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Saturday, April 30, 2005

BBC NEWS | World | Asia-Pacific | Vietnam remembers fall of Saigon

BBC NEWS | World | Asia-Pacific | Vietnam remembers fall of Saigon:Vietnam remembers fall of Saigon
Vietnam is commemorating the 30th anniversary of the communist victory in the Vietnam War.

Firework displays and a military parade will be held on Saturday in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon.

Speaking ahead of the celebrations, Prime Minister Phan Van Khai said the victory of 30 April 1975 was "forever written in our nation's history".

But he added that Vietnam still faced many challenges and should move on from the past and look to the future.

Liberation Day, as it is known in Vietnam, marks the victory of communist North Vietnamese forces over the US-backed regime in the south.

The government says it hopes this year's anniversary commemorations will help to revive patriotism and national pride among the young.

Addressing senior Vietnamese leaders, war veterans and foreign diplomats - including US Ambassador Michael W Marine - in Hanoi, Mr Khai is quoted as saying: "Our people's victory in the resistance against the Americans for national salvation is forever written in our nation's history as one of the most glorious pages."

But he also said Vietnam needed to "avoid self-satisfaction, and realise the weaknesses and challenges posed to us".

And he added that his government advocated "friendly co-operation to strengthen relations with countries that took part in the Vietnam War."

The BBC correspondent, Brian Barron, was there in 1975 when North Vietnamese forces stormed into the presidential compound and brought down the American-backed government of South Vietnam.

He recalled hearing the sound of rockets and shells hitting the airport, and of systematic looting as authority collapsed.

Presidential Palace

At the Hanoi ceremony, costumed dancers re-enacted the war across a giant stage, miming the shooting down of warplanes and the misery of losing comrades to the fighting.

But the main commemorative events will take place in Vietnam's second city, Ho Chi Minh, on Saturday.

Events also include a parade by Vietcong veterans and a ceremony for those who were born 30 years ago to the day when communist tanks rolled through the gates of the city's Presidential Palace.

The Southern Vietnamese formally surrendered, marking the official end to a war which had claimed an estimated three million Vietnamese and some 58,000 American lives.

The red and yellow flag of Vietnam now adorns many of the streets and buildings of Ho Chi Minh City.

In front of the Presidential Palace, a large portrait of late President Ho Chi Minh, founder of today's Vietnam, takes pride of place.

The only high profile foreign visitor due to attend the celebrations is Cuban Defence Minister Raul Castro, President Fidel Castro's younger brother and apparent heir.

Cuba, along with the Soviet Union and China, were communist North Vietnam's key allies during the conflict.

More than 7,500 prisoners, including some political detainees, have been released this year as part of an anniversary amnesty.

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