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The BBC's Simon Ingram in Ho Chi Minh City
"A chance to recall with pride a momentous military achievement""
 real 28k

Sunday, 30 April, 2000, 05:00 GMT 06:00 UK
Vietnam celebrates American defeat
Ho Chi Minh poster
Images of the late communist revolutionary Ho Chi Minh are everywhere
Celebrations in Vietnam to mark the 25th anniversary of the victory over the United States, and the final reunification of the country have reached their climax.

A military parade has been taking place in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly the South Vietnamese capital, Saigon.

Our resistance struggle for national salvation traversed 30 years of untold sufferings and sacrifices

Prime Minister Pham Van Khai

It was watched by senior Vietnamese leaders as well as a number of elderly army veterans, including General Vo Nguyen Giap, who masterminded victories over the French and the Americans.

Tight security was imposed because of concerns over possible disruptions to the celebrations, and plans for a big civilian parade were abandoned.

But the streets of the city were festooned with flags and banners, and bathed in a rainbow of bright colours.

Mayor's speech

In the United States, veterans from the conflict are holding informal gatherings but no official commemorations are planned.

Nearly 60,000 American soldiers were killed in the war, which was fiercely opposed at the time by protestors.

Cu Chi War Cemetery
A woman walks past graves at the Cu Chi War Cemetery

The American media are giving extensive coverage to the anniversary, showing images of a conflict many are too young to remember.

The ceremony in Ho Chi Minh city started with a speech by the mayor, Vo Viet Thanh.

"The great victory of April 30 represents the triumph of the entire nation, of justice over brutality and of humanity over tyranny," he said.

The great victory of April 30 represents the triumph of the entire nation

Vo Viet Thanh, Ho Chi Minh city mayor

He also warned against complacency, urging a "party regeneration campaign" and condemning growing corruption within the country.

And he sent a positive message to foreign investors, saying that the city welcomed "with open arms foreign investment, businessmen and multinational corporations."

Keynote speech

In a keynote speech to mark the anniversary, Prime Minister Pham Van Khai had earlier described the Vietnam war as one of the great triumphs of the 20th century.

"Our resistance struggle for national salvation traversed 30 years of untold sufferings and sacrifices," he said.

Vietnam War
1957 North launches guerrilla war
1964 US starts bombing North Vietnam
1965 200,000 US combat troops arrive in South
1968 Tet offensive by Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army
1973 Washington and Hanoi ceasefire deal
1975 Saigon falls to North

The prime minister paid homage to the memory of communist soldiers who lost their lives during the conflict - and also to those Americans who opposed their country's involvement in Vietnam.

The main festivities took place in front of Reunification Palace, the old presidential palace of the former South Vietnam, where the tanks of the North Vietnamese forces arrived on the morning of April 30th 1975, signalling the end of the war.

Elsewhere, workmen prepared equipment for stage shows and other events, aimed primarily at younger Vietnamese.

Security fears

But Sunday's events have been scaled down from those originally planned, and security precautions have been visibly stepped up.

On Saturday, soldiers could be seen using mine detectors in the grounds of Reunification Palace.

Ho Chi Minh City deputy mayor Le Thanh Hai told a news conference that on big occasions it was inevitable that some bad elements would want to cause disruption.

Coconut vendor
A coconut vendor watches for customers

A BBC correspondent in the city says it is not clear whether the authorities are more concerned about a reported threat by a Vietnamese opposition group based in neighbouring Cambodia, or about the fact that many southerners feel they have little to celebrate.

Prisoner release

The anniversary has attracted several hundred foreign journalists, including many veterans who covered the Vietnam war.

The Vietnamese Government has pledged to free 12,000 prisoners to mark the event.

The figure surprised observers, who had been expecting far fewer to be released.

Officials say the prisoners will include 29 foreigners, among them three US citizens and others from Australia, Cambodia, Laos and Taiwan.

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29 Apr 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
Return to Saigon
28 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
Vietnam to free over 12,000 prisoners
29 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
Canada berates Vietnam over execution
30 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
In pictures: Celebrating reunification
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