HANOI: Tens of thousands of people gathered in Hanoi yesterday to pay their last respects to Vietnam’s independence hero General Vo Nguyen Giap, lying in state in the capital after he died last week at the age of 102.
Top leaders bade farewell to Giap early yesterday, kicking off two days of elaborate official commemorations that come as the one-party state seeks to co-opt the popular general’s legacy as a symbol of its own legitimacy.
As soldiers in white uniforms stood to attention, officials wrote messages of condolence hailing Giap as a communist hero — brushing over his post-war relegation to the political sidelines and his later outspoken criticism of the government. 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. His family, wearing black, stood close by while thick clouds of incense filled the room where his body lay in state. Outside the funeral home, tens of thousands of people gathered — including war veterans with medals pinned to their chests, and teenagers with pictures of Giap emblazoned on their clothes — hoping to catch a final glimpse of the general.
More than 100,000 people queued for hours to visit Giap’s house this week to pay their respects after news of his death broke. Outside the capital, authorities have set up altars where people can go to pay tribute to the general.
Concerts have been cancelled, national parks closed, and normal state television broadcasts suspended in favour of patriotic music and documentaries for the mourning period.