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Friday, 10 March, 2000, 16:49 GMT
Vietnam celebrates communist victory
elephant
Twenty five elephants took part in the parade
The people of Vietnam are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the communist victory in the Vietnam War.

In Buon Me Thuot - the first town to be taken in the final offensive, on 10 March 1975 - there was a colourful parade of about 5,000 people.

Twenty five trained elephants, which were used during the war to deliver supplies to the troops, took part in the festival.

The parade also included a major military presence, with hundreds of white-gloved troops goose-stepping as patriotic music rang out on a sound system.

women
Uniformed women celebrate the communist victory
Floats, youth groups, and representatives of ethnic minorities in traditional dress waved national flags as they passed a viewing stand for 1,000 invited guests.

'Golden page'

"The Buon Me Thuot victory is forever a glorious golden page of our people and army," Nguyen An Vinh, the provincial Communist Party chief, said.

"In a short period of time, we smashed and eliminated all of the enemy's war machines in this large battlefield, ushering in a domino effect and the miserable fall of the puppet regime in South Vietnam."

The Vietnam War was the worst military defeat in the history of the United States.

Photos

An exhibition of photographs of the war has opened in the capital, Hanoi.

The images come from the book Requiem, the Vietnam Collection, representing the work of more than 100 photojournalists who died covering two decades of conflict in Indo-China.

soldiers
The military figured prominently
The book, published in 1997, has won several awards for its depictions of the brutality of war.

The Vietnamese celebrations will move south and culminate in Ho Chi Minh City - formerly Saigon - on 30 April, 25 years to the day since the hurried American departure.

US visit

The scale of celebrations in Buon Me Thuot shows the importance that the government places on commemorations for a war that it says it wants to put into the past.

They come only a few days before an historic visit to Vietnam by US defence secretary William Cohen.

He will be the first US defence secretary to visit the country since the end of the Vietnam War.

Speaking in Hong Kong on Friday, Mr Cohen said he looked forward to the visit, but cautioned that the two militaries would move slowly in establishing ties.

"We will take it step-by-step and not try to rush the process," he said.

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See also:

09 Feb 00 | Asia-Pacific
Vietnam to rebuild war road
19 Nov 99 | Crossing continents
Poisoned legacy of the Vietnam War
14 Dec 99 | Asia-Pacific
Vietnam pledges more progress on economy
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