QUANG BINH: Hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese lined the streets on Sunday for the funeral of independence hero Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap who orchestrated the country’s stunning wartime victories over France and the United States (US).
Military trucks carrying Giap’s flag-draped coffin through Hanoi were met by vast crowds—at places 10 or 20 deep—with many mourners falling to their knees to pray as the cortege passed.
“Long live General Giap!” some shouted as the funeral procession drove to the airport, where his body was flown to his native Quang Binh province some 500 kilometers away for burial.
Hordes more people, many holding photographs of the general or bunches of yellow flowers, greeted the coffin’s arrival in Quang Binh and lined sections of the main highway from the airport to the remote site where he was due to be buried later on Sunday.
Giap, who died aged 102 on October 4, was the architect of Vietnam’s battlefield victories over France and the US and the one-party communist state has keenly tried to co-opt 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, he added, speaking before the procession at the Hanoi Funeral House, where the general’s body lay in state overnight.
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.