have been done. "When you saw the camera view from above, it was clear there was little command and control of the public on the ground," he says.
9. Using the gunman's brother to negotiate
Relatives and close friends can be a double-edged sword, Mr Shoebridge says. While they may have leverage over the hostage taker, what they are saying cannot be easily controlled. In this case, the gunman's brother was included in the negotiations - however, at a certain stage he became agitated and police started to remove him from the scene. The gunman saw this on television, and became agitated himself. According to one report he fired a warning shot.
10. Insufficient training
In some parts of the Philippines, such as Mindanao, hostage taking is not an uncommon occurrence, so the country has some forces that are well trained in the necessary tactics. The detachment involved in Monday's incident clearly was not, says Mr Shoebridge. After smashing the windows, one of the officers eventually put some CS gas inside, though "to what effect was not clear" he says. A unit involved in this work, needs to be "trained again and again, repeatedly practising precisely this kind of scenario," he says.
More on This Story
Related stories:
Britons survive Philippines siege 24 AUGUST 2010, UK
Aquino pledges bus siege inquiry 23 AUGUST 2010, ASIA-PACIFIC
In pictures: Philippines bus siege 23 AUGUST 2010, ASIA-PACIFIC
Unk Dicko's comment:
Point # 5 is moot. As I watched the drama unfolding I said the same thing to D2.
The TOP priority is to ensure the complete safety of everyone inside the bus. The hostage taker
did not even ask for money or anything else other than that he be reinstated to his former rank, position and post.
The President himself or a Minister could have personally come down from the cocoon of their high office to "give him that assuarance in person" or even a Presidential note with his stamp of authority ( all this can be abrogated later ....don't they know it? ).
Rolando the gunman wanted MEDIA ATTENTION for his personal cause.
The media was there but...brains were sorely lacking in this crisis.
So, we need to add another most critical point to the 10 above.
11. Total Absence of TOP QUALITY Leadership
This lack of the Leadership factor is the main ingredient missing from what the whole world
saw "live" on TV.
The President only came after the shooting had ended and he was SMILING to the cameras!
His persona on the scene did not do him any good either. And he was way TOO LATE !

The Manila HOSTAGE Massacre..what a CIRCUS!

[ Above Photos source: AsiaOne Online News ]

This news Report below is from the New York Times.
Gunman and 8 Hostages Dead in the Philippines
Published: August 23, 2010

[ Photo source: New York Times ]
MANILA —A former police officer took a busload of tourists hostage in downtown Manila on Monday morning, opening a 12-hour standoff that was broadcast live on television, including its end as police commandos stormed the bus before a watching crowd.
The Lede Blog: Video of Manila Hostage Drama (August 23, 2010)
Erik De Castro/Reuters
A demand was posted by the hostage taker on the bus window.
An ex-policeman who hijacked a tourist bus (inside the bus) speaking with negotiators at the front of the bus in Manila on Monday.
Eight tourists, all from Hong Kong, were killed, along with the hostage-taker. He was identified as Rolando Mendoza, a 55-year-old officer who had been accused of robbery and extortion and was fired last year.

There were indications that Mr. Mendoza, who news reports said was armed with an M-16 assault rifle, was watching the live news broadcasts of the scene on a monitor inside the bus as it sat for hours, curtains drawn, at a major public plaza.
Throughout the day, the gunman wrote his demands for the return of his job and benefits on cardboard and pasted them on the windshield of the bus. One message read, “Big mistake to correct a big wrong decision.”

Late in the afternoon, he posted a message saying, “Media now,” apparently telling journalists to come to him. But by then the police prevented reporters from even getting near the bus.
At one point, the gunman’s brother complained to reporters near the scene that the police were threatening him; the cameras then showed him being detained by officers and shoved into a police car, his relatives wailing behind him. Shortly after, shots were heard from inside the bus.
Gunfire also broke out when the police tried to break the windshield and glass windows of the bus with sledgehammers. A bystander was hit in the leg by one of the bullets.

Mr. Mendoza gave an interview to Radio Mindanao Network, a Manila station, in which he admitted shooting two of the hostages and threatened to kill more.
“I shot two Chinese,” he told the station in Tagalog. “I will finish them all if they do not stop.”
The commandos struck after the bus driver jumped through a window and ran from the bus screaming, “Everybody is dead!”

The cameras captured the commandos, armed with rifles, surrounding the bus and opening an emergency exit, as emergency vehicles converged at the scene in heavy rain.
Police officers threw tear gas inside the bus, apparently forcing Mr. Mendoza to go near the bus’s main door, which they had torn down. Shots were heard and in a split second the body of a man — presumably Mr. Mendoza — was seen slumped by the door.
Several of the unharmed hostages, visibly shaken and some crying, were taken off the bus through the emergency exit.

President Benigno Aquino, in a news briefing around midnight, said Mr. Mendoza might have gained some advantage from the coverage. “To a certain extent, he may have had a bird’s eye view of the developments, which might not have helped,” the president said.
The case captivated — and angered — Filipinos, with many blaming the news coverage for the disastrous end.

The chief executive of Hong Kong, Donald Tsang, called the case a “major tragedy,” and criticized the Filipino authorities.
“The way it was handled, particularly the outcome, I find is disappointing,” Mr. Tsang said at a news conference in Hong Kong, Reuters reported.
But Mr. Aquino defended the actions of the authorities: “The idea was to let the ground commanders who are the experts in this field handle the operation with minimal interference from people who are less expert.”
Unk Dicko's observations and comments:
I happened to be passing through Tan Tock Seng Hospital Accident and Emergency foyer when I noticed people crowding around the "live" TV footage that was unfolding in Manila. That was the first time I got wind of the drama. Later when I arrived home, I immediately switched the TV on to follow the progress of the situation.
Before the shooting even started... I had a terrible feeling that "things" would go wrong badly.
And I told my wifey so. She too was watching. Why and How come?
Nothing to do with 6th sense.
It was what I saw that truly shocked me. The scene of the hostage bus, the people around it, the police, the media, the public and bystanders....the entire scene looks like a circus to me.
I did not see any clear evidence of TACTICAL ORGANISATION by anyone, police or otherwise.
I did not see any semblance of SERIOUSNESS of recognition of the GRAVITY of the situation.
Just WHO was in charge OVERALL?
Was it the President? The National Police Chief? The City Police Chief? Or the District Police Chief?
Has the "Ground Zero Commander" got the authority to take any action to end this DANGER speedily with FULL backing of the govt ? Is he trained for this at the highest level?
I know I have posed many questions but they would be the same if this had taken place here too.
There are a few thousand reports and very detailed news analysis about this most horrendous bungling rescue attempt by the Philippines police...online.
The excuses given by the Manila police and government were they "lack advance weapons, lack arms, lack this and lack that".
What a load of rubbish!
If you have been following the footage shown live, you would have noticed how the hostage-taker Rolando stood with his guard down umteenth times...even on the steps of the open bus.
He was super dangerous. He was super irrational.
He should have been taken down right there and then with a bullet! PERIOD!
No innocent lives would have been lost.
The country would not have been hugely embarassed.
Their economy would have picked up.
Today, their stock market has plunged, their peso has also gone down by a lot.
And worse is to come still, believe me.
LEADERSHIP in practically all their organisations, and most sadly and unfortunately for the poor victims, had that been evident, this hostage incident would have ended peacefully in a shorter time too.
In a crisis of this proportion, you need a Ground Zero Commander who can rise to the occasion.
From what the whole world saw...the amateurish antics of the police chaps as they tried to break into the bus, you already know the answer.
My deepest condolences and sympathies to the bereaved families and the Hong Kong people.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Old men make war, young men die in them.

I am standing on a land. A timeless piece of land that has been occupied for a few thousand years. A land that has known peace and war and war and peace. That seems to follow a repeating cycle of two ages. An age of war and an age of peace. War and Peace are like two different worlds that somehow are intertwined in the reality of what we call life.

In this long history of the land, Unk Dicko a mere mortal, is standing on just one page of this storybook. And this page tells of wars in the past and peace in the present. Only the living like us try to make sense of the meaning and purpose of it all...the wars. The dead cry out for answers from where they lie in war cemeteries, mausoleums, unmarked graves or as wandering souls in marshes, swamps and the humid jungle of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

A peace loving man surrounded by weapons of war.
[ The War Museum, Saigon ]

Was the War on Vietnam a huge mistake by America?
What do you think?
In hindsight it's always easier to say " we were wrong"

Do you know how many people died during the Vietnam War?
If we take the period from 1963 to April 1975 as generally accepted, the number of war
dead from all parties is estimated at between 5 million to perhaps 7 million people.
No one can really tell.
Many of those missing are unaccounted for till today.

Between 3- 4 million Vietnamese ( both North and South ) died.
About 1 million dead for Laos and Cambodia combined.
Americans dead over 58,000 - mainly soldiers.
Australians dead reportedly 521 - mainly troops.
Smaller numbers for other allied forces.
Were there Singaporeans who were killed in this 11 year war?
If yes, who were they? How and why were they killed?
[ Detailed answers in my next blogpost ]

After studying the external exhibits, I went into the War Museum proper.
There were much on display that drew me closer.
As I walked through the main concourse I ended near the entrance again.
There, I saw a young man dressed in similar NVA green fatigues seated at
a desk by the main door.
Before him was an open visitors' book and a pen. I flipped through some of
the pages. People came from different corners of the world. Many different languages
were on the pages.
I asked the young man on duty, " Can I write something? "
This pleasant young man answered in the affirmative..." Yes, can " ( in English ).

As soon as I've penned my few lines, I asked my young friend

if he could capture the scene in above 2 photos with my camera.
He said, " ok. "....and helped me.
Suddenly, another 'NVA' chap almost similar in age rushed towards me
and blurted out in typical VC -like manner, " Cannot take picture!
Cannot take picture! "
It was a little ludicrous.
His colleague had helped me snapped 2 pics with my camera of
my very own message in an ordinary visitors' book. That's about it all.
It is not as though I was snapping some state secrets. I did not turn to
other pages. Just my own.

And so before the matter escalate and get out of hand...Unk Dicko must
act like I always did in all my travels ( Check my post Heaven and Hell about Medan )!
I asked this fierce 'NVA'..if he understood English. " No" he said.
I held up my message for him to see and said I've pronounced a Blessing on
his country...and would he like to get someone else to read for him?
His reaction?
On hearing that I have wished Vietnam well...he was rather pleased.
And told me, " Ok...ok..no problem ."
He even thanked me for what I have written!

Monday, August 23, 2010

The FALL of Saigon...30 April 1975

Saigon fell to North Vietnamese forces on April 30 1975. North Vietnam had promised to capture Saigon by Labour Day May 1st. The American military forces had already been evacuated in the days prior to that fateful day. On the 29th of April there was still minor fighting and exchanged of fire between the remnants of those defending and the encircling NVA forces.
The situation was completely hopeless for the US and what was left of the South Vietnamese army. Pandemonium and chaos set in as the US tried to evacuate 5000 locals connected with their war effort. Using helicopters, they ferried them to US carriers waiting in the safe waters of the South China sea.

While the last-ditch effort was still in progress, the US embassy was totally besieged by thousands more, hoping to get out of Saigon.
The scenes were shown "live" on colour TV and as recorded news items all over the world. In Singapore many of us saw those gut-wrenching final moments which looked so surreal.
I particularly remember very vividly the scene showing an American guy delivering a punch to a
Vietnamese to stop him from climbing onto the ladder of the helicopter which was already lifting from the helipad on the roof top of the US embassy.
Those unforgettable images and the debacle of panic under the advancing VC forces put the US under a huge pall of embarassment and shame.

The War Museum

These planes were left behind by the American forces.

This is the famous CH 47 Chinook helicopter with 2 huge rotors.
When I walked around it, I realised it's hugeness!

Many kinds of planes were left behind when US forces withdrew
from Vietnam in panic.
Some of the bombs that were dropped all over Vietnam.

This is an actual archived footage showing the Fall of Saigon in April 1975.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Vietnam...Those who survived and those who didn't.

As I moved from one exhibit to another in the quietness of the War Museum, it suddenly dawned on me that I had no need to go in search of any historical battle sites.
I was already standing on the battle ground. The whole of Vietnam was engulfed in the War and Saigon itself was in the thick of all the action.

In this section, nearby to me was a Vietnamese man, a loving father, pointing to the same exhibits and explaining the situation to his 2 young kids. I noticed their mother was not with them. The kids took it all in without displaying much emotion which is perfectly understandable considering that they are only around 10 years old.

This is one of the most recent exhibits. It shows the discovery in 2008 December of mass graves

of prisoners who were tortured and killed during the war.
Their remains were extracted and given a proper ceremonial martyr's burial with honours.

Not everyone perished. There were those lucky enough to survive

the infamous prison system and they had harrowing tales to tell the world.
To the Vietnamese...these are their heroes.

Some of the lucky survivors and today regarded as heroes, giving
their testimonies about the inhuman torture they were subjected to...in special commemoration meetings a year ago.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Vietnam War...More Gruesome Reminders !

You will recall in my previous posts that I arrived at the War Museum as a pillion rider
on my guide..Ah Sup's bike. I gave him some money ( which he politely declined ) to go have some drinks and refreshments as I wanted to spend at least an hour at this site. Nevertheless, after making sure that he was seated at a nearby coffee stall and hence need not be uncomfortable, I went into the compound.

As I was alone on my own, I was able to be nimble -footed. That's the advantage when you can craft your own sight-seeing programme and carry it out alone or with a partner. So often in group tours, a group consisting of 40-50 people tend to move from point A to point B too slowly.
Much time is wasted to gather people, herd them together so they do not wander off, wait for those who went " to sing a song" and rejoin the party, wait for so many still posing at different locations for pictures and a whole string of other time-wasters. Just imagine this, if
every time the guide stops to highlight an item and 5 minutes is wasted as I pointed out...you can add up the precious wasted time.
The most obvious advantage in doing your own tour is that you and only you yourself decide what you want to do and see with the time planned, what are the things you can skip completely or have just a curtsory glance.
From my posts and pictures,
you will get an idea of what I wanted to see in that limited time I had.
I urge you to take your time to scrutinise these descriptions on "Torture Methods"
that were used against those unfortunate victims.
In a humanitarian law and order system...such horrendous torture practices would
So, why was this allowed?
It was war time...remember.
And especially in war time, as MAO said..." He who holds the gun holds the power ". Period!

[Inside the Tiger Cage Section -Explanation on Torture]

[ All of us have heard about the Biblical "Hell" described only in words . ]
[ But as they say...this is the real McCoy ! For the unfortunate victims in
[ this prison system...they do not fear Hell. They were already in it! ]

[ Various torture instruments. There are more displayed.]

[ No way a prisoner can escape at all. Often a quick death ]
[ was a more merciful alternative from this"living hell".

[ A cell of a typical "political" prisoner with a leg shackled ]
[ at all times. ]

[ A prisoner with both legs shackled. Lying down will]
[ cause untold pain to his ankles. ]

[ The skeleton...skull of a tortured victim with a]
[ nail hammered into his skull was unearthed. ]

[ Discovered records of a prisoner who ]
[ was executed. ]