Military parade marks 70th anniversary of Vietnam’s independence

2015-09-02 16:51
Two Vietnamese village policemen check the national flag as they wait for the military parade in Hanoi. (Tran Van Minh, AP)

Two Vietnamese village policemen check the national flag as they wait for the military parade in Hanoi. (Tran Van Minh, AP)

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Hanoi - Huge crowds gathered on the streets of Vietnam's 1 000-year-old capital on Wednesday for a massive military parade to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the nation's independence.

With a 21-cannon salute from historic Thang Long royal citadel, the procession of about 30 000 soldiers and civilians started in front of Ho Chi Minh mausoleum at Ba Dinh square, where late president Ho Chi Minh proclaimed the nation's independence on September 2 1945 in the aftermath of the WWII. 

"For the past 70 years, our achievements have been tremendous, but not adequate to our potential," President Truong Tan Sang said in a speech. "Vietnam is at risk of lagging far behind in economy."

With words that carried echoes of the revered "Uncle Ho," Sang added: "Independence will mean nothing if the people cannot enjoy freedom and happiness."

Among those watching the celebration, which appeared live on national television, may have been some of the 18 500 inmates granted amnesty last week in what authorities called a show of "mercy" on the occasion of National Day.

They included individuals implicated in murder, rape and other violent crimes, but none of the country's 140 political prisoners, rights groups said.

The parade featured 30 000 participants, including marching bands and several military, militia and police units. Law enforcement, militias, war veterans, farmers and workers were represented, as were ethnic minorities in traditional dress of their tribes. 

The festivities were to close with a fireworks display on Wednesday night.

Vietnam has a recognisable, distinct culture dating back 4 000 years, but was for centuries dominated by China and later French colonialists. 

When Ho's guerrilla army, which had helped allied forces fight the Japanese, took control of Hanoi in August 1945, it marked a new era of Vietnamese history under communist leadership.

Ho proclaimed independence, but later retreated to the countryside after French forces, with US backing, arrived to try to re-establish its colony as a bulwark against the expanding communist sphere of influence.

Thirty years of conflict ensued - first against the French, then the United States and its southern Vietnamese allies - before Vietnam took its modern form in 1975.

Like the April 30 parade to mark the 40th anniversary of end of the war that unified northern and southern Vietnam, Tuesday's procession did not include any tanks or artillery.

President Sang was joined on the rostrum by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, Vietnam Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong and ambassadors representing dozens of nations.

Sang tempered the celebratory mood by highlighting Vietnam's ongoing challenges after saluting the nation's progress.

"Bureaucracy problems and corruption by cadres and party members have not been pushed back, decreasing the people's confidence in the party," he said.

The president also said the maritime dispute in the East Sea, as the Vietnamese call the South China Sea, was "escalating," as China has embarked on an island-building project in waters claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines and other nations. "The country is standing before new chance and opportunities, but facing challenges," he said.

His words resonated with some citizens watching the parade. "I am very proud of the country in this time," said Nguyen Duc Gan, 68, in Hanoi. "But I hope the current and future leaders can protect the country."

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