Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Vietnam marked the 35th anniversary of the Communist victory in the Vietnam War with a military parade on Friday through the former Saigon, with the government basking more in its economic achievements than its military defeat of the United States.
The city is now named for Ho Chi Minh, the father of the revolution, but signs of the burgeoning market economy are everywhere, with Communist banners competing for space with corporate ads and logos.
Some 50,000 invitees crowded the parade route. They marked the day North Vietnamese tanks smashed through the gates of the former Presidential Palace in Saigon and ousted the US-backed South Vietnam government.
The parade brought back vivid memories for Do Thi Thanh Thuy, 49, who watched the tanks roll by her home on April 30, 1975, when she was a junior high student. She and her neighbors ran into the street to cheer.
“When I saw those tanks, I felt so happy,” Thuy said. “The South had been liberated, the country was united, the war was over.”
The fall of Saigon marked the official end of the Vietnam War and the decade-long US campaign against communism in Southeast Asia. The conflict claimed some 58,000 American lives and an estimated 3 million Vietnamese.
President Nguyen Minh Triet was joined at the parade by leaders and dignitaries from Cuba, Russia and neighboring Cambodia and Laos. Most of those in the crowd were war veterans, party cadres and others selected by local communist organizations.
Friday’s speeches were sprinkled with familiar communist slogans and quotes from Ho Chi Minh, including perhaps his most famous, invoked by Le Thanh Hai, the Ho Chi Minh Communist Party chief: “There is nothing more precious than independence and freedom.”
However, Hai focused his remarks on Vietnam’s economic achievements, for which Ho Chi Minh City has served as the engine. The city generated more than 20 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product last year and 30 percent of its tax revenues, he said.
Much of Vietnam’s growth is being fueled by foreign investment and trade, and the United States has become Vietnam’s main trading partner.
Although the two nations have grown much closer since the war, they disagree over issues such as human rights and press freedom.
In a speech, Lt. Gen. Le Thanh Tam, the chairman of the Ho Chi Minh City Veterans Association, warned Vietnam must be wary of “hostile forces who use democracy and human rights as a pretext to sabotage Vietnam.”