Vietnamese bid final farewell to war hero
By Hoang Dinh Nam, AFPQUANG BINH , Vietnam--Hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese lined the streets Sunday for the funeral of independence hero General Vo Nguyen Giap, who orchestrated the country's stunning wartime victories over France and the United States.
October 14, 2013, 12:13 am TWN
Giap's coffin, draped in Vietnam's flag, was lowered into a grave in a remote coastal area of his native Quang Binh province, after a day which saw vast crowds — at times 10 or 20 deep — swarm to pay their respects as his body was brought from Hanoi.
Mourners in the capital had earlier fallen to their knees in prayer or shouted “Long live General Giap!” as the funeral cortege drove to the city's airport to make the 500-kilometer (310 miles) journey south for burial.
Giap, who died aged 102 on October 4, was the architect of Vietnam's battlefield victories over France and the U.S. The one-party communist state has tried to harness the popular general's legacy to bolster its own legitimacy.
“(Giap) is the general of the People and his name will be forever engraved in the history of the nation,” Communist Party leader Nguyen Phu Trong said in a televised speech on Sunday.
His death was “a great loss” for Vietnam, Trong added, speaking before the procession at the Hanoi Funeral House, where the general's body lay in state overnight.
Hordes more people, many bearing bunches of yellow flowers, greeted the coffin's arrival in Quang Binh and lined the main highway from the airport to the private burial site in Vung Chua.
Nguyen Van Hien, 45, said he had walked many miles from a neighboring province to say goodbye to Giap, who was lauded as a military genius for the guerrilla tactics that inspired resistance movements around the world.
“His death is a great loss for the country,” he told AFP, adding he would not leave until he could pray at the grave.
Giap, who became a prominent government critic late in life, is second only to founding president Ho Chi Minh in the communist nation's affections.
He has been honored with two days of national mourning — when all flags fly at half mast — and the largest state funeral in decades.
“The General gave his whole life to the country and the people,” his son, Vo Dien Bien, said in a short, emotionally-charged speech in Hanoi on Sunday.
“Now he is gone, his spirit will join with those of the Vietnamese people, giving (them) strength to build a strong and prosperous country.”