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Funeral held for Vietnam's ex-PM

Communist Party chief Nong Duc Manh (l) and President Nguyen Minh Triet (r) with Vo Van Kiet's coffin
Vietnam's leaders and communist party officials attended the funeral

Thousands of mourners have lined the streets of Ho Chi Minh City for the funeral of former Vietnamese Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet.

Mr Kiet, who died last week aged 85, led Vietnam's economic reform of the 1990s and its reopening to the outside world after decades of isolation.

The current Prime Minister, Nguyen Tan Dung, described Mr Kiet as "heroic".

BBC correspondents say his death raises questions about which way the communist party in Vietnam will move now.

There have been signs recently that Mr Kiet's reformist allies have been losing their influence, says the BBC's Guy Delauney.

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

'Excellent leader'

The eulogy for Mr Kiet was given by communist party leader Nong Duc Manh at the Reunification Palace in Ho Chi Minh City, where his body had been lying in state.

Vo Van Kiet's coffin is transported in a glass case through Ho Chi Minh City
The coffin was carried in a glass case through Ho Chi Minh City

He described Mr Kiet as "an excellent leader of our party, state and people, a faithful revolutionary fighter who has devoted his whole life for national independence, socialism and people's happiness".

Mr Kiet's flag-draped coffin, carried in a glass case and accompanied by a military procession, was then taken through the streets, where thousands of mourners waited to pay tribute.

Vietnam is holding two days of national mourning.

Among the grey ranks of Vietnam's communist leadership, Mr Kiet was one of few figures to have stood out.

VO VAN KIET
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.

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.

As prime minister, Mr Kiet presided over a period of dramatic economic growth and foreign investment.


SEE ALSO
Obituary: Vo Van Kiet
11 Jun 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Ex-Vietnamese PM Vo Van Kiet dies
11 Jun 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Reform call by ex-Vietnamese PM
10 May 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Vietnam
25 Jan 07 |  Country profiles

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