Embalmers to inspect body of Ho Chi Minh

Forty years after his death, Ho Chi Minh could be forgiven if he was not exactly looking his best. For the past two months, his mausoleum, pictured, has been somewhat mysteriously shut "for renovation", triggering concerns about the state of the former Vietnamese leader's remains.

But officials in Hanoi are determined that his body should be returned to public display. And to ensure he is looking as good as possible, a joint team of Vietnamese and Russian embalmers are to inspect the one-time revolutionary leader's corpse. "The embalmers will evaluate the situation and status of the body of President Ho Chi Minh and how to maintain the corpse in the years to come," said prime minister Nguyen Tan Dung, in a statement.

The corpse of Ho Chi Minh, who was born Nguyen Sinh Cung, located in a grey granite mausoleum in the centre of Hanoi, has become an attraction for visitors and locals alike. Yet just days after Vietnam marked the 40th anniversary of his death, the statement from the prime minister has triggered concerns about the state of Ho Chi Minh's remains.

While the country has regularly called in help from Moscow in preserving the body, reflecting Soviet-era ties and Russia's experience with the body of revolutionary leader Lenin, reports suggest that some of his countrymen suspect the corpse on display may not be genuine.

"I was told earlier that it was not him, just a model," Nguyen Thi Thuy Tien, an English teacher, told the Agence France-Presse, after a recent visit. Another local, Pham Thi Xuan, said she had seen the former leader's his body before when she paid him a tearful tribute after his death in 1969. Now, she added, he "doesn't look real".

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