The French: Vietnam plays host to its old adversary

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The Independent Online
The ghosts of Dien Bien Phu will finally be laid to rest when Vietnam hosts the annual summit of Francophone countries for the first time this weekend.

For France, the event is an important step towards re-establishing French as an Asian language. For Vietnam, it is another milestone in its rehabilitation as a "normal" country.

From tomorrow, before the summit opens, President Jacques Chirac will make a two-day state visit, the first by a French president since Vietnam ceased to be a French colony. Embarrassingly for France, members of the Vietnamese Catholic community complained yesterday of the brutal repression of demonstrations at the weekend against the confiscation of property.

France has given Vietnam pounds 7.5m towards the cost of organising the summit. The biggest single expense was the construction of a new conference centre in Hanoi, at a cost of pounds 3m. Somewhat to French chagrin, the centre will also serve as the venue of the Anglophone summit of the Association of South-East Asian Nations next year.