Page last updated at 07:29 GMT, Wednesday, 11 June 2008 08:29 UK

Ex-Vietnamese PM Vo Van Kiet dies

By Jonathan Head
South East Asia correspondent, BBC News

Vo Van Kiet (pictured here in October 1996)
Vo Van Kiet moved Vietnam towards a market economy

Vo Van Kiet, the architect of Vietnam's transformation from a socialist system to one of the world's fastest-growing market economies, has died aged 85.

Mr Kiet was unusual among communist leaders for his blunt criticism of government policy.

He became prime minister in 1991 and held office until he stepped down in favour of Phan Van Khai in 1997.

He had been in poor health in recent days and died at a Singapore hospital, relatives said.

Economic growth

Among the grey ranks of Vietnam's communist leadership few figures have ever stood out.

One of the few was former Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet.

Vo Van Kiet [archive photo from 1991]
Prime Minister: 1991 - 1997
Seen as a reformer, helped create Doi Moi
Joined Indochinese Communist Party in 1939

Credited as the author of the reforms known as Doi Moi, which have transformed Vietnam's economy, he was a rarity among senior officials in speaking out publicly against the failings of the communist system.

Born in a village in the Mekong Delta, he was a veteran fighter in the long war against French and then American military forces in South Vietnam.

His first wife and four children died in the war.

After the communist victory in 1975 he became party secretary of Saigon, and quietly defied hard-line official policy by trying to work with officials and businesses associated with the defeated government.

His experiments with diluting orthodox socialism in the city eventually encouraged the communist party to adopt market reforms for the whole country in 1986, at a time when the economy was in ruins.

It took many years for those reforms to take root - but as prime minister Mr Kiet presided over a period of dramatic economic growth and foreign investment.

He remained an outspoken critic of official corruption and an advocate of reconciliation with opponents of communist rule - arguing that the brutal re-unification of north and south after 1975 had caused pain to millions.

Reform call by ex-Vietnamese PM
10 May 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Vietnam
25 Jan 07 |  Country profiles


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