Adjusting his glasses, Nguyen Huu Thao peers closely at the large stained and rusty pieces of coast guard ships on display at the entrance to an exhibition hall of the Viet Nam Military History Museum (VMHM).
The 70-year-old resident of Dong Anh District on the outskirts of the capital city was visibly angry.
The exhibits are remnants of Viet Nam’s coast guard ships 2012 and 2016 that were rammed by Chinese naval vessels 44103 and 46105 respectively in Vietnamese waters off the Hoang Sa Archipelago in May and June.
“As retired soldier, I feel incensed to see our fleet getting destroyed by the Chinese. And they even seized our fishermen, boats and fishing tools,” said Thao.
The deformed portside and starboard of the ships are part of a display of more than 300 artefacts, images and documents that not only offer firm evidence of Viet Nam’s sovereignty over the Truong Sa and Hoang Sa archipelagoes, but also document the struggle being waged to protect the sovereignty.
Called Hoang Sa and Truong Sa Islands – Viet Nam’s Sovereignty, the exhibition is jointly organised by the VMHM, the Ministry of Information and Communications, the Viet Nam Marine Police Command and the Navy and Borders Museum.
“The exhibition clearly shows our determination to protect the islands. It is obvious that they belong to our country. Our ancestors were present on Hoang Sa Island and planted a landmark in 1838,” Thao said.
“There is such determination here,” he added, touching the white statue of a naval cadet with watchful eyes and firm grip on a gun. The sculpture was created by Ta Quang Bao.
The exhibition is divided into three sections: Hoang Sa and Truong Sa Islands Belong to Viet Nam – The Historical Evidence; Protecting the Sovereignty of Hoang Sa and Truong Sa islands; and Hoang Sa and Truong Sa islands in the Hearts of Vietnamese People and International Friends.
Included in the display are maps belonging to the feudal states of Viet Nam by both foreign and Chinese publishers that affirm Viet Nam’s sovereignty.
A popular attraction is the birth certificate of a baby girl named Mai Kim Quy, born December 7, 1939 on Hoang Sa. The certificate was granted by a French Administrative Office in 1940.
Other highlights include guns, handcuffs, electrical whips, a rock drilling machine, flash light, plastic and steel cans, anchor chains, chisels, hammers, mugs, medicine boxes, binoculars, semiconductor radios, and flashlights.
The exhibition also shows off model submarines, rocket launchers, artillery ships, and multipurpose coast guard vessels of the Viet Nam Marine Police that are used to defend the nation.
Other objects of interest include an ambulance stretcher used in rescuing the crew of marine ship HQ 605 sunk by Chinese ships off Co Lin and Len Dao islands on March 14th, 1988; pieces of rock and samples of fertilizer that soldiers of naval unit 127 collected from the Truong Sa Islands for the first time and presented to Generals Vo Nguyen Giap and Van Tien Dung in April 1976; and black and white photos reflecting the life and work of soldiers on islands.
Among the contemporary exhibits are voices denouncing China’s illegal placement of oil rig HD 981 as well as strong support for Viet Nam’s legitimate protection of its sovereignty.
The exhibition will remain open until September 18 at the Viet Nam Military History Museum, 28A Dien Bien Phu Street, Ba Dinh District, Ha Noi.