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Sunday October 13, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Sunday October 13, 2013 MYT 7:32:12 AM
Sombre: Professor Vu Khieu (right) being wheeled in as he leads a delegation of Vu (or Vo) family to pay their last respects to Giap (inset) at the National Funeral House in Hanoi. — AFP
HANOI: Vietnam’s top leaders gathered to pay their last respects to independence hero General Vo Nguyen Giap, who died last week at 102, as his state funeral began in Hanoi.
The commemorations come as the one-party state tries to capture Giap’s legacy as a symbol of its own legitimacy, hailing him as a communist hero while downplaying the general’s later reputation as a persistent government critic.
Soldiers in white uniforms stood to attention as officials, including Vietnam’s prime minister and president, bade farewell to Giap who was second only to late president Ho Chi Minh in the affections of the communist nation.
“He had an outstanding talent in military leadership,” wrote Communist Party leader Nguyen Phu Trong in a book of condolences, according to state media.
Lauded as a military genius for the guerrilla tactics that defeated both the French and American armies, the general is being honoured with two days of national mourning.
A photograph of Giap and a gilt frame containing military medals was placed above his coffin, which was draped in the national flag.
Giap, a former history teacher turned military commander, led his troops to victory over France in 1954 at Dien Bien Phu – the battle that ended French involvement in Indochina – and played a key role in Vietnam’s defeat of the United States in 1975.
Despite being politically sidelined after the country’s reunification in 1975, Giap remained enormously popular – even with people born after the war.
“I am deeply honoured to attend the funeral,” said Colonel Bui Xuan Tuyen.
“General Giap is a symbol of the pride and triumph of the Vietnamese People’s Army,” the 46-year-old added.
More than 100,000 people queued for hours to visit Giap’s house this week to pay their final respects after news of his death broke.
Concerts have been cancelled, national parks closed, and normal state television broadcasts suspended in favour of patriotic music and documentaries for the mourning period. — AFP
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