Old-style Communist speakers blare in Vietnam's new era

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It is 4.30 in the afternoon and the trees are"talking" on a street corner in Hanoi's old quarter.

No one on the crowded pavement appears to be listening to the scratchy, nasal sounds that are actually coming from loudspeakers, obscured by trees, which are used for neighborhood announcements in Communist-run Vietnam.

The loudspeakers are a throwback to the 1960s and 1970s war years when they delivered news from the front and warned people to take shelter from American aircraft bombing during Hanoi's war with a U.S.-backed South Vietnam government.

More than three decades later, they are blaring announcements about the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit that Hanoi is hosting on November 12-19.

It is Vietnam's international coming out party to showcase the higher standard of living it has achieved in the past two decades after a long history of war and poverty.

"This is an opportunity for Vietnam to promote businesses and introduce the economic potential of Vietnam to the international community," explained one announcement on the loudspeakers, which are mounted on pylons, sometimes near trees.

The daily 6.30 a.m. and 4.30 p.m. broadcasts in a male or female voice often politely begin with"Ladies and Gentlemen...". They end with an equally polite"thank you for listening to our broadcast" after covering topics such as Communist Party municipal committee meetings, avian flu prevention, vitamin regimens, sanitation and reminders to vaccinate against rabies.

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