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Nguoi Rung (forest people)

Forest People from Tay Nguyen

From the township of Buon Ma Thuot we go on national road 21 in a southeasterly direction to the summit of the Lac Yang Tao Pass. We then go off to the left into the deep forest. Here there are some mountain villages of the Ede and M'Nong people. About forty years ago a man of the M'Nong went into the forest and got lost without a trace. After three years the village believed that he had lost his way and must have died. But suddenly one day he returned to the village with long hair and totally naked. He tells a true but very strange story which is hard to believe. When he went into the forest to gather rattan rope he was taken prisoner by creatures looking like apes. But they were not apes.

They were larger and had very long hair. He was forced to live together with a female 'ape' in a cave deep in the forest. During the day this female ape locked him in the cave by putting a large stone in front of the entrance of the cave. Then she went out to collect food or fish or steal embers in the fields outside the forest. After more than one season of corn, he and the wife had a girl baby (if one can use this human name for it). So life passed for these people for three years. One day he took advantage of a negligence. He escaped from the cave and found his way back to the village.

Whether this story which he told is true or not we don't know. But in the course of the following days, the people in the mountain village often heard long tragic laments of the female ape. With the permission of the elders of the village, villagers followed the traces of the man who had returned to the village, back to the cave to where he had lived with the female ape. When they arrived they beheld a horrible sight. The entrance to the cave was destroyed. The little girl had been killed. The female ape was gone...

A man of the name of Recom Hiun (a Gia Rai), still living in the mountain village of Ky, the community of Ea Nuhoi, township of Buon Me Tuot (Dak Lak province) told another story. "The story happened in the mountain village of Ae Thi, M'Drak district (Dak Lak province), probably in the year 1971.

One day, Ai Thi tribes people went as usual into the forest to far away streams to fish. They went in a southerly direction to a mountain chain of Cu Yang Sinh, which extends between Dac Lac and Khanh Hoa to the area of Nam Cat Tien and where there is the source of the spring of the Ba River (Phu Yen Province). Over a certain stretch of time the Ae Thi could not understand why their traps remained without fish. Then they discovered a strange footprint one and a half times as big as a normal human footprint. They decided to make an ambush so as to capture this creature there and then. Some days passed until one night, before dawn, the saw a strange sight. From out of the interior of the forest came two apes, a bigger one and a somewhat smaller one (soon after it became clear that they were male and female). They were rather slim. They both went into the direction of the ambush. They had long hair on the entire body, with a fur that had a violet glimmer, including the face, except the eye sockets, mouth, palm As the male lifted the fish trap and began to tip it over to get the fish, everyone went towards the apes, captured them, tied them up and took them to their village. When a team of scientists in Duc My got news of this event, they went immediately with some South Korean soldiers to visit this place. Recon Hiun was at this time the director of the Department for the Development of Ethnic Minorities of Khanh Hoa province. He was also there and was an eyewitness. The captured ape couple was bound onto two house posts with ropes.

The South Korean soldiers then carefully shaved all the hair from their faces and also thoroughly washed both apes. The male was then put by his guards into a striped suit and the female was put into a sarong and Yeng of the Ede women. Both apparently did not know the use of language. Mr Recom Hiun said that after that the South Korean soldiers took the captured ape couple directly by airplane to their base at Duc My (Ninh Hoa - Khanh Hoa). Where they were taken from there, nobody knows..."

Mr Ngo Hoang was in the years 1950-1952 an armed agent of the Ministry of Propaganda in the hostile hinterland of Dac Lac and later was a member of an MIA in the years 1988-1991. So he was well acquainted with all the forest areas of Tay Nguyen. He tells the following story: "We were able to discover these forest men in about 1950 in an area in the vicinity of the Chu Bia mountain chain (which now belongs to the district of Dak Nong - Dak Lak). The footprint this forest man leaves behind is one and one half times as big as that of a normal man (length: about 30 cm, breadth about 20 cm). The big toe is slightly separated from the others. In the middle of the sole of the foot are many folds. After that, some of my comrades of a Pioneer unit saw a big 'man' entirely covered with grey hair. They thought it was an orang-utan and wanted to kill him. Fortunately, at that time we had strict orders not to shoot. That is why this man could escape. My comrades told me that he ran very fast, as fast as only a forest creature is able. This led him to the statement that in Vietnam there are forest men, there could be no doubt about that."