Phan Van Khai, First Vietnamese prime minister to Visit Washington, Dies at 84

24-Mar-2018 Intellasia | Reuters | 6:00 AM Print This Post

Phan Van Khai was born on December 25, 1933, in the Cu Chi District of HCM City, then called Saigon, according to the Vietnamese news media. He later studied economics and foreign languages at Plekhanov, a university in Moscow, and from 1965 to 1971 worked for Vietnam’s State Planning Committee.

Khai was “sent to the southern battlefields” toward the end of the war against the United States, the state news media reported, without elaborating, and he later began rising through the ranks of HCM City’s Communist Party bureaucracy.

He eventually became chair of the city’s powerful People’s Committee and then a deputy prime minister.

Huong Le Thu, an expert on Asian security at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in Canberra, said in an email that Khai played a central role in advancing the “Doi Moi,” or “Open Door,” policies that Vietnam began putting in place in the late 1980s to bolster postwar growth.

Khai’s policies on economic integration with foreign countries transcended the Communist Party’s ideology and a friend-versus-foe Cold War mentality, she added.

Quan Hoang Vuong, an expert on Vietnam’s postwar economic history and the director of the centre for Interdisciplinary Social Research in Hanoi, the capital, said that Khai was widely respected for “not just his efforts in bringing prosperity to the country, but also his dignity.”

“After resigning, unlike many other ex-leaders, he stayed completely quiet and never tried to show that ‘I am the strong man,’” he said.

Khai is survived by a son, Phan Minh Hoan, and a daughter, Phan Thi Bach Yen. Their ages could not be independently verified.

After Khai’s death on Saturday, the government announced a two-day period of national mourning, during which all entertainment events were canceled or suspended.

Khai received a state funeral on Thursday morning at Reunification Palace in HCM City, the former presidential palace of South Vietnam. A red-and-gold Vietnamese flag was draped over his coffin. The guest list included Nguyen Xuan Phuc, the prime minister, and Nguyen Phu Trong, the Communist Party’s secretary general.

Khai was buried later on Thursday in Cu Chi, his home district on the outskirts of HCM City, beside his wife, Nguyen Thi Sau, who died in 2012.


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