Gen. Giap to get national funeral

AFP-JIJI

Vietnam on Saturday announced plans to hold a national funeral for independence hero Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap, the first official statement on the death of the ruthless but brilliant military strategist.

Giap, who died Friday at the age of 102 and who was lauded as a genius for guerrilla tactics that defeated both the French and American armies, will be honored with two days of national mourning, the Central Committee of the Vietnamese Communist Party said.

“A national funeral has been decided for Gen. Giap,” said the statement, released some 24 hours after the self-taught soldier died. A national funeral is the country’s highest honor — above a state ceremony.

His body will lie in state at the national funeral house in Hanoi on Saturday, the Central Committee statement said, before being buried the following day.

Giap, second only to late revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh as modern Vietnam’s most revered figure, was the founding father of the Vietnam People’s Army, whose guerrilla tactics inspired anti-colonial fighters worldwide.

The self-taught soldier attained almost mythical status, securing victory over the French in 1954 at Dien Bien Phu, the battle that ended Paris’ rule in Indochina, and then masterminding the fight against the United States until the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975.

His success also earned him some powerful enemies — he left politics officially in 1991 after being eased out of the Politburo almost a decade before — but he continued to speak out until well into his 90s about sensitive issues such as corruption.

After news of Giap’s death broke late Friday, there was an outpouring of grief and tributes for the beloved general online, although state television and radio remained silent until Saturday.

In Hanoi, there was little public display of mourning, with police stationed outside Giap’s home waving away curious onlookers.

The former history teacher will be interred in his native Quang Binh province, at the request of his family.

State broadcaster VTV will broadcast live images of his funeral in Quang Binh and other activities in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, the statement said.

It added that the nation’s flags will fly at half-staff from Friday until Sunday to mark the official period of mourning.

A funeral committee to organize the event has been established, with all of Vietnam’s top leaders involved, the statement said.