Ho Van Thanh was last seen four decades ago, fleeing into the forest with his then one-year old son, Ho Van Lang, after a bomb explosion in his home killed his wife and two other children during the country’s war with the US in 1973.
Neighbouring villagers, who had wandered 40 kilometres into the woods looking for firewood had found the pair, living in a tree house and wearing loincloths made from tree bark. The villagers alerted local authorities, who rescued the pair on Wednesday. Thanh was said to be too old and too weak to walk and was carried out of the jungle in a hammock.
The two men had managed to survive for 40 years on a diet of cultivated forest vegetation consisting of cassava, corn, sugar cane and wild leaves and by hunting animals. They had been living in a tree house resembling a bird’s nest, around six meters off the ground, near a stream. They had also made their own knives, axes and arrows for hunting.
Thanh had another newly born son at the time of his disappearance with Lang. Ho Van Tri was said to have first found his father and brother more than 20 years ago and had tried in vain to persuade them to come home, according to a report in VnExpress. Tri returned every year, bringing them salt and oil, but they still would not accept him. He said that many times he had returned with more people to try to bring them home, but the pair would quickly hide away whenever they saw anyone coming. Tri said that they were even brought clothes and pots to use, but Thanh just kept them in a bag. Two items that were found in Thanh’s possession were a tiny red jacket that once belonged to young Lang, along with Thanh’s army pants he wore as a soldier.
A frail Thanh is now being treated at a medical centre, while his son is being cared for by his nephew, Ho Ven Bien. Bien said, “My uncle doesn’t understand much of what is being said to him and he doesn’t want to eat or even drink water.” Bien went on to say, “He is very sad. He doesn’t say anything now. We know he wants to escape my house to go back to the forest, so we have to keep an eye on him now.”
The discovery of Thanh and Lang is said to have shaken the little community, which believed the men after all this time, to be dead.
“No one could imagine Thanh and his son could live 40 years in isolation in the hard conditions of the jungle,” said villager Ho Van Xanh.
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