Cuong told his story: “When I first came here, what my colleagues and I were worried about most was the language gap in communicating with local people. None of us could speak Lao.” To overcome the hurdle, Cuong and his Vietnamese co-workers had to go and work together to help each other in communication with local people. They worked and learnt Lao. Whenever they learnt a new word, they wrote down on a notebook and tried to learn by heart.

With their continuous efforts for more than 3 years, they can now speak Lao fluently. “We can understand about 80% of the conversations relating to our work and 60% of the everyday conversations,” Cuong said.

Bui Minh Cuong (2nd from left) with his colleagues at Viettel’s branch in Phongsaly, Laos.

However, learning Lao was not the only difficulty Cuong and other workers of Viettel Phongsaly branch had to overcome during their working time in the locality of Laos. Poor infrastructure, difficult terrains and harsh weather made their workload heavier and caused more hardships to them.

It was more difficult for Cuong when his Vietnamese co-workers finished their work and returned to the home country. From March 2015 to June 2017, Cuong was the only Vietnamese to work among local colleagues at the Viettel Phongsaly branch.

Since June 2014, Cuong, in charge of Deputy-Accountant Chief of the Viettel Phongsaly branch, has been responsible for running the accountancy section and teaching expertise and knowledge to local workers. At the same time, he tried to learn Laos’ laws and regulations regarding accountancy, finance and investment to advice Viettel’s Board of Directors to readjust policies in line with local laws and regulations and working practices.

On December 1, 2017, Bui Minh Cuong was honored by Viettel Global Investment Company as one of the 15 most excellent workers in its 10 international markets during the period 2012-17. He was considered one of the individual workers that had made a big positive change in the company’s production, business and in the brand building. He was also a factor to effectively promote the unity among officials and workers, and to make large contribution to creating a dynamic working environment in the branch and the company.

During the working time in Laos, he has an unforgettable memory. Cuong recalled: “On December 12, 2016, I had a survey trip to Station PH205 in Vupaonuea hamlet, home to the Sung ethnic minority, in Phongsaly province. I was accompanied with two Lao co-workers; a technical worker and a driver. Since it was the rainy season, it was difficult to travel. When we reached a broken road section due to heavy rains, our car could not go through. After 3 hours repairing the road with local people’s supports, we could pass the broken road section and continued our trip. But we met an even bigger obstacle when we went on about 10km. There was a stream in front of us, and the water level rose so high that the car could not cross it. So we decided to leave the car on this side and swam to the other. After walking 3km, we luckily reached a hamlet and came to the Head of the hamlet. Although we wore only underpants and had no documents because all of our belongings were left in the car, local people treated us very well when we told them we were Viettel workers. After some rests, the Head of the hamlet asked three local people to take us to our station about 20km away from the hamlet by motorbike. We rode on crooked, slippery and sloping pathway, and finally we arrived at the station. During the time we carried out a survey in the area,the motorbike drivers told us that all the bikes did not have any breaks. We were shocked but we did not have other choices, and had to sit on the motorbikes and went back to the hamlet before dark. Luckily, we were all safe but we felt nervous all the way back the hamlet, especially when the bikes went up and down a slope.”

Although the local people were poor, they rejected to receive any money for their assistance. The Head of the hamlet said, “You do not need to pay us. You are here to install fixed and mobile phone networks for us, contributing to local efforts to eliminate hunger and reduce poverty. So we are very happy supporting you. If you need us, we are always ready to back you.”

Cuong said that the words of the Head of the hamlet and sentiments of the local people toward him and his co-workers were an imperative for him to overcome any difficulties and hardships to work more effectively and accelerate the building of the local telecommunications networks.

Translated by Thu Nguyen