In Vietnam, a state funeral was being held on Saturday for a national hero – General Giap, the independence icon who masterminded military victories over colonial power France in the 1950s and later over the Americans.
The ruling elite’s tribute, complete with pomp and ceremony, reflects the public popularity of the general who has died aged 102. Yet the Communist regime sidelined him in his later life when he criticised the party.
Family and friends were also at the National Funeral Hall in Hanoi. Members of the public followed the service outside.
But the general’s life and death has not only touched the Vietnamese. A Communist from Italy, Giovanni Polo said he once met the self-taught soldier.
“In the sixties and seventies, in the streets, we used to shout ‘Giap, Giap, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam will win’ and Vietnam won and this represented hope for my generation and for the whole of humanity,” said Polo who flew to Hanoi as soon as he heard news of Giap’s death.
The public were also being allowed in to say a final farewell, with the general lying in state. For many it is an emotional occasion.
“Myself and the entire country, we are mourning General Giap,” said Vietnamese war veteran Vo Than Tam, 75. “He was not only a commander but also a big brother to us.”
Vietnam’s outpouring of grief has seen more than
100,000 people visit the general’s villa in Hanoi. The national mourning period will culminate in his burial on Sunday.