Ho Chi Minh’s corpse in ‘great condition’ ahead of 50th anniversary of leader’s death, Vietnam says

Government coincidentally publishes late leader’s will, stating: ‘I require that my body be cremated’

Andy Gregory
Friday 19 July 2019 16:02 BST
50th anniversary of late Vietnamese revolutionary's death on 2 September to be celebrated across the nation
50th anniversary of late Vietnamese revolutionary's death on 2 September to be celebrated across the nation (Three Lions/Getty Images)

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Louise Thomas

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The embalmed corpse of Vietnam’s founding leader, Ho Chi Minh, is in “great condition” ahead of the 50th anniversary of his death, state media said on Friday.

A special council of Vietnamese and Russian scientists formed in June to assess the condition of the former revolutionary’s ageing corpse, ahead of nationwide celebrations reaching their climax in September.

The events are intended to carry out Mr Ho’s will, which according to the country’s propaganda department website, means affirming the ruling Communist Party’s value and inspiring the “next generation of revolutionaries”.

But a photo of the handwritten will, published on the government’s official website on Wednesday, showed the late leader had other plans for his body after death.

“I require that my body be cremated,” Mr Ho had written. This line was not mentioned in the celebration plans.

The country’s founder, affectionately known as “Uncle Ho” in Vietnam, died in 1969, at the height of the Vietnam War. He was 79.

He is preserved in a large Soviet-designed mausoleum in the capital, Hanoi, where he is displayed within a glass coffin in the dark interior.

The body is in “great condition and has been well-preserved,” the official Vietnam News Agency reported.

Of the Russian-Vietnamese scientific partnership, it wrote: “The council proposed further improving the procedures to examine and assess President Ho Chi Minh’s body, using scientific methods.”

Several countries across the world, including China, North Korea and Vietnam, have embalmed their founding leaders, with help from the Soviet Union’s “Lenin Lab”.

The Russian group of scientists has existed since being tasked with putting the embalmed body of Vladimir Lenin on display in Moscow shortly after his death in 1924.

Corpse preservation is a costly endeavour. Scientists must re-apply embalming fluids on a biennial basis, which involves dousing the body in a vast array of chemical solutions.

Parts of the body must also be replaced and restructured in a battle against gradual mould and decay.

Russia has revealed it spent £136,000 on maintaining Mr Lenin’s body in 2016 alone.

Vietnam and Russia will increase efforts to preserve Mr Ho’s body by sharing more information and holding regular symposiums between the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum Management Board and the Moscow Biomedical Research Centre, VNA said.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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