Mai Thuc Long: Mr. “Fire tiger”

Thursday, February 12, 2015 - 10:56:23

(VOVworld) – VOV reporters love him for his modesty, simplicity, frankness, and fearlessness in confrontations. He considers the Voice of Vietnam to be a vital part of his life.   

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His colleagues used to call him “Mai Thuc Fire”, Mr. “Fire tiger”, or Mr. “Long fire” because he was hotheaded. They respected and loved him for his modesty and frankness. He was always willing to listen to others, particularly when it was about personal feelings or radio program content. For him, the Voice of Vietnam is an important part of his life. He was in charge of communication programming. He was an honest and straight man and never afraid to say what was wrong and what was right. He was a man of arguments. Regarding his temper, I was once told that he was invited to attend a radio and television conference, after he saw the banner on the stage which said “television conference”, he called a representative of the organizing board and threatened him: “If you don’t add the word “radio”, I will leave immediately”. He really meant it. The organizing board insisted that he stay and they would fix the banner immediately.             

Vietnamese-French relations improved significantly in the 1990s. France granted many scholarships to Vietnamese media agencies, including the Voice of Vietnam. Madame Thureau, who was in charge of cooperation between France’s Foreign Ministry and Vietnamese media agencies, got to work in Hanoi. The Voice of Vietnam held a banquet in her honor on a boat on West Lake. A banquet at that time was very luxurious. An experienced editor-announcer of the French section was appointed to interpret for Mr. Mai Thuc Long. After Madame Thureau’s address came Long’s words, which were summarized by the interpreter. He turned to him and asked: How come I spoke a lot and you translated very little. It turned out he knew a little French. He was straight even there were many guests both Vietnamese and foreigners there. Luckily Madame Thureau did not speak Vietnamese. She must have thought he was encouraging the interpreter. She smiled and the rest of us terrified. From that time on, no one dared to cut short what he said.

After his retirement, Mr. Long from time to time dropped in the Overseas Service (now the National External Information Service VOV5). In my office, when I was preparing tea, he sat on my chair and laughed: “I want to know how it feels sitting on the chair of a Deputy director.” He did the same when he visited Madame Hue, the Director of the Overseas Service. She had to sit in front of him and answer his sort of “interrogative” questions. He attended all the meetings organized by the Overseas Service. Although he was not head of the liaison committee, he was invited to speak very often. Mr. Long rarely gave compliments. When the Overseas Service won a consolation prize in the national press award, he said the award was an honor particularly for those involved in the external information service.   

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When he turned 60, he invited a number of his colleagues who used to work as radio and television specialists in Cambodia, to share his joy. I and Mr. Do Van Loan bought him a flower bouquet. When he received the bouquet, for the first time I saw him smile a little shyly. Perhaps he was not used to such formalities.

Mr. Long was well-known as an experienced commentator at the Voice of Vietnam. His first commentary was broadcast the day before Vietnam’s general elections in 1956, which was sabotaged by the US-backed government.  Before the Voice of Vietnam, Mr. Long was in charge of Party affairs in Tam Ky and a youth newspaper in Quang Da. He was chosen for the northern region’s first journalist training course held at the Temple of Literature with the trainers being the journalists Hoang Tung, Dao Tung, and Tran Lam. After this 6-month course, he worked for a radio program for the southern region at the Voice of Vietnam, where he used to write “tactical commentaries”, which referred to quick, immediate commentaries on whatever had happed in the national resistance war against US imperialists.

Mr. Long was born into a revolutionary confucianist family. His grandfather was a bachelor and his uncle, also a bachelor, who was a member of the movement to support the King, was arrested and incarcerated in Con Dao by the French. His father was President of the Farmers’ Association of Quang da province and his mother, a revolutionary, was arrested and incarcerated in Chi Hoa, Thu Duc. 42 years at the Voice of Vietnam, journalist Long assumed many positions from head of division, department deputy director and director, and Deputy editor-in-chief to Deputy general director, secretary of VOV’s Party Committee, and deputy Party secretary of central ideological agencies. He was also head of the delegation of specialists from the Vietnam National Radio and Television Commission in Cambodia for a record 7 years.      

Compatriot Dang Dung (in the post-Tran dynasty in the late 15th century) wrote a poem which was literally translated by poet Tan Da as follows:

               One gets old when big things remain unfinished

               One thing left to do is to sing and dance.

               Narrow-minded men find luck when the time changes,

               Heroes not in their time only resent!

Older people often think about past memories with little regret because they are already at the end of their career and their past glory has long gone. They need to relax and want explore their feelings. Mr. Long is no exception. Meeting with his friends and colleagues, he often talks of his memories of work to recall the good feelings he had. It’s a great joy which comforts him a lot.               

      ... A new spring has come and receiving VOV’s Tet gift he asked me a familiar question: “Is this year’s Tet gift better than last year’s? His question was just for fun because a man in his late 80s doesn’t need much. For him a better Tet gift means VOV has flourished more./.